What is process for? What is its purpose, why has it been instituted? Don’t you think this is an existential question that any bureaucracy might like to introspect on to everybody’s benefit, particularly the religious bureaucracy?
Bureaucracies carry out process minutely as laid down in their particular rule books, at their respective ranks in their hierarchies (or don’t). But like the mystics of every age and assorted free spirits in art, science, politics and human
development, don’t you wonder if the professional cadres in religious systems sometimes ask why they are process people, beyond the fact that it provides gainful employment, sometimes with perks and pensions attached?
If we were to refer to any free spirit whose words or deeds are known to us, we’d find a remarkable unity of opinion in answer. The purpose of process, they say, each according to their language, culture and time in history, is to enable
quality content. Quality content improves individual lives and improves the quality of entire societies and civilisations. So, surely rules are meant to help people attain that content, not merely fulfil process as an end in itself?
Take the popular Sufi analogy that people who celebrate process over content are like those who go to a restaurant and instead of savouring the soup, fall in love with the cook. It behooves the cook to be clean and to make the soup well.
But isn’t the purpose of his process to give the customer good soup while the customer’s job is to relish the nourishment and taste of the soup?
Other popular examples of valuing process over content is to go on pilgrimage and concentrate wholly on the number of steps taken or pots of water emptied in offering. It makes you wonder about the nature and personality of ‘God’ as upheld by the process people through such minutiae. Is ‘He’ like a mother-in-law from a saas-bahu serial, the kind who’s into low-level chik-chik as Creation’s goal? Does God, whose glory we praise and whose mercy and goodness we rely on, really care if we wear nail polish or pluck eyebrows if women or wear cargo shorts instead of full-length trousers and style hair and beard differently from that prescribed at certain points in history if men?
Just curious as a believer about how it works, since no reporter is known to have filed from Beyond, if there’s one, about this.
Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture email@example.com