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22 June, 2007

Fractal Liturgy

I love liturgy.

I was having a lengthy pontification about liturgy this evening, which is tied up with a poem I'm working on at the moment, though that's sort of incidental to it. And I came to the realisation that liturgy, good liturgy, has a fractal nature.

Look at it this way: someone who's first encountering a religious ceremony isn't going to know what's going on. The liturgy provides action guidelines and a set of imagery that should be able to convey the basics of what's going on and serve as a pointer to the basics of the action for someone who doesn't know a thing about it.

It also, for someone who does know the basics, goes deeper, pointing out and evoking points of the Mysteries of that particular faith.

If it fails at the former, then new people will be unable to smoothly begin to assimilate the religious material; if it fails at the latter, it will be ineffably shallow.

I got here because I'm trying to write about a Mystery, and because of my study in the relevant religion, I don't have much liturgical knowledge. This is, in part, because people are supposed to be constructing their own religious material -- which is, in fact, why I'm trying to write about it -- to serve as pointers to and illumination of their understandings of the Mystery.

The problem is, I only have one strong verbal pointer to this one. I can wave that around a bit, but it's not enough to get me parallax that includes language. And Mysteries are hard to talk about; all we can really do is exchange pointers. And I caught a new layer of fractal, I've gone deeper than the surface, than the basics, and I want to articulate an image of where I've been, leave it as a signpost saying, "I am here". And I don't have enough to interpolate from to do it easily or smoothly.

Liturgy is a form of dialogue, engaging the people, the experiences, the ways of relating to the faith, moving these things around so they can be grasped and grappled. New liturgies develop in part because of this exchange, this way of talking about faith, the generating the images of meaning.

I've got a single line. In iambic pentameter.

And an old pointer to where I want to go.

And the stars my compass.

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