Today I am writing in response to Solitary Druid’s most excellent post here – http://phoenixgrove.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/what-is-sacred/ (you don’t need to have read it to follow mine, but trust me, it’s well worth doing so.)
I embrace the idea that everything is sacred, that sacredness is inherent in all things. And, mindful of the blog I alluded to, I also recognise that for human functionality, this is a non-starter. I might hold it as an intellectual premise, but in practice how I treat a cat poo in the litter tray is not how I would treat a mouse that turned up there. Part of this is because of difference – the poo has no needs that I know of, whereas I need to get rid of the smell. The mouse if alive, needs to leave swiftly and gently. So even if everything is sacred, its uniqueness requires us, if we care for it, to treat it in a relevant way.
There are times when we have to choose priority. We can’t do everything, relate to everything, save everything. Our energy and time are finite and every moment of living involves an almost unthinkable amount of choice as we pilot our way through potentially infinite options. So we respond to the things that move us, that we are inspired by, or care about and give them priority over those that aren’t so emotive. We save the cute fluffy mammal and leave the remarkable insect to die. We give money to orphans with large eyes, not homeless guys with drink and drug problems – or however it falls out in our unique experience. There is no way of not doing this.
We can, however, take out little bits of time along the way to think about our priorities and relationships. If, for example, I have been excluding my own rubbish from the ‘sacred’ category, I miss its relationship both with the raw material it came from and the land it will be off to fill. I might still find it hard to see god in a paper bag, but I can think about my own relationship with the tree that went to make the paper, and the land it could be going to fill (both easily sacred), and I can opt to recycle it instead. Sometimes the best approach to ‘everything is sacred’ is not to try and grasp the inherent deity in things we can see no use or value for, but to put them back into a bigger picture. They come from somewhere, they go somewhere, it is all nature. Holding the bigger picture in mind, full time is impossible, but pausing to contemplate bits of the bigger picture, and trying to put small, apparently unimportant things into context, changes perspectives.
I am not going to see goddesses in a cat poo. But I do see a reflection of the cat’s life cycle, and a reminder of my own. I do see the challenge of waste disposal, and all the headache-inducing questions of sustainability and impact. Odds are in a few hours time, I will have forgotten the poo, and will be instead looking at the clouds, striking up a conversation with a seagull, contemplating my ancestors or going wherever today takes me. Until Mr Cat makes another offering.
The plus side of an ‘everything is sacred’ perspective, is that it makes everything worth contemplating. As I said last week, feeling druidic is easy when you’re somewhere like Avebury, and its harder wok in a supermarket, or a traffic queue. But starting from the premise that there could be sacredness here to find, is a good way of getting past the sense of isolation from beauty and wonder that urban living can bring. I’ve spent times in depressing urban places, and I used to find it very hard. The prompt from another druid to keep looking for spirits of place, and to assume a presence of the sacred, took me some time to get to grips with, but has radically altered how I feel about being in cities. Nature is everywhere. It’s with us every time we draw breath, or empty our bladders, and it’s worth keeping sight of that.
The quest for beauty and meaning, for sacredness amongst the worst messes of short term human ‘creativity’ can take a person strange places. Many of the good things are accidental, the wildlife that has moved in, the unintentional art. Where there is grim building and low aspiration, a place can feel soulless. Recognising that it does have soul, changes how we relate to it, what we do with it, and ideally in the end, it changes the place. Once you start treating everything, and everyone as though there is a dash of sacredness there, the odds are you’re going to show it/them more care and respect, and real changes will occur.
Pondering this yesterday I came to the conclusion that sacredness and relationship go together. Without relationship, ideas of sacredness are meaningless. It’s not the intellectual premise that matters, it’s how we live it, and that’s about what we do with everything we encounter.
Also, I now wonder if my cat is psychic. As I was typing away about cat poo, he thoughtfully undertook to provide me with one! If god is in that smell, it’s going to be a while before I can experience ecstatic relationship. But then, I’m only human.