Saturday, 27 June 2015

Either everything matters or nothing matters

A little phrase has been on my mind for quite some time now “Either everything matters, or nothing matters.” I’ve been talking about it and writing about it for quite some time now. “Either everything is sacred, or nothing is sacred.” Or another variance “Either everything has meaning, or everything is meaningless.” I have lived on both sides of these divides during my 43 years of physical existence. These days I believe in everything and that little bit more than everything. I have noticed that since I turned this way that life has become sanctified and every single breath has become meaning filled.

Everything matters to me and yet the world outside of my window increasingly tells me that there is no meaning to anything and that religion and all forms of spirituality are merely delusions to give us consolation in an indifferent universe. They tell me that the rituals that we engage in are just futile attempts to give our lives meaning.

Is this so? What do you believe?

21st century Britain is on the surface a secular country and yet you see ritual and spiritual activity going on everywhere. A classic example has occurred on the other side of the road to Dunham Road Chapel where I live just a last few weeks ago. A young mother Natalie who worked in the dress shop just round the corner from the chapel was tragically killed on her way to pick up her child. The response to this tragedy has been incredible as all kinds of floral and other tributes have been left at the spot where it occurred. Many have come and marked this passing. This is a deeply meaningful activity where people are connecting beyond themselves and joining together to support one another. There is a real power at work, a power that is greater than all and yet present in each and every one of us. Some may call this Love and others call it God. It is far more than mere symbolism though and it is deep and rich in meaning.

You will see examples of this everywhere. In every town it would seem. Such road side activity is not just about death and tragedy either. Ever since I first saw the “Tree of Lost Sole’s” on the road to Warrington I have noticed other road side symbolism all over the place. It seems to me that they are no different to those Holy Shrines of ancient times, perhaps they too may one day become “Thin Places”, where the barriers between this world and the other world are narrowed. I have noticed that these things are deep and rich in meaning. They have certainly brought meaning and transformation to my life as they have brought me into closer contact with a reality greater than myself.

I believe in everything and that little bit more than everything, that all life is sacred and I also believe that it is our task to sanctify all life; I believe it is our task to realise the sacredness of everything. Everything matters. Every thought, every feeling, every breath and every action.

The Buddha reputedly said “ Whereever you live is your temple if you treat it like one.” All ground is holy ground if we sanctify it. As Wendell Barry so beautifully put it. “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” I believe it is our task to nurture the sacredness from which we are formed and to carry that out into our world, through our lives…Everything matters you know, every breath, every feeling, every thought, every deed impacts in some way on the chain of life…Everything matters.

Pierre Teilhard De Chardin claimed “This world this palpable world, which we are wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place and we did not know it. Venite adoremus."

All ground is holy ground. We all stand on holy ground. We can consecrate it with our presence or we can desecrate it with our presence in how we live on the ground on which we live and breath and have our being.

This is why ritual, worship and acts of remembrance are so important because they remind us of the sacredness of all life, including our own and those of our neighbours. If nothing matters, then nothing matters. If nothing is sacred then any act of barbarism can begin to be justified. When we begin to deny the sacredness of life, we fail to recognise the sacredness of one another and we can begin to deny that we are all part of one human family, we begin to separate ourselves from one another and from life itself.

John O'Donohue described this void beautifully in his book "Bendictus: A Book of Blessing" in piece titled "The Loss of Ritual Leaves us Naked in our Rites of Passage" he wrote:

“A threshold is a significant frontier where experience banks up; there is intense concrescence. It is a place of great transformation. Some of the most powerful thresholds divide worlds from each other: life in the womb from birth, childhood from adolescence, adulthood from middle age, old age from death. And on each side there is a different geography of feeling, thinking and being. The crossing of a threshold is in effect a rite of passage.

Our culture has little to offer us for our crossings. Never was there such talk of communication or such technology to facilitate it. Yet at the heart of our newfound wealth and progress there is a gaping emptiness, and we are haunted by loneliness. While we seem to have progressed to become experts in so many things – multiplying and acquiring stuff we neither need nor truly want – we have unlearned the grace of presence and belonging. With the demise of religion, many people are left stranded in a chasm of emptiness and doubt; without rituals to recognize, celebrate, or negotiate the vital thresholds of people’s lives, the key crossings pass by, undistinguished from the mundane, everyday rituals of life. This is where we need to retrieve and reawaken our capacity for blessing. If we approach our decisive thresholds with reverence and attention, the crossing will bring us more than we could ever have hoped for. This is where blessing invokes and awakens every gift the crossing has to offer. In our present ritual poverty, the Celtic tradition has much to offer us.”

...Ritual helps us to sanctify life and therefore recognise and experience the sacredness of existence...

Either everything matters, or nothing matters. Either everything is sacred, or nothing is sacred. Either everything has meaning, or everything is meaningless. We are all part of the one human family, the family of life. When we no longer recognise we begin to fail to acknowledge one another’s sacred mystery. We begin to separate one another, we begin to dehumanise. We are not all exactly the same we have different qualities, different characteristics, different gifts to offer as well as different needs. That said we are all made of the same substance, the very same substance that the whole universe is made of, or at least the matter we have knowledge of and I believe that the same spirit runs through all life. I do not personally believe it controls all of it, but it is certainly present, always there offering the lure of its love. It is our task to choose this love, because if we do not then we will begin to separate and alienate and I believe that it is this that causes the distrust and fear that leads to hatred and dehumanising violence.

The solution is simple, I believe, as solutions usually are. The solution is a reawakening to this sense of sacredness of all life, all existence.

You see either everything matters, or nothing matters; either everything is sacred, or nothing is sacred; either everything has meaning, or everything is meaningless.” What do you believe? Do you believe that everything ought to be sanctified or that life is devoid of any meaning at all? What is your choice to be?

2 comments:

  1. Dan: I am happy to have stumbled across your site. I am a retired Protestant minister here in the USA but it has been an arduous pilgrimage. I still need to worship and do so within the Christian tradition. I cannot, however, ascribe to any of the traditional dogmas or creeds that I once embraced so readily. And yet, I cannot abandon the all consuming quest for the sacred that has been the driving force of my life. I cannot deny my rational self and I cannot deny my experience of what I can only call the transcendent. I read Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens and agree with much they have to say. And yet, I cannot jettison the deep seated conviction that there is, indeed, a primal holy ground. It is clear to me that it is the wooing of the sacred within mankind that gives rise to the evolution of religions. But traditional religion just does not seem to work for a growing number of thinking people who honor rationality and the scientific method. I completely agree that, in spite of the mystery and unanswered questions that haunt us, it is our calling to treat all of life as sacred ground. Maybe simply recognizing the sacred and living out the sacred is the only "religion" we need. Then again, check with me tomorrow. Dave

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  2. Thank you Dave...I particularly love your final thoughts... "...in spite of the mystery and unanswered questions that haunt us, it is our calling to treat all of life as sacred ground. Maybe simply recognizing the sacred and living out the sacred is the only "religion" we need."

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