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Archive for the ‘Sacred’ Category

Tell me what awakens you…

Tell me what feels sacred to you.

 

Is it possible that these two might somehow be related? Does one awaken to the sacred, or does the sacred awaken within us a feeling?

 

A few days ago on a TED conversation, (it’s closed but you can read through it here), someone asked if ‘sacred’ was the most dangerous word?

 

Indeed, I’ve encountered (still) a bit of disbelief when I describe a blog on Earth, home, habitat, exploring Earth being sacred to others. One challenged me immediately to define sacred, as if I’d raised an old spectre; given the home nation of the person is vehemently anti-religious both out of manners and frustration, I understood it was a bees nest of reaction going on inside him. Another response more recently was, “Is it safe to write about that?” That one caught me by surprise; it took me a moment to reflect that yes, perhaps, one’s exploration of sacred might ought be kept to oneself . . .  except that would delete thousands of years of meaning-making by our species. If we didn’t explore the sacred, and the sacred in Nature, outwardly, where would art, music, dance, poetry be? These expressions of feeling and experiencing the sacred, including in the natural world, are much of the beautiful expression in every culture and in every age.

 

Yet, the Ted thread certainly got testy very quickly.

 

What is it that awakens volcanos and tempests of feeling in exploring even just the ‘term’ sacred?

And that is what brings me to wondering what awakens you and what of it, if anything, feels sacred? Whether it’s awakened to the day or awakened to feeling, it’s something we go through many times each day.  Awaken, as in rouse from sleep, experience new feelings or new awareness…

One school of thought is that God — choose your name for whatever you are comfortable calling the life force within you, the light which animates you and which visibly disappears when you die and the light leaves your physical body, as I’ve witnessed in human and animal alike — awakens each of us each day. I’ve heard this spiritual experience described especially in families where a child or loved one has a short time to live and is roused from sleep lovingly with “This is the Day the Lord has made…” by caregivers.  Certainly when Nature awakens me, I am aware of something greater calling me up and out, whether noisy jays (earlier written about here) or the ravens in the forest. I am awakened with curiosity and inspiration. In South Africa, I was awakened by the distinctly foreign sounds of monkeys chattering near by. In Wyoming, camping on the prairie, I was awakened by an early morning stampede of running paws on dirt — a local coyote pack with pups roaring by, yipping and barking with joy. I am always awakened to a feeling of wonder at Creation in these times; wonder at Creation awakens a feeling of sacred in me.

 

More locally, I am awakened to awareness by my cat. Foul breath draws near, several head bonks forehead to forehead, and when that doesn’t work because I am lost to heavy, unfeeling slumber, a deft poke with specially-sharpened central claw pulls the quilt, sheet, and then a stab into the back or face (ouch) awakens me.  I always assume that’s God’s humor in action, for if I awaken, I’m still here on Earth and there is work I need to get done apparently; the cat might wish to be thought of as God awakening  me (indeed he made it in other cultures) but such an awakening to feeling isn’t always what I had in mind as ‘sacred’ per se.

 

But then I’m reminded by this that awakening to sacred isn’t always comfy. There are the awakenings to bears or raccoons ransacking my pack with a thin tent wall between us, or the shriek of the chase between predator and prey, whether in wilds, African bush, or city alleys, that make the first words out of my mouth a prayer:  ‘Oh dear God, what was that?’ Awakening to awareness, life and death, what could be more sacred or inspiring?

 

It’s a thin line between awakening and feeling wonder, of comfort and inspiration, of Nature as source of knowledge of the Gods (sacred) and experiencing that which we live among but do not fully understand.

 

So what awakens you… to your day or your world or to Creation?

What awakens you to the feel of sacred?

What awakens you to the thin line between the two?

Tell me a story of you, and your awakenings.

 

Are the Earth and the sacred so far apart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A talk from the heart by Boyd Varty, who has learned in his life that we are connected andmade better by our connection with each other — ubuntu — but that is also true of our connection with our Earth, our habitat, and the other animals with whom we share this beautiful planet.

