Monday, 5 February 2018

Wise Words: Small Religions

“Only a god,” Heidegger famously said, “can still save us.” An atheist would disagree, but I think that on this one, the atheist would be wrong. While we might not need a new religion, we do need a new sense of the sacred or an awakening of the most ancient one: a sense of awe, wonder, and respect for something greater than us. What could that something greater be? There is no need to theorize about it. What is greater than us is the earth itself—life—and we are folded into it, a small part of it, and we have work to do. We need a new animism, a new pantheism, a new way of telling the oldest of stories. We could do worse than to return to the notion of the planet as the mother that birthed us. Those old stories have plenty to say about the fate of people who don’t respect their mothers.

But while we like to talk about “the earth,” I’m not sure any of us can really relate to it. None of us has ever seen it, not as a whole. A planet is too big for our small minds; it seems more like a concept than a reality. What we can relate to is what we see and walk among. Any new religion, any new way of seeing, will probably grow from the ground where we are. It will emerge from something small that demands our attention; something we love; something animate with the spirit of life.

(Paul Kingsnorth, ‘The Axis and the Sycamore’, Orion Magazine, https://orionmagazine.org/article/the-axis-and-the-sycamore/)

9 comments:

  1. Totally agree. Many people find 'it' in the ground of their back garden, their window-box, their potted plant, their beloved pet... Something living and breathing - like them, but different, but still alive with Spirit/Amine/Life...

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    1. Yes. Loving what is close to us helps us to learn to expand that love outwards and ever wider. But it is the small place we occupy in the world that should be everyone's priority.

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  2. oh, yes. we do need a return to reverence for the land, for life in all its diversity and wonder. to re-embed ourselves in the fabric of life, instead of trying to pretend that we are separate from it. wonder, connection, awe...definitely. I might not call it god, but in the words of a wise old children's book, "eh, lad; what's names to the joy maker?" or in the words of another wise story, "I think it pisses god off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it."

    whatever we call it, if it brings us home, it's probably a Good Thing.

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    1. I had to google that first quote—but of course! The Secret Garden; and I know Alice Walker's quote. I loved that book.

      Loving home, loving where we are, believing that it is alive, and then seeing that it really is—that is what we need. If everyone did it, every inhabited inch of earth would be loved and protected. Perhaps that is a little too optimistic, but I think we are capable of doing better as humans.

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    2. Oh this is something I think so often: if everyone could just fall in love with the place they live, they would want to care for it and protect it, and the whole world would change.

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  3. Ooooh yes. I love your focus on small religions, on the intimate connection. While thinking of the earth as our mother is an overall good thing, you're right ... she can seem so vast, how do we relate to her? But becoming rooted in the beauty, the cycles, the alive-ness of our immediate surroundings, to me that's the deepest spiritual connection we can find. So lovely to see this sentiment echoed here. It's easy to find spiritual texts about pilgrimages and the magic of the Amazon or Tara in Ireland but ... my most holy place is the park I walk to every day, full of Douglas fir and red cedar, blooming with daffodils and snowdrops and Daphne today, in a month it will be rhododendrons and dandelions ... and I know this because I am intimate with this place, because I pay attention to it. The holy days following this cycle ... the first blooming snowdrop is Imbolc, the opening of the hawthorn blossoms is Beltaine, whatever the date ... forgive my rambling, but you've struck a cord and this is something I've been thinking about so much lately! Thanks for the lovely blog.

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    1. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment, Michelle.

      I believe that our religions/spiritual traditions should, for the most part, arise from the land in which we live, being local in the truest sense. Any belief system that is abstracted from the land just won't work, won't allow us to know the place intimately and see it as sacred. Thus, there should be thousands and thousands of small religions across the earth, different in wetland and coast and mountain and desert, but still held within the greater belief of the earth, and the process of life, as a whole.

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