The Herb Of Grace

Theology and Poetry, Politics and Prose

Carnival: unveiling of primordial energies November 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joel @ 9:08 pm

Carnival worked as a public and communal venture because the world was enchanted.  In other words, whether one believed in an overarching order of the world or not, one knew that this was the prevailing worldview.  But this is not the cut and clean order that we have come to know through our modern experiences of that word enfleshed.  When we think “order,” we think civility, peace, and proper behavior.  But order was seen then as existing with chaos symbiotically, as Taylor notes when connecting ancient carnival with other similar festivals,


“[O]rder binds a primitive chaos which is both its enemy but also the source of all energy, including that of order.  The binding has to capture that energy, and in the supreme moments of founding it does this.  But the years of routine crush this force and drain it; so that order itself can only survive through periodic renewal, in which the forces of chaos are first unleashed anew, and then brought into a new founding of order.  As though the effort to maintain order against chaos could not but in the end weaken, tire, unless this order were replunged into the primal energies of chaos to emerge with renewed strength.”



It is a paradox that chaos would be both enemy and source.  One can see immediately just how much the worldview described above would rely on a “spiritual context”; in fact, the above is describing a spiritual context, a context in which pure forms of order and chaos exist and have a static way of relating to each other, which then affects life on earth.  We will want to say, with all our materialist baggage, that this is of course a silly idea.  But that shrugging off of a spiritual context is false; we know exactly what he means.  For it is not that we have no idea about this kind of “pure form” thinking (think of our conception of love, for instance), but rather that we have taken on board massive social cues that we are to act as if this kind of thing is superstitious and outdated.  

Another modern point of contact with the above quote is war.  War is often seen as a kind of purifying force that resets the clocks of our disintegration and puts us back on the right track again (that is, unless you are the defeated country, or anyone who was unlucky enough to have survived fighting, or the victorious country on judgement day).  Perhaps the destructive pervasiveness of modern warfare owes something to our lack of smaller releases, our lack of ancient carnival.  All the tension of our lives, of the pure purposes of our nations and churches, builds up, passing by opportunities for release, until the pressure blows up into hiroshima.  This is not to ignore that technology and globalization are key components as well.


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