A long, long time ago, I too walked a river near Londolozi in South Africa, and too saw the shadows and faced my deepest fears. I too learned of what it meant to be reliant on others to open the world, touch my heart, carry my spirit to safety, and to experience the humility of our deepest connections of heart, of spirit, of life and how these interconnections are made stronger by extending to the living creatures around us… but these are stories for another time. For now, listen with open heart to Boyd Varty and allow yourself to be immersed in his heart and story. It’s not just about meeting and knowing a great person, it is also about learning to know that together in spirit we are stronger.

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“Dwell in the magnitude of the Universe . . .”*

Galaxy Messier 94  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Galaxy Messier 94
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

To dwell comes from Old English dwellan

— as in to wander, to linger, to tarry —

… thus to take time in

and to inhabit as a home.

Coastal_strand_with_old_growth_forest_on_oswald_west_state_park_in_oregon

Photo courtesy: Patte David, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Whether we dwell in the infinitude of Nature, of Creation, and linger there,

— or dwell on such magnitude that it is, and thus wander in the improbable, unabashed abundance of Nature —

in doing so, we are then able to inhabit the possibility that that which we call Sacred might be around us, enveloping us, within us, and also is our home.

It is then that we might know Nature, and ourselves in it, to be one In matter, in substance,

and in energy that we experience

as life.

"Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org"

Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org

 

*“For those who have always dwelt on limited thoughts,

a good practice is to dwell in the magnitude of the Universe.”

 Ernest Holmes

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“Your visit may be marred by tragedy if you violate park rules. Law enforcement rangers strictly enforce park regulations to protect you and the park. Please help keep our contacts with you pleasant by paying special attention to park regulations and avoiding these problems . . . “

Rules are the invisible barrier between humans and Nature, writ large in the park information given to the nearly 3.5 million visitors each year who visit  Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

“Yellowstone is a wilderness filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards. There is no guarantee of your safety. Regulations are strictly enforced to protect you and the park’s resources.”

My teenager is singing Sondheim’s “Everbody Says Don’t” as we drive from Yellowstone into Teton National Park and on the way pass numerous park signs on our attempt at a great but short American car trip; we each can hardly wait to get to the National Forest just a bit south to happily splash barefoot in the cool waters of the Hoback River (and irritating the nearby fly-fishermen, I admit) to get away from the crowds and to ‘engage’ with a Nature that feels accessible if not actually relevant, rather than this ‘do not touch’ experience of Nature protected in the national parks.

Image

Gratefully found and borrowed from Yellowstonegate http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2011/10/no-boiling-live-fish/

We are passing families breaking the rules, going off the trail to have their kids pose behind the Welcome to Yellowstone NP sign for the family photo op. They are clearly seeking the happy memory souvenir of their own childhood car trip images, but I notice these kids aren’t necessarily grinning on cue. It’s a rebellious lot, this generation, unwilling to preserve the image of a family car trip as my generation did with the requisite wave and grin. I ask my daughter if she, too, wants the photo op to memorialize our trip and she responds wryly that she could have seen Old Faithful on the cam web of the park website rather than watching people line up 6-deep on the boardwalk to watch the sploshes.

“And the hype!!,” she says with exasperation. She leaves the thought there as I wondered if it had been my hype or the park’s, or a larger, American hype of fondness over the car-trip to Nature in Yellowstone National Park to which she was referring.

Ah, Yellowtone. Hyped since 1872 to tourists, I note, remembering that this is Nature with tourism. Hyped to keep people not living near it valuing it in order that it be protected from private development by people, decade after decade; the road-access areas of the parks are a way in, an Ambassador of Nature to the public, for the millions of acres set aside that the public doesn’t normally see and therefore might not find relevant to their lives.  Hyped to keep it — Nature — in the game of the American mind or at least a relevant part of the discussion of ‘what is great about America’. Without the ambassador Nature become invisible; with the tourism, Nature stays in the picture, so to speak. Full circle.

The rules are necessary because we don’t know how to behave in Nature, from feeding animals truly wild (yes, it happened a day we were there, a preschooler pushed into the picture with the bison by goading parents wanting another photo op. It turned out okay, thanks to a park bus driver who yelled a warning) to taking a bath in the hot springs (a warning in the tourist information but thankfully no takers, so far this summer.)

We had sat on the veranda of the gracious old Old Faithful Inn, feeling the ghosts of turn-of-the-century tourists strolling about in hats and large skirts, as we waited the 88 min for Old Faithful geyser to blow. I was eying the out-the-door line for ice cream while my daughter wondered why it felt like Stonehenge where crowds of hundreds also stood 6-deep, all gazing with expectation and cameras at the ready, to one central spot. We wondered in retrospect what they were waiting for at Stonehenge; at least here was an action shot provided by Nature.

