Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scarcity and Sacredness

Sacred is an interesting word, idea and feeling. Sacred to me has nothing to do with any particular religion. As a matter of fact, often religions ruin the sacred meaning of sacred. People without religion, but deep reverence for life, have a better understanding of what sacred is. Where does this reverence, and this feeling of sacred come from?

As I was thinking about this, I remembered days at home with my young children back East in the dead of winter, where we would often lose power. Since we depended on pumping our water up to our house from a well, we would not only lose heat but also water during storms. So whenever it was howling outside, we would fill our two bathtubs with water and as many buckets as we could find, as well as all of our sinks and cook pots - just in case . It was fun and we felt like great survivors. We always had enough to last the two to five days it usually took for the town to get our power back on, but we also always got close to running out and had to ration everything accordingly.

During one of those storms my oldest son who then was about 10, and who was "the man in the house" when Dad was off fighting dragons for us in the business world, remarked how differently he thought about water when we had storms and no power. He felt it became more precious than gold. We wondered why, and quickly realized that the things that are essential to our survival - shelter, heat, food and water - become very precious when there is no guarantee that they will be available tomorrow. It is this preciousness and fragility, and the gratitude that results, that seem to add up to this feeling of sacred. If you can only have one cup of water, or one bowl of rice you naturally don't want to devour it in haste, but give to it a moment of presence, a moment of gratitude, a moment of appreciation. It becomes sacred. This needs no faith in God or any religion. Scarcity and Sacredness are related.

This sense of the sacred, independent of religion, has been lost to many today and I think it is a function of abundance, instant fulfillment of desires, and having way more than we need. Before we have a moment to reflect on the gifts in our lives we are bombarded with a hundred messages and self generated thoughts that we need something else to really be happy and that all the people around us already have more than we do.

Wealth, though, is an inner treasure. It is a realization that we have been given so much just by being alive for this infinitely brief moment in this vast Universe which is also nothing but a speck of momentary dust. It makes us speechless. This is available to everyone at all times and has nothing to do with our outer wealth. Some of the wealthiest billionaires can't manage to feel this. Some of the poorest of the poor carry this feeling morning 'till night.

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