Have you glimpsed the signs of ritual commerce?
When you’re seeking ritual, look for action. Thought and emotion trigger rituals, and are provoked by ritual activity, but ritual is always behavioral. If you see someone pause to think, or exhibit an emotional reaction, though, watch for what they do next, because that could be the moment when a ritual reveals itself to you.
One of the sure signs of ritual is that people are engaged in behaviors that seem functionally unnecessary. Ritual often reveals itself in the extra flourishes people add to otherwise bland transactions.
Look for rituals on the boundaries between different zones of activity. Pay special attention to places where the rules change when people move from one space into another.
Selective timing is also a sign that rituals may be present. When an activity only takes place at special times, it’s occurring right then for an important cultural reason, usually because the event marks some kind of regular transition between identities.
Search for symbolism. Metaphorical communication often takes place within a ritual context, because it’s within rituals that symbols meet to breed, exchanging memetic with one another.
In commercial culture, you can expect to see fragments and hints of ritual, rather than fully operational ones. Often, because the rituals of commerce are improvised, created unconsciously, they are incomplete. It’s typical to see commercial rituals that are weak, inconsistent and dysfunctional in their application.
Most importantly, search for moments of crisis. Because their social function is to help people move from one identity to another, rituals usually begin with an event that illustrates a mismatch between a person’s social role and the psychological motivations that are driving their behavior at that moment. Moments of resolution can likewise be a sign of ritual, as a successful ritual can resolve an identity crisis.
Trust your instincts. You’re the descendant of people who practiced rituals for hundreds of thousands of years before industrialization imposed its mechanistic demands on our animal psychology. Ritual is part of your heritage. With a little bit of practice, you’ll feel the reawakening of deep-seated rhythms of ritual practice.