How to ‘enchant’ a ritual


e15 / podcast & show notes, wherein I espouse and purport a post-rational kind of magic.



This relatively short ‘meander of a podcast’—a turn about the garden maze—is for those seeking to ‘re-enchant’ their most important rituals, so as to make ‘meaningful progress’ in the things that matter.

I share this mainly because the word ‘ritual’ is becoming a tad too popular now.

Naturally, this happens to many good words. They start off as humbly apt—but then some catch the attention in the zeitgeist. Such words are then adopted and used more widely. And because their meaning is co-created—and thus subject to memetic drift—the result is usually that a word’s meaning becomes distorted, corrupted, hijacked or reduced* alongside the acquisition of ‘buzz’.°

* Or simply ‘faded’—like a good pair of jeans put in the wash.
° Equally, words can become ‘enhanced’ over time. Some attract more complexity and nuance. But this sentiment doesn’t serve my point right now.

As such, we now have a situation where many would nod perfunctory at the notion of rituals. ‘Yes yes—we get it’, they say. But I worry that many folks most important rituals have become (or always were) routine—mere heartless systems and habits, devoid of the ‘specialness’ that makes rituals so powerful.

And thus I find myself rolling up my proverbial wizard sleeves to opine somewhat practically on The Fundamentals of Enchantment.

Here we explore the notion of meaning itself (and how it can be manufactured), post-/meta-rational sensibilities (and how to use ‘magical thinking’ in big air quotes with sincere irony—and without succumbing to regression), and how to imbue our rituals (so that they may ‘seem’ and ‘be’ more than they are).

In this podcast I share three interlinked ways to enchant a ritual.

  1. Friction. This is counter intuitive, but we don’t want our rituals to be purely optimised, efficient and streamlined. We want to invite some intentional friction into the process—to effectively ‘bookend’ the context (and to kindle the romance).

  2. Time. A ritual is not a shortcut or hack, nor is it a quick fix. We want our rituals to patina—to take on their own character over time. Ergo: we cultivate patience for what might emerge.

  3. ‘Specialness’. Our ability to exaggerate significance and juxtapose silliness with the mundane can unlock whole new levels of profundity.

Here are some works I referred to in the show:

» The Religious Case Against Belief by James Carse
» Knowing and Unknowing Reality—A Beginner’s and Expert’s Developmental Guide to Post-Metaphysical Thinking by Tom Murray (holy crap I am loving this paper—so warm, kind and expansive)*
» A Nihilist’s Guide to Meaning by Kevin Simler
» Meaningness (hypertext book and metablog) by David Chapman
» Russell Brand’s podcast Under The Skin
» The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

* I have the thought to chat with Tom on this podcast one day. Let’s see what we can do.
PS: In writing this list I am aware that I have an over-representation of white dudes here—it’s not a ‘bad’ thing, but it’s not great either. Awkward and embarrassing, really. If you have any suggestions or recommendations in this regard—if there are any apt resources or contemporary/relevant/progressive/apt perspectives I missed—please let me know in the comments below. ♡

Bah! This episode feels like I took 45 minutes to bequeath a warm nudge toward something you may already know. Oh well: I do it as your eccentric acquaintance-friend. Hopefully it may serve to rekindle some enchantment into the rituals most important to you, so that they don’t become rote. Remember: rituals are the balm against irrelevance. They are our sacred routines, wherein we deliberately carve out time against the grain of busyness, so as to progress the things that matter most.

Here’s wishing you the hocus to your pocus, so that you may better focus in your locus.

Have a question you’d like for me to muse upon in auditory fashion? Subscribe to my museletter and keep your eye out for my next Call for Questions. Or heck: just ask me here. I’m likely to respond.