Where is the Sacred?

“There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

― Wendell Berry

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow / Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is the Sacred,
the Holy,
the Hallowed?

Where has it gone?

Has man lost his connection to the Divine
and what it means to be
reverent,
quiet,
observant….

Oh how it so seems…

Does the mocking of a drowned two year old child, off the coast of Turkey,
make anyone else uncomfortable, distressed or disturbed…
or is it just me?

Does Charlie Hebdo and others who make light over everything and anything,
who use the satirical to…
malgin,
berate,
and draw attention to…

Do they, the magazines, the papers, the comics.. try to make us…
better,
wiser,
more insightful…?

Do they make us think, laugh or simply feel numb?

All with their mocking, ridiculing and disrespect…?

Freedom of speech…
it is the rallying cry is in not…
The defensive call to arms.
Yet whose word is free and whose words are not?

What of….
what of the respect found within that freedom…
what of the cost of human sanctity found within that freedom
what of the spilled blood found within that freedom

Was respect not rooted in the foundation?
Civility?
Courtesy?
Fairness?

What of the respect for…
for life,
for death,
for the living,
for the dying,
for the less than,
for the maligned,
for the young,
the old,
all found within that freedom…

What of the honor to be afforded to all human beings regardless of…
stature,
class,
race,
age,
belief,
Does none of that matter…
Is it all just fodder now for our obsession with the biting satire of our own contagious dark humor?

Oh laugh and chuckle if you will.
That nervous sort of ridiculing and jaded scoffing…
Join the masses of those who have grown numb, cold, closed, shallow, empty…
and so over the top that there is no longer room for the kind, the compassionate, the soul…
the Hallowed,
the Holy
or
the Sacred…

Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5

these absurd times of our surreal lives

“I have nothing but respect for you — and not much of that.”
― Groucho Marx

“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.”
― Albert Camus

Surrealism: An archaic term. Formerly an art movement. No longer distinguishable from everyday life.
Brad Holland

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(an early marketing advert used by Guinness Beer / the Guinness Factory Museum / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s not easy knowing what to say….
It’s difficult figuring out what to do…
It’s a challenge understanding how we actually should be feeling…

It’s no longer easy nor comfortable figuring out what we are to say, how we are to react, or to whom we are to speak candidly and clearly to…
All of which is a reflection of the sad state of affairs of our current trials and tribulations.

We currently have crazy Islamic extremists running around the globe attempting to kill as many people as possible who are not a part of their “movement”…

And because the crazy Islamist extremists claim that their movement is a “defense” of their extreme branch of their religion, everyone out there has now decided that all religions are bad.

As now so many people, even the President who made mention of such in a recent speech, seems to think that had those Christians just not gone on those crusades almost 1000 years ago, none of this would be happening…uh hummmmm

We have planes blowing up, cars blowing up, people blowing up….

As we have people strapping bombs to themselves in order to blow themselves up, as well as anyone and everyone within close proximity–not even children or infants are considered hands off or scared…

We have Christians still being crucified.

We have people cutting off the heads of other people.

We have crazy Islamic extremists parading around in the desert blowing up ancient historical monuments just for fun, while they strap a few innocent souls to these monuments just for kicks, as they blow everything and everyone up to smithereens.

We have people who can’t wrap their heads around the crazy Islamic extremists who in turn don’t give a damn that nobody can understand what they’re all about, as if death, murder and mayhem leaves much to understand. So everyone just kind of stands around scratching their heads.

We have satirical magazines being just that, satirical…as well as irreverent–as they spread the love for each and all– it’s as if they think that it makes it all ok if they ridicule, belittle and make fun of everyone equally as nothing, I mean nothing, remains “sacred”…but it’s all good and its all ok cause they make fun equally and we’re all about some fun…

We have thousands of people displaced and on the move on a global scale because no one seems to be able to stop the bad guys in these peoples home countries–with everyone left wondering whose going to take care of all these displaced folks.

We have bad guys mixed in with all the displaced roaming global people…
all the while as the world Governments think they can weed out the bad from the good, as places like Paris must now think otherwise with Germany, who was leading the charge of come one come all, now closing their borders.

