Most of us live with some sense of the sacred. Feeling connected to the universe in a spiritual way is not reserved for mystics, or religious zealots; nearly all of us feel we have a place and a purpose, for reasons that may well be unique to each of us. Although we might not all assign sacred status to artifacts, a lot of us do tend to attach it to intangibles. The problem is, we just can’t get everyone to agree on what is sacred and what isn’t.
I might walk into a shop and look around, judge the contents to be a bunch of hippie-dippie crap, and walk out without purchasing anything. Someone else might spend all day in the same store, prioritizing just what they want the most and can also afford to purchase. That person might not consider the store sacred, and I certainly don’t; but the difference in preferences here indicates that there is probably a big difference in what we consider sacred as well.
Don’t like that example? Too mild? How about another one?
The majority of people in a country might consider a certain piece of land sacred, to the point where they war with another nearby country who is also mostly populated by people who consider the same space as sacred; if you want to piss them both off real good, build something on that land while they fight over it. Or bomb it. You’ll make enemies of both countries, and possibly unite them against a common foe. I won’t say this is some example that is easily proven to work by history, or anything; but it is a good case in point at the other end of the spectrum.
Don’t like that example, either? Well, make up your own.
Or, better yet…just remember the last time you were offended. A lot of people in the modern world hold certain principles as sacred, without tying them to any actual set of stated or shared beliefs. Common decency and common sense are both contradictions, since we each have our own view of what they mean to us; the only thing common about either is that everyone but us is bound to violate our definitions of them somewhere along the line.
We can proceed as if everything is sacred, if we want to explore that path; but good luck taking more than a few steps along it without committing an act that seems like a transgression to someone. Avid vegans are going to be offended if you eat meat, those prescribing to the carnivore diet will be bothered if you don’t; and that’s just one of the basics of survival. If we can’t even feed our bodies without doing something wrong in someone’s eyes, what hope do we have of conducting ourselves through the complicated network of daily life in a way that doesn’t offend someone along the way?
Getting to adulthood without having a set of rules you think others should live by is a rare thing, and I’m certainly not saying it’s a bad thing. However, every point of view has a certain amount of validity to it; if you want others to respect your viewpoint, the first step may be putting aside all your unwritten rules to discover the origins of everyone else’s. We can quickly see how this puts us last when it comes to being considered; and it doesn’t take much longer to see how anyone without some set of guidelines to live by won’t be alive for long.
If your life isn’t sacred to you on some level, your reasons for living it might just start to dissipate as others take advantage of your condition and proceed to walk all over you. A set of guidelines is important, in respect to both our own behavior and that of others. Just because a huge chunk of people in the world think it’s a sin to drink alcohol, I don’t see any reason not to swill a little scotch now and then; but if they become the majority of the population in the spot where I live, they might think their sacred beliefs should be laws. In that case, I have to risk imprisonment or death just to enjoy a drink.
That might sound ridiculous, as another example; until we remember that booze was illegal in this country less than a hundred years ago. We might like to look at countries still doing this kind of thing and see them as socially backwards; but then we have to look at recent changes in laws in our own society. The use of certain drugs in our culture has always been associated with paranoia; yet as laws change, we see a whole generation coming of age that refers to using cannabis as casually as the previous generation learned to talk about alcohol.
It may turn out that the only negative side effect associated with many natural substances was one imposed by a disapproving society; once the stigma was removed, so was the one negative aspect of using. Now we have crowds of people from our country crossing a border to freely experiment with psychedelics, and all of them are coming back safe and sound and reportedly changed for the better. With the way things are going, we might be seeing commercials for ayahuasca centers in major American cities in the next decade or two.
I don’t know if that means sacred ceremonies will become a part of the average American’s life; I’ve seen drug commercials, and they certainly don’t seem to see anything but profit as sacred. If they’re the same people that will be handling natural substances when they become legal, we can all look forward to the same kind of ads we see today for pharmaceutical drugs: the only thing advertised will be a happy and carefree life, with a serious voice you aren’t supposed to pay attention to asking you if you’re experiencing symptoms often associated with being human. At least the side effects won’t be terrifying to listen to, like they are now.
Also, the results will finally be real.
The secret in honoring the sacred might start with each of us deciding what is important to us, and end with all of us learning to have a sense of humor even when it comes to those things we hold sacred. We can’t expect anyone else to respect our view of the sacred if we don’t respect theirs, and we can’t laugh at what is sacred to them unless they get to poke fun at what is sacred to us.
Like anything, a delicate balance needs to be struck here. We can’t be asked to tolerate blatant disrespect, but that line gets drawn in a different place for each of us. For every hundred people that can understand how this spectrum can vary without jumping off the graph, there’s at least one person ready to fly off the handle if those around them don’t behave as if they can read that person’s thoughts. So…maybe we could all just learn to cherish what we hold sacred, and also learn to laugh about it.
Or, everyone can just keep doing what they’re doing. Getting offended takes a lot of energy, and a lot of people hold certain issues as sacred without really understanding the subject matter; but I guess that’s just self-immolation; as long as the fire doesn’t spread, I’m okay with folks carrying on with the process.
The fires aren’t even out yet?
Nah, it’s perfect timing.
After all…nothing is sacred!
(Or everything is.)
Thanks for reading!
All the best,