A woman from New York conversed with us on the porch, having spent 3-days-so-far on a bus from South Dakota, taking her elderly mother to see Yellowstone for once in her long life, we were told. “She could care less if she sees another geyser at this point,” the woman laughs with us. Indeed, the mother was inside eating lunch ignoring the ticking minutes to The Moment, and the daughter quipped the atmosphere around us felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with the crowds and the waiting and then with pictures taken, the shuffle back home. “You always think, ‘I could have watched it on TV,'” she muses. But then anticipation rises in the gathering crowd with a small splosh from Old Faithful. “Do they at least sound a horn or something before it goes, so we know when to start taking pictures?” It was funny. Really funny. And it was so far from relevant to our daily lives; it was a good-time.

The magic and mystery of Nature that the 1800s tourists might have felt in this far-away-from-civilization wilderness seemed gone. Knowing now Old Faithful  is part of a system of a giant underground caldera that is predicted to, someday any day now, make my home of the Rocky Mountains West a geologic memory, the watching of it suddenly felt a bit like knowing too much. It felt suddenly akin to what the required sex ed class does to the romantic notion of “bff love” in middle school, at once fascinating and vaguely unsettling.

Is magic and mystery needed to make Nature more relevant to us?

I wanted to make a last effort to engage daughter with the Nature behind the zoo-i-ness of the park before we left the boundary, the Nature that is just behind the signs and the rules, the Nature that is at once protected but also wilderness and a very wild home of grizzly bear, moose, elk, wolves, is out of man’s control, and is the last, the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states. But these are just facts and facts don’t engage the soul or the senses.

I asked her to ‘just for fun’ connect to what it would feel like if she saw the beauty of the wilds in the park as what some call “God’s handiwork” or “the face of God”, or as with Native American culture, for her to try out seeing God(s) in the many facets of Nature that are around every curve in this beautiful, protected wild area. I asked her to use her imagination . . . and her heart.

She was quiet for a time.

I wondered for a moment where such a crazy idea came from in me, and then I heard the voice of my own father saying in the tone of voice he reserved for reading great stories as we stood looking at the park when I was a little girl: “Man is just a visitor here . . .” he said mysteriously, as if the mountains were Val Halla, the land of the Gods, and we mere mortals had to be Heros to last in the wilds where God or Gods roamed.

“If you can’t create it, don’t destroy it,” he added often as we’d head to the Ranger talks under a sky full of stars.  This from a not obviously religious man who loved Nature and is a self-described “recovering Christian” as the result of a too-strict church-going childhood. When I was a child, he gave me the every-Sunday-morning choice (choose one) of driving through the beautiful mountains here in Colorado or going to church, as to him they were a similar destination: a place to connect with what man can’t create.

But the mystery, the engagement of the imagination, the teaching of the intangible, how is that communicated? From a sense of mystery about something so ineffable? From an expression of ‘value’ by a parent? Or equally the time spent splashing in creeks as we did, too, when I was a child; it was the ‘treat’ at the end of the day of driving or short hike. Or isn’t the transmission of ‘importance to me’ from parent to child also often grounds for rebellion rather than a kind-of-inherited reverence for that which is valued? What is it that provides the relevance and the connection?

I wondered if the woman from New York would take her wry humor, joy, laughter, endurance, and pictures, and in the power of telling the Story of her trip, suddenly feel the value of Nature, the relevance of the experience of Nature, to her New York life? And what of the tourists we saw from India, Asia and Europe — what connection did they take home with their pictures and their stories?

Whether my daughter was humoring her crazy mom with her moments of silent reflection, or connecting ‘for fun’ with a different view of Nature as sacred (or both), I’ll never know but I do know she’s a good, good kid willing to expand her heart and soul and give such nutty requests a faithful try. She knows the importance of imagination; it’s what makes life interesting and creative, magical, and yes, engaging.

“Yes,” she finally said quietly. “It is different. It’s so … really beautiful.”

And then with a turn of the bend of the Snake River, we were out of the park with the forested Hoback River waiting just 20 min beyond the human circus of Jackson’s Hole.

