The Theatre of Belief

I’ve been fascinated for some time in the many ways that systems of belief are essentially performative. Those beliefs that people hold to be self-evident and unquestionably true exist almost exclusively as public expressions of identity and cultural affiliation.

In both religion and politics, but not limited to these, the expression and coded pantomime that belief becomes itself tends to usurp the message or idea that may once have underwritten the reality the system intended to affirm. The affirmation hollows out any original meaning until all that is left is a dissimulated display that seduces by the grammars of ritual and traps by the fear that there might be nothing beyond the surface. We come for the banquet of perfomative identity, we stay for fear of starving.

We fall into systems of belief because they allow us to play a game of self that flatters our transient narcissistic experience. To assert, to believe, to participate is to be real. Just don’t look too closely at what you believe to be true because if (and when) you discover that it is an empty self-representational game of symbols and expectations, you shall discover that you too are essentially just a hollow shell of display.

Freedom is not of self, it is from self.

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