We have a president along with his fellow world leaders who are either too afraid, too arrogant or to ignorant to call the mass murders of the crazy Islamic extremists what they are, mass murders carried out by crazy Islamic extremists, as they fear they might just hurt somebody’s feelings…I wonder how the families of all those killed thus far by these crazy Islamic extremists are feeling about hurting the feelings of others as their entire beings now hurt and ache in the deep abyss of loss…

We have young black college students all over this county now fighting the powers that be, screaming “black lives matter”…when I thought all lives mattered–of who now dare to say that the terror attacks in Paris have stolen their thunder….

We have policemen who are afraid to be policeman because we have had some bad policemen doing bad jobs and the lack of leadership to do anything about it.

We have violent crime, tragically deadly home invasions, carjackings, smash and grabs, child molesters running amuck and ruining lives because our legal systems seems to favor the bad guys.

We have too many people living their too busy, self consumed, self obsessed, rule free lives who won’t stop, can’t stop, long enough to actually see what’s taking place

We have a bunch of people who want to be president so they spend millions of dollars as they wine, dine, schmooze and waste countless hours debating with a tit for tat mentality of fussing children all the while as people are dying by the hands of crazy Islamic extremists.

We have folks all over the Globe wondering what’s going on.

We have Muslims afraid to say or do anything to or with the crazy Islamic extremists because they are afraid of what will happen if they do.

We have the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sounding the alarm but he is maligned and ignored by world leaders as an extremist bully himself.

We have a divided Jewish nation who haggle over their religion verses their heir apparent nationality.

We have people who now think we’d never be in all of this mess if it hadn’t been for religion in the first place so they want to do away with religion as they see Christians as the main ones at fault…so it makes sense just to crush the Christians.

We have people who don’t understand that we have basically turned a blind eye to God and that maybe, just maybe, we have not lived our lives as He would have had us to live…

We have Christians afraid to say anything about everything because they are just that, afraid…afraid of offending others, afraid of retribution, afraid that maybe their beliefs are wrong, afraid that their faith is not as strong as it should be…Christians who are depressed, frustrated, simply too nice, too kind, too naive, too passive, too distracted—forgetting that God decreed some very powerful tenants for living all the while as the powers that be within the “Church” have watered down the Word of God, tweaked and rewritten it all to appease desired lifestyles of those wishing to have their cake and eat it too–never mind that we choose sin over His Word or that His Word just seems to interfere too much with how we want to live… as in lets all hold hands and sing kum-ba-ya while we continue to make God little…all the while as we turn our God, Creator, Savior into just another friend rather than the Absolute God of all that was and is and will be, who desires, as well as deserves, our utmost homage…

As each new day brings a new piece to the surreal puzzle we now call our absurd lives…

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And…

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:3-19

The rallying cry of St Crispin

“Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development… Be not afraid!”
Pope John Paul II / taken from his address to the world following his election as pope 1978)

“They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(detail of the Martyrdom of Crispin and Crispinian /Aert van den Bossche / 1494

“Oh no, don’t come up. . .there’s danger out there. . .”
This always being the response from my Dad when I tell him I’m coming up for a visit.
I live an hour away from Atlanta, from where I grew up, but one would think after hearing Dad, I was traversing a long harrowing journey over enemy territory and dangerous minefields.
“There’s danger on the roads and Atlanta is a war zone. . .”
“Dad,I don’t think I’d call Atlanta a war zone. Not to worry, I’ll be careful and I’ll be fine.”

Now granted I’m no fan of driving along the Atlanta interstates, as not a day passes without some sort of catastrophic accident or wreck, but I’ve yet to notice that the moment I pass into the jurisdiction of the city I come under the hail of gunfire–thank goodness. . .

My 86 year old dad stays glued to the news and the news does have a way of painting life in Atlanta, or any large global city for that matter, as violent, dangerous and grim.
Locally there are robberies, shootings, killings, rapes, drug dealings, kidnappings and globally there is the grim visions of terrorism, all of which seems to greet any and all tuning in for the latest local and world update. You should have heard his response to my throwing out there the possibility of an adventure across the proverbial pond later in the year. . .there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“Oh my gosh, noooo. . .can’t you just stay at home?!
Why do you have to insist on traveling.
It’s simply too dangerous to fly.
Planes crash.
Don’t you know that terrorists are out there waiting!!???
It’s all so dangerous. . .just stay home. . .watch things on television . . .keep your head down”
This litany of the warnings of safety is usually said as he tucks his own head down between his shoulders as if we were hunkered down in a bunker in some long forgotten war zone as the enemy begun a round of shelling overhead.
Ugh.