With wet legs and sighs of relief, we engaged for a time in a now very relevant Nature. Who cannot connect with clear cold mountain waters, the shade of spruce trees, and the fresh air of forest on an 85-degree day and hours of traffic and driving behind us?

Magic, mystery, reverence, imagination, and clear, cold water. Nature was returned to relevance from behind its protecting rules for a lovely hour or so. Now how to carry it home without pictures, if not in our souls? And a story to tell in the future.

 

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Make a wish… what would it be?

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For me, it would be to create and foster a Culture of Care for the Earth, moving humankind out of this age that is a culture of consuming the Earth. It would be the end of the Age of Earth as merely Resource for man’s industrial progress and the Beginning of an Age of Tending the Earth in recognizing it is our only habitat home and its resources and life simply amazing in the grand scheme of things. Like when viewed from space.

That’s my wish: inspiring everyone possible to leave behind the old and grey, smoke and churning of toxins that is the Normal now and taking real steps forward into seeing and working with the Earth as the miracle it is.

Progress is great; can’t we now do it without polluting? A Culture of Care would find the solution to do that.

Money that comes from progress, development in nations, growing economies — these are all great especially as they help to feed the hungry, support literacy and open our eyes to our common heart as a species. A Culture of Care rather than our current Culture of Consumption would create the solutions to achieve all these while working in partnership with what we have here on Earth, rather than be based on destroying what we have.

A home planet where we keep in conservation the original models, areas of land and ocean habitat sufficient to resolve the damage already done to the environment as an intricate web, allowing us a ‘back up’ in case of human mistake, this too is possible when progress and daily living now is based on a Culture of Care.

We have the solutions needed for this; what we need is a change of heart and a change of ‘bottom line’; it’s based by living a Culture of Care for our Earth-home.

Everyone of you has a role to play and a position of power to use in shifting us toward this new paradigm.

It starts inside and is revealed in your actions, large and small, but now.

We do engage the Earth, our home and habitat, differently if we see it as a miracle.

That’s my wish for today.

What’s yours?

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© 2011 Elizabeth Darby; a View from a place called Home, UK
All rights reserved; please contact me before reposting as a courtesy.

Possession

Possess

Possessed

To be

Taken Over

Whether by God or by Human or by demons . . .

Funny how such a word <possession> has so many possibilities.

Earth: Sacred/Possession

When I wrote the title for this blog and the forthcoming book project, it just seemed like the Right Question.

And I’m finding there is nuance to it.

Does Possession in my project’s title mean  possession by God, or of God?

By humans or of humans?

Is the Earth, the land of earth, the inhabitants, habitat, place of our lives a thing owned — in which case are we also ‘things’ when we are taken over as in the common use of the word ‘possessed’ in the spiritual sense?

Are we possessed by the Land as it defines us, as in where we are born, how we identify our soul or personality’s substance (as in “I’m from _______” and thus it defines our very Self as individuals, families, histories and cultures, not to mention our dreams, destinies and wealth or power?

When I envisioned the title, the book and the hoped-for curriculum emerging from this project, the immediate use of Earth as Possession was — at least for a moment — clear to me:

Earth as possession is something someone owns, despite cultures throughout time and place which argue it is impossible to ‘own or possess’ the Land itself. Yet whenever we make an object of it, and buy and sell turf or fight wars over it, we reduce Earth, the Land, to a possession. Is this what we choose to do? Is this sustainable, this perception of our habitat as a possession?

But in going deeper, it is not so clear this concept of Habitat, Land, Home, Earth and how our language defines our relationship with it.

Back to Eric Partridge’s Origins for help:

L potis

a master of (especially property);

has a derivative possidere, literally to sit as master of, to make oneself master of,

to occupy as an act of possession —

Ah, but there’s more to this. The spiritual sense of ‘possession’ as  a demonic force apparently didn’t come into common use in English until the 1530’s. More on that in a subsequent post, but historians will recognize the time as one of religious upheaval in England, when monasteries were ripped down and “witch” trials against followers of the goddess Diana in Spain and its colonies in the wilderness of the New World were underway. A dark time when open engagement with God’s creation was suspect… But more on that later.

