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Poetic Rituals

Academic Dr Sarah Goldingay searches for the moments of transcendence that can be encountered through the routine and ritual of the everyday.

The commute to work, the weekly supermarket shop, brushing our teeth before bed. The routine and rituals of our everyday lives can often feel like dull repetition. But what if we could find a path to transcendence through these everyday acts?

Academic Dr Sarah Goldingay searches for what the liturgical reformer Rabbi Chaim Stern called the ritual poetry of our lives. Through this ritual poetry it’s possible, Sarah says, to experience a noetic moment - those profound instances when we experience the presence of the divine.

With the help of a diverse pool of writers and thinkers, Sarah argues that simple everyday routines can become powerfully spiritual - even making breakfast, as demonstrated in Sara Maitland's ecstatic experience when devouring her morning porridge. Through the writings of the Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki, Sarah discovers that simply sipping a cup of tea can also be a powerful zen moment.

The act of singing can transform everyday rituals into moments of transcendent beauty. Sarah samples the singing of Scottish herring girls and the haunting rhythms of a Mississippi prison gang, united in song as their pickaxes fall as one.

We might think that powerful spiritual experiences can only be experienced by the specially initiated. This programme suggests that perhaps, by noticing ourselves and the poetic potential of our own everyday rituals, the transcendent might just be closer than we think.

Presenter: Sarah Goldingay
Producer: Max O’Brien
A TBI Media production for BBC Radio 4

28 minutes

Music Played

  • Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

    Home Cookin’

  • Cab Calloway

    Everybody Eats When They Come To My House

  • Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

    Panis Angelicus

  • Nomos

    Harvest Home

  • Edwin Hawkins Singers

    Oh Happy Day

  • Choir of King’s College Cambridge conducted by Stephen Cleobury



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