Thursday, March 27, 2008

Master of Ceremonies

Ceremony seems to be the new buzzword meaning wasteful and inefficient practices that indirectly achieve a goal.
Ceremony has a special place in my heart. I grew up in a uniquely ceremony rich environment. My family was a member of a fox hunt club and my dad spent every opportunity fox hunting.
Traditional fox hunting dates back to the middle ages. At the time of its inception it served a purpose to kill foxes. Foxes are predatory animals that can wreak havoc on chickens, turkeys, and other agrarian fowl. At the time, the most efficient way to reduce the numbers of fox were to use hounds to hunt them down.
Fox, however, are not dumb animals, they are elusive and provide a particularly difficult challenge to actually catch and kill.
The practice of hunting fox turned into a sport enjoyed by those who can afford it. A culture and with it a set of ceremonies developed around the sport of fox hunting. There is a unique set of terminology, there are rules of etiquette, and there is a set of attire pertaining to fox hunting.
If you ask people who are involved with fox hunting in America, almost none of them will say that they fox hunt to kill foxes. Most will say it's a social thing, or they enjoy riding horses in the country, or it's the thrill of the chase and killing a fox is completely incidental to their reasons for fox hunting.
Most of the ceremony of fox hunting exists as a relic from a practice that served a purpose. The attire, for example. Fox hunters wear a stock tie. A proper stock tie is an 8 foot long piece of fabric that is worn around the neck and secured with a pin. The purpose of the stock tie was to serve as an emergency bandage, sling, or other purpose in the field. Modern stock ties are approximately the same length as a neck tie. The need for that type of first aid equipment is satisfied better by more modern field dressings and communication devices.
Many aspects of fox hunting no longer serves its originally intended purpose.
I argue that all of fox hunting is ceremonious and not essential to whatever reason people say they do it. It clearly isn't to keep the American red fox population in check. There don't pose any significant threat to agriculture like they used to. The hunt club that I grew up in used to stock foxes in the countryside and leave store bought chickens to keep the population up. Still to this day, I do not believe that the club has killed a fox in their current location. There are coyotes that do that.
I argue that fox hunting is ceremony for the sake of ceremony. There is nothing beyond the ceremony that a fox hunt has to offer.
People who fox hunt today are hunting to participate in an ancient ceremony. They don't do it for the purpose of achieving a goal. There are other, more efficient, ways to achieve whatever it is that people say they achieve when fox hunting.
Fox hunting is a wasteful and expensive hobby. Juxtaposed with all other hobbies, which are clean, efficient, and cheap. People enjoy hunting. They aren't stupid per se. I don't enjoy it, but who am I to say what people should and shouldn't do for enjoyment. It is rife with ceremony, which from my point of view is the essential purpose of modern fox hunting.
What purpose does ceremony serve? It clearly isn't functional. Or is it?
No, ceremony does serve a purpose. Good ceremonies are a way that people come together on an emotional level. They are the remnants of that which people remember and relate to. Ceremonies are how we express traditions.
There are good ceremonies, but there are also bad ceremonies. There are a ton of bad ceremonies. All the things we do in the office that are indirect to achieving our goals are ceremonies. Those ceremonies do more to divide and frustrate people. We should find a way to light them on fire.
There are also good ceremonies. The silly things we do do serve a purpose.
Before we cast all ceremonies as bad and unnecessary. We should look to differentiate the necessary ceremonies for the unnecessary ones.

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