According to Partridge, ‘possession’ in the 1400s had a sense of “to have and to hold” as in a bridegroom unto beloved. Power-holder, yes, but the spiritual sense of ‘possession’ was yet in terms of husbanding and the clear connection to the sacred with the symbolism inherent in bridegroom as used in biblical terms.

Is there yet more to this curious concept of possession? Yes, as always a contradiction:

n posse

to have power, to be able to [do something],

 especially exercising one’s ability or mastery or power

A root of possession is ‘being able to master or power’ and it is this relationship we all enter into every moment of every day when both thinking and especially not thinking about how our land, our Earth, sustains us. This is not a bridegroom coming to ‘husband’ a land, but something much darker.

And yet there is more: the idea of Earth being possessed by God and, as Psalm 24:1, thought to have been written about 1000 BC, goes: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein . . . ”

In this engagement, we and the Earth, all of everything, is a possession of God’s; there is no distinction between humans and God’s Creation as the new Pope Francis evokes in his early homilies, asking all of the world’s people, regardless of religion power or mastery, to care for all of God’s Creation. Earth as Sacred/Possession.

But there is still more:

Hidden among the historical roots of this L posse and L potis, is also, perhaps most importantly, the root of the word we know as possibility.

That is, the personal power to make something happen.

And, as we know, there is great possibility if —

— If we define our tomorrows feeling  the Earth to be our Home, our Habitat, our Garden for our children and engaging with it under the mastery of our careful interconnectedness.

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“Sacred, L sacer.

…also in Etruscan (the probable origin).

. . . Sacer has derivative v sacrare, to treat as, to render, sacred,

whence Of-F sacrer, ME sacren, pp sacred, whence the adj sacred…

Also from L sacr– comes sacrarium, a shrine, a small chapel…”

Eric Partridge’s Origins, 1966

 

It is interesting to note that idea — that the root of the word sacer in Latin came to us from Etruscan.

What we know of the Etruscan religion  is a belief in “a universe controlled by gods who manifested their nature and their will in every facet of the natural world as well as in objects created by humans,” where man was integrated into the sacred whole of the Earth. (Robert Guisepi, Etruscans, A History of the Etruscan people including their cities, art, society, rulers and contributions to civilization, 2002 at http://history-world.org/etruscanreligion_and_mythology.htm)  “Roman writers give repeated evidence that the Etruscans regarded every bird and every berry as a potential source of knowledge of the gods and that they had developed an elaborate lore* and attendant rituals for using this knowledge.”

And this is the root of the word we have in English that is Sacred:

Nature as source of knowledge of the gods.

It would seem the question of Earth as Sacred was not in doubt for myriad peoples throughout the world, including what would become known as the Western Civilization tradition. *And I’m reminded of a time speaking with a fellow who happened to be Northern Cheyenne, who reminded me that ‘one man’s lore is another’s beliefs’.

So to explore how the Earth is considered sacred shouldn’t make us squeamish. Or even embarrassed.

Yet bring up a title such as this blog’s and the coming book (as well as the hoped-for course and curriculum for our children — see the newly added About the Book page here), and the first response I’m met with is:

“Really?”

It is accompanied by a side-turn of the eyes, a shrug, a look over the shoulders and an edgy body posture suggesting the listener is a bit nervous I’m about to say something, well, embarrassing about God or gods or meaning or use of natural resources. . . . all as if to say:

“Let’s not go there. Let’s quantify. Let’s separate ourselves, man from Nature. Let’s not do that god-talk stuff as we approach a discussion of ‘highest use’ of natural resources and  a sustainable meting out of our habitat …

“It’s too, well, crazy.”

Yet the moral beliefs, our humankind Story, the explanations for why things are, which humans have developed out of the deepest longing of our hearts to help us to make sense of our existence and  our relationship with the mystery of how this whole thing began — creation or Creation — across the world such Story has some reference to the Earth as being sacred, a place where we better understand God or gods, where man is integrated into the whole of it.  Somehow.

So that’s why sacred — or Sacred — is part of the consideration of the habitat in which we live and on which we depend for our oxygen, water, minerals, food, inspiration, pharmacies… shall I go on?

I’m far from the first to suggest that if we perceive a place as Sacred, we treat it differently.

Have you, your children, or your community, explored this notion recently?

If so, drop me a line and tell me how!

It’s all part of the Story that we need to communicate to our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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