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Building Patterns That Work: Festivals, Thanks and Taboos

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The breakdown in cultures worldwide stems from two phenomena: the technological fruits of science and the sexual revolution — deliberately fomented by some — but ever-ongoing because of contraception which really is a new biotechnology.  Combined, these have massively disrupted the patterns of human relationships at the sexual, mating, marrying, family, community and national levels. The old patterns — worked out over centuries and embodying the hard-won wisdom of many generations —- resulted in rhythms and rituals that made life predictable, peaceful and much more enjoyable. They survived because they worked.

These patterns are all but gone in many parts of society – most especially in the inner cities where their absence is their great poverty, for most of the poor there have the material comforts of the middle classes of a half-century ago, but do not have the patterns of peaceful life.  This dis-ease is spreading across income levels and across the world because new cultures have not evolved that can subject the technological to the needs of man.  Instead man is serving the “needs” of the technological.  The core functions of society have been upended and turned inside out. The tool has become the tyrant.

The needs of mankind scream out for new patterns of human relationship — new mores —- to make modern life easier to live, so that life is predictable, relationships are easier, and the pace of life is humane. One modern success, at the national level, is the emergence of August as an annual month of rest and relaxation in France and some contiguous countries.  That pattern is emerging because it works well and is a form of festival.  It is enjoyable and predictable; relationships are easier and the pace of life is humane.

As the world becomes more fruitful in agriculture and material goods those who live the good life of marriage and family centered around the worship of God will be the ones with the most surplus time and the gut instinct of how to envelop technology, subjecting it into a deliberate time-pattern so that man, woman and child are better served.

Effective cultural patterns involve both festival and taboo. For instance, time patterns are needed for when the use of personal mobile phones are acceptable and not. A few years ago I met a very wealthy family whose members, on arriving home for evening dinner at the same time each night, all put their cell phones in a big beautiful bowl in the entrance hall. For this hard-working family, home was for relationships, rest, relaxation, quite reflection or study. Phone use was taboo except for a small window of time later in the evening and even that had a strict ending time. Friends and colleagues all knew of this family’s pattern and quickly adapted. Their evening started with a daily “festival”, family dinner — learning what had happened to each that day, supporting and enjoying each other.  Thanksgiving framed the meal, before and after, with a mindful prayer to God for all they had received that day and thanks for each other’s existence.  What family does not its own way of containing digital technology in patterns that works daily for them to bring peace, rest and relaxation in a welcome, honored rhythm.

When such a pattern is well established taboos come into effect: it is a matter of disgust that a family member would violate the pattern.   Festival and taboo work hand in hand in a vibrant culture.

Families can reach out to local, like-minded families and cooperate in rekindling festivals that work well for them. Every vibrant culture has major festivals celebrating its iconic events and symbols.

Families, just like nations, need festivals that serve and honor virginity, marriage and motherhood.  Romance can be well served by St Valentine’s Day done well by those youth who know how to give their hearts ‘whole and not in parts’. Done well it would honor virginity, which honoring would have to be subtle, else sexual delicacy — of the essence of virginity — would be missing and the ‘honoring’ would be absent.

Motherhood is honored somewhat but Mother’s Day needs to become a much greater national festival; and Father’s Day needs augmenting, maybe with a masculine competitive twist with an emphasis on those fathers who qualify for the honor of ‘patriarch’.

Man needs the revival of the worship of God  — the weekly day-long celebration of key relationships — with God in worship, then with family over a nicer meal, then with friends, topped-off in favorite forms of relaxation together.  The Sabbath really is the weekly festival of thanks and enjoyment. Modern man needs this regular quiet time. One major obstacle is the large retail corporation. They are “big pigs to swallow” — technological behemoths to envelop in a rhythms of time.  Some smaller corporations pull it off:  interestingly, Chick Filet is the most profitable fast food chain but only operates six days a week.

Festivals will gradually emerge as those that work at a local level become apparent.  When they fill a big human need well the word will spread — one of the benefits of the new technologies!

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