2009-07-13

Longcat: Religion?

In the last two posts, we considered the possibility of a religious idea system based on the internet phenomenon Longcat, first drawing out the ultimate sacred postulate "Longcat is long," then examining the cosmological axioms which arose around this postulate. We have made our way from the top of Roy Rappaport's theoretical hierarchy down to the middle. Recall from our first overview of Rappaport that beneath second-order cosmological axioms are third-order rules of conduct and fourth-order on-the-ground conditions. In a way, these third and fourth tiers are where the real doing of religion takes place: in the rules and prescriptions for what to actually do on account of the cosmology outlined above, and in the pressures which feed back into the religious system from adherents where the ideas meet real-world conditions.


Perhaps, then, it will come as no surprise to observe that this is where the Longcat idea system falls short. As far as I know, there is no Longcat religion (yet), despite the viable ultimate sacred postulate we've identified and the healthy cosmology which has developed around it. Despite these high-level components of a religious conceptual hierarchy, there are no third-order rules of conduct — no commandments, no restrictions, no prescriptions, not even gentle suggestions — and without these there can be no fourth-order conditional pressures because there is nothing which may be responded to.

Aside from a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion (what did you scroll through those enormous Longcat images for, after all?), this observation leaves us mostly with new questions. Specifically, we might be curious about the possibility of the stunted Longcat idea system developing into a full-fledged religion. Could there come to be rules of conduct associated with the sacralized cosmology of Longcat? Certainly, there could be. But what might these be, and how might they arise? Perhaps a charismatic figure would take it upon himself to devise a set of strictures by which one should live for the greater glory of Longcat, and become the dangling feline's first prophet. Or perhaps the third tier would develop more gradually and organically, as certain rules grow out of mimetic practices concerning images of Longcat itself — if, for instance, 4chan posters should start to post a small image of Longcat every time they posted to any forums at all, or if it became some kind of common devotional practice to imitate the elongation of Longcat with one's own pets, just as originally gave rise to Tacgnol.


Fig. 1: Longcat Mimesis

More generally, this finding leads us to ask the same sorts of questions of developing religious systems more broadly. How do new religious take shape? What does a religious idea system look like in an intermediate state of development? How does such a developing religion continue to grow? While the answers to these sorts of questions are probably not all "Like Longcat," it is nevertheless interesting to observe such development around so peculiar a thing as a photograph of a dangling house-cat.

Keep your eye out for the earliest generation of Longcat devotees, and let me know if you come across a revelatory Book of Longcat or anything like that. In the meantime, on to other strange places.

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