I suppose the book that most shaped 2016 for me was James K. A. Smith’s You Are What You Love. The book, which dropped in the spring, was a recapitulation of Smith’s earlier work on “cultural liturgies” with more practical observations and illustrations thrown in. It was the book I gave away most often. I used videos based on/centered on the book’s view of habit, routine, and ritual in meetings that I led with co-workers. I got to be a part of a small group-talk on the book. It continues to regularly show up in conversations and planning. Here’s a clip from Smith talking through just one aspect of his thinking (though not from this year).
Questioning habit and routine and ritual is, in a way, like questioning the Matrix. You know it’s all around you. You can tell some kind of programming is going on, even though you cannot totally put your finger on it. But once you know, you can start some kind of counter-programming. And with that can come a sense of purpose and freedom (both from and for).
Over the next few days, probably even a day or two into 2017, I’m going to think through the issues of habit, routine, and ritual one more time, this time using another book and a handful of online articles. The concepts in You Are What You Love aren’t the kind that should get wiped off the slate with the drop of the new year’s ball. Instead, they are a reminder to think through and fight a deeper and better struggle, one that ultimately transcends the year that you’re in.