In 1997 Apple released their Here’s To The Crazy Ones television commercial as part of their Think Different marketing campaign. The commercial says nothing about Apple as a company or about any of their products. Yet it was instrumental in launching them from an almost failing company in 1997 to the most valuable company in the world by 2011.
Since then companies across the world have changed their advertising. Information is now almost irrelevant. Instead, they sell you a story that you can live into by buying their product.
THE LITURGICAL HUMAN
As James K.A. Smith points out in his book, Desiring The Kingdom (affiliate link), human beings are hard-wired to create, seek, and live by liturgies. The word ‘liturgy’ simply means ‘the work of the people’. Anything that gives us a vision of the ‘good life’ and that teaches us how to live it out can be considered a liturgy. Our society overflows with liturgies.
Every liturgy consists of four elements: The Story that captures the heart; the Language or Vocabulary that captures our mind and thinking; the Symbols that capture our subconscious mind; and the Rituals that capture our body and behaviour. Look closely at the Here’s To The Crazy Ones commercial and you’ll see all four elements—which is why it succeeded so impressively.
The same can be said for sports or the arts. Think about your favourite sports team or artist and what they bring to your life, and you’ll find the four elements of liturgy there somewhere. The same applies to political parties, economic systems, nationalistic sentiment, and a million other human pursuits.
Which leads us back to spirituality. In a world flooded with liturgical alternatives, it can be confusing to work out which ones actually deliver on their promise of the ‘good life’. Good spirituality gives us a kind of ‘meta-liturgy’ by which we can measure society’s options. When spirituality becomes nothing more than an amplifier for non-spiritual cultural liturgies it fails in its task. The so-called prosperity ‘gospel’ is one classic example.
Authentic spiritual practice cuts through the messages of society and leads us in a lifelong journey of evolution into becoming truly good people living a truly good life—using the same four tools described above. Last week we explored the process of evolution that happens in spiritual experiences. When that is coupled with this ongoing practice of evolution, spirituality becomes truly transforming.
It begins with a compelling Story that gives us a vision of a life that is truly good. Not just for us. Not just for some. But for all. The test of a good spiritual story is this: If everyone lived this way, would the world be better or worse off?
The Story then teaches us its Language so that its Vocabulary can shape our thinking and perceptions of the world.
The Story includes images, metaphors—Symbols—that contain the essence of the Story and drive it deep into both our memory and our subconscious. This is why every religion has symbols that are on display in houses of worship and that devotees are encouraged to have in their own homes.
Finally, we need to embody the Story in our own lives. Rituals teach us the habits that we need to live into the Story. By repeating certain words and actions, we create behaviours that become our automatic responses to life and its struggles.
Human beings cannot help but create and perform liturgies as a constant rhythm of our lives. The important question is what liturgies we will choose and what difference they will make to us and others.
What liturgies are in your life? Take time to identify them.
How are these liturgies shaping you? What impact do they have on your world?
What might you need to change to evolve more intentionally in the direction you want to go spiritually?
Please share your thoughts, questions, and insights in the comments below. Let’s talk together!
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