I came across Reinventing Ritual at the library, and just delighted by the title, borrowed it without hesitation. Reinventing ritual is originated from the exhibitions on contemporary Jewish life, which was held at Jewish museum in New York. I always find the subtle sensitivities of Jewish life sympathetic, mostly because also coming from an Abrahamic tradition. In the preface, Arnold Eisen comments on how ritual brings meaning to our lives:
“Thank goodness. I don’t know what I would do without ritual, whether in my friendships, my community, or my attempts to fill my space and time on earth with sacredness and meaning. The older, I get, the more I appreciate ritual performances and forms. Of course, these run the risk of decline into habit, mere routine. That is the occupational hazard of ritual, so to speak. But without the motion that ritual imposes and prescribes, I would not know moments of fulfillment that I reassure almost as much as love and life itself…. how can we join in community with strangers, or people well known to us, act in concert with them for the good, or go deeper into life together if we do not gather around same table at a specific time move to the same rhythms , respond to the same image and symbols and take for granted-so as to challenge- the same rules and expectations?”
One of the things that puzzles me in ritual products is their symbolic power which is hard to deal with in a design context, and most of the times results in mimicry and facelifting of their normative forms. To overcome shallowness of facelifting, it is critically important to focus on the actions (movements, actions, interactions, and participations) of rituals rather than the physical forms. Here are two examples from the book that achieve that leap from physical to actional. First one is netilat yadayim (Dov Ganchrow), a hand cleansing vessel that provides a self-cleansing ritual; and frontier-vest (Azra Aksamija), a transformable wearable that provides praying ritual for both Muslims and Jewish. Both products are inventive yet carrying their ritualistic values and symbolic meanings..