step back
ritual play

Some of my friends joked about holding an occult initiation ceremony to welcome me into a virtual chat group. The joke relied on a shared fictional memory of such an initiation ceremony having taken place before, a memory that could be referred to and reinvented to suit. There was talk of heathen practices, the implication of blood sacrifice, witchy vibes, things having gone wrong, people disappearing under the smoke and force of misguided spells.

This feels like a quintessentially human form of intelligence - the ability, swiftly and without pre-arrangement, to conjure up a shared fictional past in order to construct a shared fictional present; the ability to hold not only fictional worlds in our mind, but to be mindful of fictional worlds existing in other minds, and the ways these might mirror and differ from our own. We know these worlds can never perfectly match - though it can feel, at times, like they do - but we hold onto vital similarities, throw rough and ready bridges between them so they can be used, collectively, to build other worlds. We invite other people to join us there, to enjoy the joke and the sudden, vivid plane it exists in, then we dismantle the whole thing, simply by no longer feeding it. It is relegated to our scattered, separate memories, the archive of things we once imagined and played with, isolated and together, all at once.

Essex 181223