When does repeating something become a tradition? When does it become a ritual? How does giving something rhythm create something that exists before, below, and between those repeated occurrences?
Hello readers. Sorry it’s been a while - I’ve been busy, how have you been? This is Beamspun, an irregular mail by me, Graham, with thoughts about technology, nature, spirituality, and existence. From here you can go north, east, west, unsubscribe, or forward this on to others. Or just sit under a tree and breathe in new stories.
Strawberry Supermoon: “Full moons are opposite the Sun, so a full moon near the summer solstice will be low in the sky. Particularly for Europe’s higher latitudes, when the full moon is low, it shines through more atmosphere, making it more likely to have a reddish color“
Local sunrise: 0346 UTC (weekly -4 minutes)
The 1600-year-old Yew tree at Wilmington village
On Mayday last month, my family and I accidentally wandered into the middle of Hastings’ Jack in the Green festival. It felt like the whole town had come out, their noses dotted with green and with fronds of plants adorning their hair. Costumed children ran around the legs of adults, often dressed in archaic finery and engaged in parading, dancing, or simply lying still on the grass of spring.
Wikipedia lists the festival as a historic event, a “folk custom”. Everything above-the-fold is concerned with its history and murky origins. Reading through, it becomes clear that there is no set “structure” that defines the Jack in the Green custom, except for perhaps the annual timing, and a single symbol: a person covered in a wicker frame, sprouting leaves, branches and other flora.
An 1863 depiction of a May Day parade featuring a Jack in the Green
According to the records, the milkmaids and the chimney sweeps associated with the festival come and go throughout time. Moreover, it is clear that the ongoing research into the festival can itself influence its evolution as much as handed-down knowledge. The stories define the meta-stories, and vice versa.
Six months ago, on the other side of the sun, I was thinking about my own small ritual of setting out solar panels every day. It wasn’t the grandiose social gathering of Jack in the Green, and there were no gestures triggered directly by the changing of seasons.
But at the same time, there are similarities and links which can cut to the heart of things. Not of what all these traditions and actions are for, but of why we do them. I wrote:
“I keep coming back to the portability and the immediacy of micro-solar. Sometimes it almost hits me as a “visceral” approach, a direct relationship between me and the Sun. A ritual that demands attention, makes things more real, like feeding a pet. And with that - I hope? - a kind of respect and mutual relationship that develops, between me and .. what, the universe? Or whatever it is powering the cosmos. We’re here, borrowing energy, leasing life from the great reservoir.“
A ritual demands attention, makes things more real. Is this the key part? Like an alarm that rings out in the hours of the morning, making the waking world more real than the dreaming one? A method to take the overlooked, the edge case, and give it space. An injection into the sense of “normality” that would happily rumble on and remain the status quo if it could.
In our global rush for innovation, for reinvention, “normal” has come to represent a few themes. We seek out “novelty” and we engage in a constant back-and-forth with “disruption”. We seek “progress” in the name of attention and distraction. We are obsessed with this desire to improve, that we have yet to realise that the search itself has overpowered us. We would rather burn through ten ideas to find the one that delighted us than to look at what we already have.
A long time ago, I decided Beamspun was an exploration in Disruption, but have always been cautious about the word - disruption, like the technology that it births, can be a tool for better or worse, depending on who wields it and what for.
But thinking through Ritual, I see it as a distinct form of Disruption, a way to interrupt and change “normal” behaviour loops. If we understand that, then we can start to re-establish new rituals. Micro-rituals leading to macro-rituals. Change the self, change the home, change the village, change the town, change the country.
Yes, I think rituals can save us - but only if we treat them like any other technology and tool: we need to be conscious about our use of them, know what we want out of them, and treat them with both respect and disregard in equal measures.
This looks like a good event on June 14th, see you there: Climate Change as Spiritual Practice - Transforming Anxiety Into Empowerment
The SolariseCon event happened on YouTube at the end of May. Sessions covered solarpunk tech, community empowerment, and obstacles to a “better tomorrow” - you can find the video recordings here.
The Anti-Christ now rules us all: A good reminder that “technology” exists within greater forces, and that it’s perfectly reasonable to see “progress” as a spiritual battle, not one of engineering.
“Let’s give this force a name: a less provocative name, for now, than Moloch or Anti-Christ. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s just call this force Progress. Then, à la Kevin Kelly, let’s ask ourselves a simple question: what does Progress want?“
To Be Happy, Hide From the Spotlight: While most of us may not be ‘famous’, the trap of building an identity still surrounds us every day, and the whole idea of having an ‘avatar’ or a ‘presence’ seems to be a very 21st century trend. Should we be more aware of the effect of nymity …
The women photographing Australia’s climate crisis: I really like the idea of the ‘visual petition’ gathered in this project - imagery often says so much more than words.
I wrote some thoughts on Escaping the White-Male Monoculture of Technology and the link between people, tech, and diversity.
Lithium prices are through the roof this year: In case you’re wondering if electricity will save us.
Can you believe we’re almost at the height of summer again? Every tock of the clock seems to come round faster and faster at the moment.
I won’t promise to write soon because I know myself too well. But I will write again soon. Let me know how you’re doing, and look forward to seeing you in the future.