The loss of a ritualistic sense of time is at root a loss of symbolic perception. Symbols are the things which bind us to a reality outside of ourselves. Han explains that “Symbol (Greek: symbolon) originally referred to the sign of recognition between guest-friends (tessera hospitalis). One guest-friend broke a clay tablet in two, kept one half for himself and gave the other half to another as a sign of guest-friendship. Thus, a symbol serves the purpose of recognition. This recognition is a particular form of repetition…” And repetition is a vital element of ritual. There can be no recognition without repetition and vice versa. Within the symbolic logic of the ritual, we recognize more than simply the experience of “duration” itself, but through that experience intimate permanency. Han writes that
'Symbolic perception, as recognition, is a perception of the permanent: the world is shorn of its contingency and acquires durability. Today, the world is symbol-poor. Data and information do not possess symbolic force and so do not allow for recognition. Those images and metaphors which found meaning and community, and stabilize life, are lost in symbolic emptiness. The experience of duration diminishes, and contingency dramatically proliferates.'
If we’ve lost symbolic perception, what exists in its place? Han explains that “Symbolic perception is gradually being replaced by a serial perception that is incapable of producing the experience of duration.” There are echoes in this (unintentional, I’m sure) of Walker Percy’s idea of the symbol as something which binds us together in mutual perception as opposed to a sign, which merely suggests a one-to-one referent and elicits something which Han calls “serial perception.” Serial perception, the constant registering of the new, does not linger. Rather, “it rushes from one piece of information to the next, from one experience to the next, from one sensation to the next, without ever coming to closure. Watching film series is so popular today because they conform to the habit of serial perception. At the level of media consumption, this habit leads to binge watching, to comatose viewing.”
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor