“It became…obvious that there was no way
the restoration described in our readings could outpace
the destruction we were seeing around us.”
Mark Stemen’s comment, in his reflection on his experiment in the ritualization of restoration with his classes at California State University at Chico, reminds me of a story anthropologist and ritual scholar Roy Rappaport told me during a phone conversation we had just a year or so before he died in 1997.
The first Earth Day was held in the spring of 1970, and a group of students at the University of Michigan, where Rappaport was teaching, decided that they would mark the event by creating a community garden on or near the campus. They did so, but then finals came, and the semester ended and…in short, the garden didn’t come to much.
The problem, Rappaport said, was that, given the circumstances, they should have thought of and carried out the project as a ritual. Then it might have accomplished something along the lines of shaping the consciences, not only of those directly involved, but of their audience of students, passersby, and so forth. But since they had thought of the project as helping, at least in a small way, to solve the problem of hunger it wound up accomplishing next to nothing.