Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

My Photo
Location: New England, United States

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Reflections on Patterns of Relationships and Trust

Cultural Anthropologist Victor Turner studied the ritual cultural practices that kicked into play whenever some kind of political conflict or disagreement arose within a tribal community.

According to Turner, conflict gives rise to a Liminal Social Drama that replays the original conflict until some kind of resolution is crafted.

The Liminal Social Drama (what we sometimes call political debate in our modern culture) had a remarkable structure that Turner called Anti-Structure.

That is, the Liminal Social Drama reprises the original conflict in inverse chronological order, as it reaches back to diagnose the roots of the emergent conflict. Once the roots of the conflict have been uncovered, revealed, and understood, the Liminal Social Drama can be recrafted and rewritten with an alternative ending, converting the arc of the story from an arresting, lamentable tribal tragedy to a rollicking, ritual communal comedy.

The historical account of this correction process thus reflects this mirror-image Anti-Structure.

In conventional dramatic literature (especially in bible stories), this same mirror-image story structure is called Chiasmus (after the Greek letter Χ, which illustrates this pattern).
"Mammals in general, and we among them, care extremely, not about episodes, but about the patterns of their relationships." —Gregory Bateson
One night, a few months ago, I was reflecting on the observation, found in Victor Turner's notion of Anti-Structure, and in the literary analyst's notion of Chiastic Structure, that these two labels apparently refer to the same phenomenon, found in the pattern of events that ineluctably arise in the wake of human conflict.
A sequence of episodes makes for a story. The story is a reflection of a sequence of episodic events.
The above observation is not only a definition of Chiasmus, it's an example of it as well. After all, it is well and meet that a story reflect the observations which it recounts.

When the story bears accurate witness, when the account is a trustworthy reflection of the scene being reprised, the coherency of the account is reflected in the Chiastic Structure of the story.

That explains why Liminal Social Drama and Bible Stories feature Chiastic Structure so prominently. It's not an accident. It's an ineluctable feature of bearing accurate witness when crafting a coherent story.

The two halves of the Chiastic Structure are in symmetric balance around the fulcrum, like the excursions of Foucalt's Pendulum. The Yin and the Yang are in complementary opposition and in balance around the point, line, or surface of reflection.
As above, so below.
If the Kings are Ruly, the Subjects are Unruly.

There is a country named Tajikistan. The name means Land of the Ruling Kings.

There is an adjacent country to Tajikistan. The name of the adjacent country is Afghanistan. The name means Land of the Unruly.

If you want artisanship, you don't go to Tajikistan. You go to Afghanistan. The Afghanis weave artfully patterned fabrics.

Do you suppose the patterns of the Afghan fabrics reflect the pattern of relationships found in their Liminal Social Dynamics?

The Liminal Anti-Social Dynamics perpetuate ad nauseum until someone records and recounts an artfully crafted faithful account of Episodic Structure and Anti-Structure.

You will recognize such an artful account by its Chiastic Structure.

Call it Original Sin Meets Original Spin.


Post a Comment

<< Home