Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Are places Holy?

So much seems to depend on land. So many people feel their soul is sourced from a piece of earth.

One of my iGoogle widgets is a daily photo of a sacred site. Many are Christian because a lot of our monuments are relatively recent and solidly built in stone, but others appear pretty often. Stonehenge. The pyramids. They used Crater Lake the other day, which was the first I knew of its sacred meaning for the Northwest Indians.

These places fascinate me and, lest you think me enlightened, I am drawn to them, especially to the ones tied to my beliefs. Some primitive part of my brain probably does feel that I'd be closer to God if I stood at the tomb from which Christ returned to life, or walked the same ground he walked.

I had a bunch of New Age friends back in my Hilton Head days (still have several of them) and at that time in our lives we were all experiencing tremendous growth and healing of our addictions, psyches, general nuttiness. It's a lifetime process, and I can't really explain why the place seemed to be such a source of healing energy. We all were in a regroup-and-evaluate phase, and supporting each others' journeys helped us bloom a little faster.

But many friends believed in these global meridian thingies ; that their Higher Power had led them to a place where meridians of sacred energy came together and healing power was stronger. There are books and Discovery Channel shows and all kinds of stuff about global meridians and lines of geographic power, and how people believe sacred sites seem to fall on those lines.

Whether the lines cause the spiritual power or peoples' feelings of spiritual connection cause the lines, I'll leave to each person. I wanted the warm glow others felt and attributed to these ideas but they never worked for me. The theology, if it was a theology, seemed weak and riddled with holes. I couldn't really buy the idea that geography had squat to do with whether the Higher Power had more ... well ... more power, or more interest, in re-knitting the dropped stitches in a soul.

I've tried to be open to the metaphoric nature of this stuff, since I can't believe that God connection is stronger in one place than in another, but do emphatically believe that seeking brings finding. I both loved, and respected the intelligence of, friends who believed these things. Whatever the merit, or lack of merit, in such beliefs, the beliefs have everything to do with holes in the soul, and practically nothing to do with holes in the head.

Once, I was on this mundane trip to a shopping mall with a friend who was, and is, battling the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. She counseled with her minister, she read books, she craved a spiritual connection. As we ambled from the car into the building, she was talking about reincarnation. About how her abuser had never experienced any consequences for his actions and how she had to believe that he'd face consequences in his next life, since he hadn't in this one.

Well, I thought, OK, this helps her find some rational balance in God, it helps her cope, so it must be a good thing.

I wish I could say that the ugly logic of this hit me like a thunderbolt, but it did not until she said it herself:

"But then," she said, "I wonder what horrible thing I did in a past life to deserve what happened to me?"

Shitshitshit! NoNoNo. The wrongness of the whole thing. The whole, "I must deserve it or it wouldn't happen" thing. No. No. No.

It was the moment that I saw the flawed logic in the Rules mentality that tells me: Learn and apply the right rule, and empowerment will be as reliable as the room light when you flip the switch. Be in the right spot, or do the right thing, and tap into the power.

The problem is its flip side : wrong time or place, and less attention from God. It's a lot like : All creeps get their just desserts, therefore all desserts are earned justice.

Or : you can make the healing happen by geographic location, and therefore the hurt happened because you were too far from God, where his power is weaker.

We want it-- That's a cop-out : I want it to be within my power to summon God's attention and favors ... until I think about what that means. Then, while I can feel for people who seek comfort in these beliefs, I realize that I fear like crazy for the flip side of their comfort source.

I've been to religious services of many many kinds. Many denominations, New Age groups, Native American, Jewish, Baha'i. Usually, my mind has been in 2 states of consciousness at once, feeling as though real power was present, and knowing that, yes, it is, but it's available anywhere and everywhere. I simply can't sustain the connection through the world's noise. At a spot where I manage to briefly cut through the noise and feel a spiritual connection, I kind of feel like I stumbled into a spiritual wi-fi hot spot.

The problem is: I have to apply this across the board.

My standard, that sites are not really sacred, makes no sense if I make an exception. I can't say that believing I'm closer to God at Machu Pichu or Stonehenge is silly, while you applaud me for saying it ... and then turn around and say, "Well, but that's because those aren't the true faith; a site sacred to the true faith really is holy."

I don't say that and I don't believe it. It doesn't matter where any of us lives or where anyone is standing, when we look for God, or God comes looking for us.

I still want everybody in the middle east to quit acting stupid so I could visit the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve someday, but it's better to know that, however nifty that would be, it wouldn't give me anything I can't have any time at all.


Ronnie said...

I constantly marvel at how often you say exactly what I think. I have to consciously hold back from applauding everything you write - it would get boring since I never have anything brilliant to add. Restrained myself about the fruit but couldn't about this one. Thank you.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Thank you, Ronnie! Don't know what else to say, myself - just that it's heartwarming to hear!

Sherwood Harrington said...

... and now Mrs. Peterson has gone and posted exactly what I was thinking. Talk about feeling redundant.

Ronnie said...

Thank you, Professor.