Nothing like the simplicity of ritual
BREAKING news is that Business Day has allowed the Upper Jukskei Flyfishing Collective to inveigle its way back into the global economy. Without spilling a drop, the member (of the collective) immediately released two e-pigeons, each carrying parchment inscribed with a single word: "Getyourrodswearegoingfishinginhalfanhour".
It may not be the longest word, but it is the sweetest, sweeter even than the phrase: "All right darling, just this once then."
What follows is ritual. The pigeons are shooed from the Hulk before it can be driven, the stash of cheap Scotch has to be dug up and the dog must be hurled over the wall into the neighbours’ yard — all in about half an hour to meet the chairman (of the collective) and his sidekick at the sacred rendezvous.
Ritual is important.
Actually, that is a pompous understatement. The collective exists by the grace of ritual; ritual is its raison d’être and its execution. In the rackets, they call it process.
Take the South African greeting "Hi. How are you?" or "Hellohowzit?" You say it all the time, and even when you’re thinking: "If you don’t take that toothpick out of your mouth before speaking to me, I’m going to poke you in the eye with it." We say the words as ritual, in the interest of form.
The wonder of it is that it works every time. And it is simple. Its purpose, in a teleological sense, is transformation and there are always, always, just three steps, though the steps may be called different things and include subordinate actions.
The first step is detachment of some sort, letting go, preparation for what is to come, and so on. In greeting, this is where you unhand your weapon; in growing up where you leave Mommy; in fishing you abandon your responsibilities and leave for the sacred rendezvous.
In the second step, you assimilate new conditions, discover your peers, learn new tricks and find your place in the scheme of things. In greeting, it is when you shake the hand of your enemy (all strangers are enemies) and try to assert your dominance peaceably. In growing up, it is the learning of stuff. In fishing, it is when we pretend to admire the tackle we all got for Christmas.
Finally, you actualise. This is when you make the deal that will screw your new pal for the next 10 years. In growing up, you start doing something useful for the grown-ups if you are ever going to have sex, smoke and drink, and create obstacles for the next generation.
Great care must be taken of the detail if transformation is to be achieved. The collective, for instance, meets at the sacred rock on the Witwatersrand watershed, where we shed our bodily water. It is a man thing. If the waters flow east to drain into the upper Jukskei, we go trout fishing in Mpumalanga. If west, we go the Vaal River and contract E coli infections.
Ritual makes everything simple. If you follow the steps closely you may never have to make another decision.