This episode considers the increasing modern condition of feeling lost and disconnected in relation to ancient understandings and practices of myth and ritual.
"Part of being modern involves seeking the latest thing or the newest thing, while at the same time losing touch with the most enduring, most endearing things. The modern condition requires that we imagine ourselves as subjects with everything else separated into objects. Being continuously reduced to linear time, literal meanings, and material things can leave us feeling out of time and out of place; trying to find a sense of home and a sense of meaning, especially in ourselves.
One of the ancient ways of re-connection involved finding genuine stories. When people have a story, everyone can be in the story. Unfortunately, the story we are all in together is the story of the collapse of ecosystems, the demise of cultural institutions, and the falling into desperate polarities.
Yet, the loss of so many meaningful things is not simply intended to leave us in some existential, eternal darkness. In mythic terms, being lost is secretly aimed at being found; in that sense, only those who accept feeling lost, can be found.
Another ancient way, that has been mostly lost, involves finding ourselves again through the process of ritual. One of the functions of creative ritual is to break time open so that we become open to the timeless, to the eternal, which is always trying to enter the world, strangely enough, through us. We may be lost here in the modern world, but in ancient terms, we are here to find ourselves awakening to a greater sense of ourselves.
One purpose of creative ritual was to experience the connection to “the other” as well as a deeper connection to oneself. That's why ancient people would say: that ritual made me, made me more aware of how I'm connected to life, to the earth, to the spirits, to the song of creation, and made me more aware of who I am inside, at the level of my own being. What we've lost is partly the sense that we are each connected to the whole thing, that each human soul is secretly connected to the living soul of the world.
One of the aims of many of old rituals was to restore the connections that were damaged, and thereby renew the possibilities of life. And we are here, in a sense, to be redeemed; not in religious terms where the redemption comes after you die. But in the ancient sense of story and ritual that suggests that we can redeem ourselves a little at a time while we are here on Earth. And at this troubled time, redemption is needed not just for ourselves, but for the Earth itself.
And so, in the midst of being lost in the darkest time of the year, in one of the darkest times of human culture, the way we avoid feeling and being lost is by connecting to the deeper sense of our own soul, which is secretly connected to the earth, which is itself a star and from there to the heavens above and to the cosmos. For, it is about interrelatedness and being present, and being part of things that are momentous, that are transcendent and yet somehow include us. And it was the dark times that ancient people understood to be the right times for finding our true selves and making more soul and redeeming life not just for ourselves, but for the Earth itself.”
You can hear Michael Meade talk more about ritual by joining his free online solstice ritual “In This Darkness Singing” on Sunday, December 19 and an evening event on Friday, December 10 on the return of ritual. Register and learn more at mosaicvoices.org/events.
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We’d love to hear your feedback on the podcast. You can leave a review wherever you listen or send a question or comment to email@example.com. On behalf of Michael Meade and the whole Mosaic staff, we wish you continued well-being and deep community connection during this period of great uncertainty and transformation.