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Rituals as Creative Play for Adults + Playful Ritual Objects

Erich Vieth makes some fascinating observations in his post Religious rituals as creative play for adults?:

Though the growing children eventually put their stuffed animals away, these animals “teach” the children symbolic meaning.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see religious and governmental rituals as extensions of the creative play of childhood. The objects of a ritual can be seen as a “transitional objects” that bridge the gap between often times disturbing real-life experiences and one’s hopes and fantasies.

Vieth brings forward to adult life author Susan Linn’s point that childhood play things embody comfort and create tangible connection to ideas and concepts (i.e. a blankie equals safety). Vieth argues that the objects of our adult rituals share similarities to childhood play things in that they embody concepts and symbolism and provide comfort in a tangible form.

Vieth’s comments got my wheels spinning. Objects are important in and to ritual. Think about it. We build entire museums around ritual objects. What would happen if we made ritual objects smart? Built their interactions to capture and enhance the ritual moment? We would be creating, in effect, adult toys (not those adult toys) — but objects with which we “play” to connect our physical experience with the symbolic, sentimental, emotional, or conceptual.

Forms a playful ritual object might take:

  • An electronic document able to replay the loops and scratches and crosses of the signatures formed upon it as well as the comments made while signing it.
  • A shovel used for a groundbreaking able to precisely record its movements in three dimensional space and then use that data to artistically interpret the event (time lapse imagery, spatial visualizations effects, etc.)
  • A jewelry box able to record and replay the sights and sounds of the moment at which the piece of jewelry (e.g. engagement ring, anniversary necklace, etc.) is given and also able to record subsequent moments at the anniversary of the gift giving. Using accelerometers, the box could likely produce a steadycam-like “first person” point-of-view and become an augmentation to the jewelry itself.

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