Friday, February 13, 2015

a few links for the weekend

If you aren't rich by 45, give up.

More from Slate this week that was more ... baffling, especially in juxtaposition.

Eric Posner asserted at surprising length that college students these days are basically children so we should treat them that way.

So some kids have enough sex at college that Amanda Hess had an article leading with "How Drunk is Too Drunk to Have Sex?" This is a bit baffling but not everyone went to college at a state school and some schools don't permit alcohol on campuses.

But how, exactly, college age students came to be viewed as still children in the last twenty years would require books.  I got the impression that by the time you graduated from high school you might not be able to go to college and you'd have to figure out how to live and work, or work and live. 

Conservative Christians have been bewailing the failure of millenials to pass the usual thresholds of adulthood for at least a decade or more.  And it seems that more of the millenials are apt to be living with the parents rather than moved-out because they haven't been marrying or investing in real estate.

But the nuclear family that social conservatives seem to pine for has not been the historic global norm any more than the completely egalitarian household unfettered by real differences in physiological, social, or emotional capacities seems like a plausible future.  It's been the dour assessment of Wenatchee The Hatchet that American social conservatives want to go back to a past that didn't really exist while American progressives want to go to a future that is impractical and unsustainable and in both cases Americans seem determined to fashion the family into its own ideological/political image. 

If the middle class has, as some have been saying for a while, disintegrating then the revival of extended family/inter-generational or intra-generational collectives would be a sensible decision made from economic necessity.

Apropos of nothing ...

Sarah Perry over at Ribbon Farm discusses what ritual is and isn't and has something interesting ...
Costly signaling is a framework within which the “irrational” sacrifices and acts of ritual can be made sense of. Costly signaling comes from evolutionary biology, and posits that a signal that is very costly to produce is especially likely to be honest. A peacock’s tail is the classic example: only a very healthy and fit bird could get away with growing such a ridiculously impractical tail. Similarly, sacrificing a great deal for one’s group is a costly signal of loyalty, and therefore more likely honest than mere “lip service.”

In my view, this “costly signaling” theory takes us only halfway to understanding ritual effectiveness. Richard Sosis and Eric Bressler’s study of the longevity of communes found that costly signals in the form of behavioral sacrifice (for example, food prohibitions and sexual restrictions) were correlated with the longevity of religious communes – but not secular communes. More demanding religious communes lasted much longer than less demanding communes. And, importantly, non-religious communes had poor survival no matter how much they demanded from their members. The other half of the secret to ritual is the mental states evoked by ritual. A ritual that does not produce the proper mental states will not be effective at facilitating cooperation:

skipping ahead, Perry writes:

And so, the second essence of my model of ritual is the evocation of specific mental states. If cooperation and the solution of coordination problems is the “fire” of ritual, then costly signaling is its fuel, and the ritual mental state is its oxygen. Here is my model of ritual:
  1. Traditional behaviors are performed, often including speech acts;
  2. Time and other things are sacrificed;
  3. Mental states are evoked and emotional display is constrained;
  4. Certain aspects (purpose, mechanism, history) are opaque or concealed; and
  5. A sacred or otherwise “higher” purpose is understood;
With the function of:
  1. Changing the social status of some member or members;
  2. Strengthening the group; and
  3. Solving coordination problems.

Okay, the reason this struck me as interesting and accurate is that if you look at that schematic and you were, say, at "Dead Men" circa 2001-2002 at Mars Hill ... that kind of summed up what was going on.  For a lengthy discourse on "Dead Men' as something referenced both in the 2006 Driscoll book and the 2011 fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness go over here:

It's not difficult to understand "Dead Men" as a deliberate initiation ritual for those men within the community of Mars Hill who were considered legitimate members of the brotherhood.  Given the functionality Perry outlines as the "goal" of ritual, "Dead Men" pretty well fit ritual.  It was eventually replaced by the mens' "advance", but by then we're talking run-of-the-mill retreats.  The ritual significance of having tied "Dead Men" to the actual dismantling of the old Midrash and replacing it with a strictly in-person aspiring members only was lost.  There's no unusual sacrifice involved in registering for a standardized Christian mens' retreat, all customary verbiage to the contrary withstanding.  But a word-of-mouth invitation only for aspiring male members of a nascent church?  That's got ritual all over it. 

in other news ...

the voice of the original Space Ghost, Gary Owens, has died.

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