There is a sense of the sacred that depends on division and separation. Something can only be sacred if there are identifiable other things that are not. Some places can be declared sacred spaces if others can be declared profane. Some times can be declared sacred days as long as other days are just ordinary. Some people can be called sacred, holy people as long as there are other people who are known to be unholy. It’s a dualism born of the word which originally implied a thing, person, place or activity that belonged to the gods–and therefore–not to human beings.
This sort of dualistic approach to human life seems really okay to us at times. How will we know what safety is if we cannot identify what is dangerous? How will we know what community is if we don’t know who the enemy is (those to keep out of the community, to fight, to kill)?
I have always been drawn to another sacred way. In this approach, “the sacred” is not about otherness or separation. “The sacred” is waking up to reality. Even that word, “reality” has become the provenance of cynicism these day. “The reality is that there are good people and there are bad people, and we have to keep those bad people out of our country.” The use of the word “reality” has taken on the same dualistic notion as “the sacred.”
I am interested in an experience of the sacred that happens when I see beyond the dualism. I am interested in that experience that comes when I listen beyond my pre-set judgments. I am interested in a sense of belonging that removes the tribal, religious, political, racial, gender and economic judgments that create otherness and which allows real human honor to be held between me and you.
This short poem of Hafiz takes me into that sense of the sacred, and he never uses the word:
Would You Think It Odd?
Would you think it odd if Hafiz said,
“I am in love with every church
And any kind of shrine
Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God.”
Would you tell your friends
I was a bit strange if I admitted
I am indeed in love with every mind
And heart and body.
O I am sincerely
About your every thought and yearning
Because, my dear,
That it is through these
That you search for Him.