Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Rules of Grammar


Abraham Kaplan, an exponent of Hassidic Judaism, in his analytic paper called "The Meaning of Ritual: Comparisons," published in Reflections on Mormonism, Judaeo-Christian Parallels quotes Edmund R. Leach, writing "In seeking to understand ritual we are, in effect, trying to discover the rules of grammar and syntax of an unknown language." Kaplan says that "Ritual can be regarded as a language, and I am using the word in its broadest sense as a symbol in action." (Italics mine) He continues, "But language is not constituted by a grammar and syntax alone; it must also have a semantics and be a carrier of meaning."

Interpretation of this symbolic language then becomes prime force behind understanding the actions performed. So, who is the interpreter of the Mormon Temple ritual as it is being performed tomorrow night in HBO's Big Love? We, as viewers? The writers? The producers? Can symbols that hold specific meaning as part of a foreign language, to be understood only in terms of the whole system, be communicated and understood in the short and fictitious context of an hour of TV?
Even if it is relevant to the story line? Will it lead too easily to distorted conceptions of Mormonism?

For us Mormons, temple symbolism is something which, in some way, really is what it signifies. No mystery here. No "secret." Just the symbol, rich in meaning, with levels of nuance, making something concrete that is abstract. If we then, privately choose to wear "magic" underwear that reminds us to eat healthily, to pray, to be honest--why should this become a public matter? Whose business should it be but ours, privately? Who gives HBO invasion of privacy rights concerning private temple rituals and sacraments (or their interpretations thereof)? Does your neighbor have the right to come into your house and then broadcast things he has found on your bookshelf, or in your fridge and cupboards to the whole neighborhood, because it is "relevant" to a funny story he is writing about you?

Just wondering. Next question: Does it matter? No. Should I care? Probably.

9 comments:

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Oh, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments, Joyce! I think Hollywood or the "entertainment"
business thinks it can carry its clout around as though it is God!
I find it very offensive. I love film, but I think the "anything goes" mentality is shameful! Thankfully, we have our faith to keep us grounded!

*laughing* That said, thank you for your oomment on "Wayworn Home"
and am so happy you found Joanne
Shenandoah! Stay well, Joyce! xo

Kay said...

Thanks for this - I wondered what people of Mormon faith would think about this. I don't particularly like the show - I watched one episode to see what it was all about, but found it distasteful.

Annie said...

I agree with you completely Joyce. We have sacrificed common sense, not to mention sensitivity, on the altar of the "people's right to know". The initials, TMI, should be taken more seriously and to heart. Sadly, the distortion of private matters is a Pandora's Box we lost control over a long time ago.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

They will do what they will do, dear girls. Since they didn't ask for my opinion, it really makes no difference at all. Anyway, I LOVE television (even tho' I have never seen Big Love since HBO isn't part of the Dish package I subscribe to--that said, I would probably watch it tomorrow night if I could just to see...whatever)! I love movies, and Hollywood (generally--even Tom Hanks, who, I understand might have been partly responsible for tomorrow night's show because of some perceived injustice over Prop. 8 in the California elections), and theater, and popcorn and Pepsi!

Petra, I'm glad I found J.S. too! Kay, Annie, thanks for your comments!

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

And btw, I was no fan of Prop 8, either. (In case Tom happens to read this).

Jo A. T.B. said...

Hi Joyce,

I've never seen the HBO show you're talking about, don't have HBO! I do like seeing documentaries about different religions! Much of what is documented is part of history.

I don't believe a person's privacy should be invade, only with permission! I love learning of different cultures and religions. Did you hear on the news that many folks are backing away from religion?

Being a deist, has brought it's own scrutiny! I don't believe God should be removed from the pledge of alligence either. A very interest debate ~ religion ~ Prop 8! Who's wrong, who's right!

poetwithadayjob said...

Joyce, I know how you feel, and in a way, we're really powerless to what people think of us. I mean, of course it isn't right for someone to go tooting a horn about every one of an individual's privacies just to make a joke, or TV. They've been doing this to Catholics for as long as I can remember - just think of the Godfather movies - all that hypocrisy and violence! And of course everyone instantly thinks: the history of the Catholic church is steeped in hypocrisy and violence! Yup, it's definitely that simple.

And of course I care, but what it comes down to is, I believe what I believe, and if the people around me really want to know, they can ask, and I can do my best to tell them. If someone is dumb enough to believe everything they see on TV (and youtube), then I'm not even sure God can help them.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Melissa, and I know how YOU feel. Thank you.

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