05272017Headline:

Redefining the Sacred

If my previous experiences of spirituality didn’t live up to the hype, what can I do to connect with the sacred?

What does it mean when I say something is “sacred?” What makes something sacred?

I can’t say it means something is holy or divine. Those are just synonyms for “sacred” and you can’t define something using its own synonym. That tells me absolutely nothing.

Here’s what Dictionary.com says is the definition of “sacred”:

devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated. entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy. pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to secular or profane).

“Pertaining to religion” is straightforward enough. But religion stopped feeling sacred to me a long time ago.

I was raised Catholic. What I got with the God of my religion was a deity who told me what to do and what to believe; who promised me love . . . and other things, as long as I was good. I even felt this love, and quite deeply and expansively, on many occasions. But I did not find personal meaningful connection with my fellow human beings, or with myself, or with this “God.”

Strictures and structure were not the only things I found there. But I certainly did not find freedom. And I did not find a soul connection that would lead me to a personal deep experience of the sacred, or of any part of life.

The God of my religion left me spiritually confused and disconnected. I was left feeling quite alone and distant.

Time to find a sanctity that mattered.

Back to the definition.

“Entitled to veneration?” I don’t know what the hell that even means.

I don’t even think “entitlement” is a real thing.

A sense of entitlement is real. But just because I feel entitled to or deserving of something doesn’t mean others are obliged to give it to me. I feel that this article deserves for you to read it to the very end and consider it from a thoughtful place in your heart, but what the hell do my feelings about your time matter? Maybe you have a lot of work to do before you can leave the office. Maybe you’re a farmer and you have to be up with the sun and work all day in the fields and your back hurts and you just don’t have time for my self-indulgent bullshit. Maybe you’ve got a Netflix marathon waiting for you.

Why should something be entitled to my veneration? Because it is better than me? More refined than me? More worthy than me? “Bigger” than me? There are a lot of things that fall under those umbrellas, let me tell you.

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“Dedicated to a deity?”

And why, exactly, would something be dedicated to a deity? Because it honors that deity, or symbolizes that deity? Because it brings people closer to that deity?

Well, I actually feel like I’m getting somewhere with this line of questioning. It’s the word “symbolizes” and the phrase “brings people closer” that are doing something for me.

But then I run into the trap of defining “deity.”

I am so sick of deities. I have no interest in venerating them or placating them or serving them. I am sick of their entitlements and judgments. I am certainly not interested in defining “deity.” God forbid I create a definition of “deity” that then comes to life, like some celestial Frankenstein monster, and starts demanding sacrifices from terror-stricken villagers.

I don’t believe in Santa Claus or sky fairies or genies in bottles.

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I do, however, believe in the sacred. And I feel deeply moved by it. The more I learn to connect with myself and open my consciousness, the more I feel an undeniable sense of sanctity flowing through all of life (and death).

So: back to my search for what “sanctity” even means.

I’ve come up with a few of my own definitions. I like them a lot better than the dictionary’s. I am tired of looking to other people to define my spirituality. I encourage you to come up with your own definitions, too. Here are some questions to play with if you decide to create your own definition:

If you could create and define a God, what would that God be and do? Would it just give you what you want all the time? Would it make everything happen for some secret reason you probably won’t understand because you’re not privy to this God’s “plan” or “big picture?” Would it love you no matter what, and if it had to punish you it would do so for your own good? Would your God give you freedom in every way imaginable? Would it connect you with yourself, and with that which serves as your opposite? Would it place you in contact with all the forces of the Universe, and give you the chance to just run around and play in that space? Would it have a personality, and if so what kind? Would it make demands of you? Would you make demands of it? Would it be “all that is?” And if it is “all that is,” would that exclude all the darkness in the world?

Here are my personal definitions of the sacred:

– Existing both higher than and deeper than the trivialities of everyday life, with all its seeming lack of meaning.

– Bringing an individual closer to the eternal within themselves, within others, and within the Universe as a whole; a source of, and point of connection with, awe and with love; a source of wisdom and love; a source of connection with life.

That sounds like the right idea. For now.

It also sounds like the right idea that anything can serve as a point of such connection. Anything—and that means everything—is sacred.

It means that all of what I’ve called “the trivialities of life” actually exist on a higher plane than just the trivial.

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The sacred can connect with you no matter what your life’s path or discipline is.

Maybe you’re a mathematician or a scientist. Maybe you can connect with the sacred through the awesome infallibility of numbers, which you see at work everywhere around you. Maybe you’re a farmer and you have to be up with the sun and work all day in the fields, and you connect with the sacred through the cycles of the earth and the feel of your hands in it, through the way life changes and grows and evolves and provides and then dies, only to be reborn again.

Whoever you are, I can promise that meditation (and/or prayer) can help you feel connected to whatever your definition of the sacred is. Meditation is one of those things that might sound either kind of cheesy and hippie, or okay for other people but not you, until you give it a good solid shot yourself. And then it opens up vistas within you.

I am a writer. For me, connection with the sacred happens most often through story, myth, and archetypes.

I travel and live in other people’s homes, caring for their pets. I meet many different people and see many different ways of life. The people I meet can come across as characters and the stories we live are archetypal patterns that I see repeated again and again, time after time—and I do mean “time after time.” The archetypal patterns I see in action have often been repeated throughout history, not to mention across cultures.

This definitely fits my definition of elevating the trivial above the trivial. It brings me closer to the eternal. It casts everything in a holy light.

So a great deal of what I write about, and what my articles focus on, is myths and archetypes—especially as they show up in modern culture.

In my next article, I’ll talk about the nature of myths and archetypes and why they are particularly sacred. They are, as Joseph Campbell put it, “the faces of God.” (My website is currently under reconstruction, but you can follow me on Twitter @LMarrick and I’ll share it there.)

Until then, I have to go. I’ve surpassed my word count, and I have a Netflix marathon waiting for me.

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L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter, and suitcase entrepreneur—which is a hipster way of saying she travels and works from her laptop. Her memoir, “Working Girl: 132 Somewhat Moral Values I Learned from a Sex Worker,” tells about when she answered a shady classified ad and wound up working as a sex worker’s personal assistant. Follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

© Leslie Hedrick 2015. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.


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