So perhaps it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have my own deeply rooted, irrational sense of fear, dread and foreboding, all of which raise their ugly heads from time to time–as all of this is come by rather honestly having been raised by a “henny penny the sky is falling” doomsday’s calling, overtly cautious, dread filled dad whose own sense of irrationality sadly has had a tendency of rubbing off.

I can remember when my son was born 26 years ago, of which sometimes feels like only yesterday. He came in to this world with an ulcerated esophagus. How and why he had this issue, I never gleaned— It wasn’t until he was 5 weeks old that we knew something terribly wrong was unfolding. He was prone to throwing up any and all sustenance that would go in and hopefully down. So much so that when he’d throw up, there would often times be blood. And any baby who throws up everything that goes in, does not tend to thrive, let alone gain weight, as he hung around the lower end of the growth charts.

In those early worried filled and sleep deprived days, I would wander back to bed in the wee hours after having unsuccessfully attempted to feed only to then spend forever cleaning up redelivered formula— exhausted, worried and delusional. In the place in between waking and sleep I would find my mind racing to dread filled visions of our new son and his precarious health. . .Of which in turn caused me great worry, dread and angst over a possible prognosis as my subconscious played out dire dreams.

Three months in, a litany of meds and finally one revealing endoscopy later, it was determined that he would need a specially formulated, and none too easily procured formula, thickened with powdered oatmeal. I often wonder if this was not the begining of his often eclectic and expensive tastes. . .

I was a wreck early on in motherhood as I constantly feared the worst. I think this was in part due to the fact that my dad and I had, 3 years earlier, watched my mom wage a fatal, albeit brief, battle with lung cancer. An incident that seemed to cement in him, as it also sucked me in, to if bad or worse can happen—then so it shall. . .

Any ache or ailment and my dad will have you good and ready for the undertaker. A cold will be Typhoid and God forbid you have a fever or cough–Consumption for sure. Your time drawing nigh.

This Eeyoreesque, the glass is always half empty approach to life of my dad has always driven me nuts. I, from all outward appearances, possess the demeanor of the perpetual positive.
No Pollyanna mind you, but positive nonetheless. As all the while the negative beats of the gloom and doom drums reverberate within my own head- —this as I cheer on any and all in need of predicted success and glorious hopeful outcomes.

All of this thought of fearfulness comes to mind as I find myself sadly being taken in by the frighteningly real warnings and calls for vigilance in light of the latest terror warnings regarding attacks on shopping centers in the US, the UK as well as Canada. Only as the world slowly regains some semblance of composure following the Charlie Hebdo attack as well as the attacks to Jewish sites of interests in Paris and throughout France as well as sadly in Denmark.

If it’s not due to the prospect that we will all eventually come down with some form of dreaded cancer, ebola, superbug or disease, we then will in turn fall victim no doubt to some crazed group of Islamic terrorists vowing to destroy any and all who stand in their way toward perceived world domination. Certainly not the most positive prospects greeting anyone turning into the nightly news or staring mindlessly into a daily newspaper.

I am, however, happily reminded and bolstered by the thoughts of those individuals who have gone before us in their own time of bleak outlooks, warnings and turmoil who, although they may have been afraid, as they stood before a massively numbered and heavily armed foe, as they set their jaw while squaring their shoulders, marching forward just the same.

And on those days I find myself feeling fearful and downtrodden, as I look out across the world’s perilous horizon, I recall the moving speech and rallying cry offered by King Henry V at the onset of the Battle of Agincourt, also known as the speech of the Battle of St Crispin’s Day.

Saints Crispin and Crispinian were 3rd century twin Roman brothers who were cobblers by trade and followers of Christ by devoted choice. Fleeing persecution in Rome, traveling northward, repairing shoes and preaching their faith, they were eventually martyred for their faith by the Gauls. Their feast day falls on October 25th. It was on this fateful feast day in 1451 that Henry V led his poorly outnumbered rag tag troops into battle against a heavily fortified French Army.
Miraculously Henry V and his men were the victors on this particular St Crispin’s day. . .

Now I’m not saying that I advocate fighting, taking to arms, wars or marching off willy nilly into any sort of battle, but I do find that at times I need a rallying cry.
I need to be reminded that, as some days it is indeed a life of battles and the enemy does most often appear so much larger than I. . .that I need to be reminded and prodded that I have been given my marching orders. . .
That I am to, as Pope John Paul II so boldly proclaimed. . .BE NOT AFRAID!!

The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V St Crispin Speech, William Shakespeare