Calvin, who introduces this collection of essays on ritual in its own right,
understands ritual as well as many anthropologists. Calvin is dramatizing thematics
that I am trying to avoid. Complaining about the peanut butter, spoiled
because his mother did not observe the proper ritual for scooping it out, he is
telling us: do the ritual correctly. It exists because it has a function—control.
Perform control in your ritual, and you will have control in your life. The ritual
of how to scoop out peanut butter is a representation of life. Living produces
its own symbols, its own reflections, and these are the ritual, existing to enact themes of living—here that of control. The ritual has meaning, otherwise
why the argument between Calvin and his mother over its importance for living?
For Calvin, scooping out peanut butter is akin to a Geertzian model of and model
for living—you scoop peanut butter the way you live your life. One thing is certain:
to understand the peanut butter ritual, one begins with life, not with a jar
of peanut butter. First, though, let’s have a look at the peanut butter in the jar …
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