We split the atom to release unimagined destruction. We also split story away from wisdom, and thus gave birth to entertainment. And the radiation burns still glint in our eyes and upon our souls.
What if every rattle, every pictograph, every myth, every ritual, did not attempt to answer questions about the meaning of life, did not attempt to simplemindedly explain why certain things exist and behave the way they do…what if the notion of sacredness came about to help humans to survive in a world which demanded they pay attention if they wanted their children’s bellies full.
What if sacredness bounds the issues most material to survival? What if the sense of awe and the divine, whether at a beautiful sunset, a birth, a death, a melody that pierces the heart, what if this sense exists to help humans to pay rapt attention to a world with dangers and limits, with predators, heat, cold, drought, flood.
Any decent guide to wilderness survival begins with a chapter, or at least a paragraph, on attitude. Attitude, before all alse, sets the stage for our ability to survive emergencies, and for that matter, our every day lives.
Japanese swordsmanship delineates “attitudes” one can take when facing off with an opponent, each attitude appropriate to a different context. Defensive, offensive, hidden, naked, open, closed.
If seemingly superstitious indigenous ceremonies, full of colorful metaphors, behaviors, and beliefs, acted as an elegant compass, delineating attitudes necessary when facing the natural world as a human being, then (like two poems written about the trials of falling in Love) the details may differ, from one culture to the next, but in the end they all ask the same question: how do we set the stage for survival in this world; ‘survival’ sounds so clinical, so unromantic, until we realize that true survival looks like immersing oneself in the thick rapture of beauty. In ceremony, singing, weeping, celebrating, and giving birth, we go to our deaths, drowning in beauty.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping
than you can understand. -Yeats