Also, a reminder that Jim has created a more specific ritual celebrating Petrov Day, for people that are into that sort of thing:
A common theme of rationalist holidays is “let’s go through the story of human progress and tell stories about.” When Jim started creating Petrov day, at first I worried “oh no, another holiday retreading the same ground.” But I think Jim did a much better job than anyone else I’ve seen, at telling that story well and making it emotionally significant.
Some of that emotional salience was lost due to technical snafus. I expect that to go better in future years. I also think there’s plenty of room to experiment and improve the ritual.
But it felt good to be surrounded by a small group of people that took the same ideas as me seriously. It was fun. It had dramatic tension both from intellectual content and from the literal dangers of the candles.
I do worry about ritualizing particular concrete ideas, as opposed to overarching values. Particular ideas can turn out to be less relevant than you thought they were, or in some cases be actually false.
At the same time, some ideas are important to take seriously, and ritual is a good tool for that. My tentative solution is to recommend people doing rituals like Petrov Day, but not necessarily doing them every year. Instead, I think we should develop a collection of rituals that have a similar overall theme (say, committing to help the future of humanity in concrete ways), but rotate which ritual you do each year, so we don’t get too attached to a particular execution of that theme (for example, Artificial Intelligence).