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Friday, February 4, 2022

Shared Mythology for the 21st century: Pathway to a Shared Sacred Mother Earth (5)

 What is a path forward?

After I started writing this document, I read two books written by two well-known figures. Both are past the age of 80. Both  have spent their entire life in the midst of nature, studying nature out in the wild and in the ocean.  They have an urgent message for civilization. Both feel hopeful despite all the devastations we humans have done to Mother Earth. We better listen to them. 

One is Jane Goodall. Her book talks about hope. The other is David Attenborough. He gives practical suggestions on how we can give shape to that hope and save this planet.

Jane Goodall and David Attenborough are well-known figures with force behind their words. They can influence national and international policies. 

My voice is a small one. But I am not trying to influence policies but hope to influence individual behavior.  If each one of us will take up one idea to mitigate the disasters experts are predicting and do something, just a little, to implement that idea, it will make a big difference. It may be small at an individual level, but collectively it will be like lighting so many candles that makes this planet glow and make the future generations smile. 

My mission in this exercise is to state the facts (which I have done in earlier paragraphs) and make sure we agree on the facts first. Then I hope each one of us will develop some ideas of our own to safeguard this planet with care and respect, to develop a shared sense of respect and dignity for all lives, to live in peace and harmony with each other and with nature and make the world safe for future generations. In this effort we must synthesize science and spirituality and develop a new set of Dharma (rules of conduct) emphasizing collective welfare, cooperation, compassion, and sacredness of Mother Earth. We need to develop a sense of shared sacredness for all of humanity. I have already written about our earth as Our Shared Sacred Space (Athreya B, 2017). 

This present manual is a follow-up and blueprint for the future with some suggested ideas. Hopefully, every reader will find his or her own ideas to develop and make this earth a shared treasure. I am not asking others to do something I have not done. In addition to some small steps that I have taken in my personal life, here are some ideas I offer to celebrate Our Shared sacred Space – Mother Earth. 

Peter Knudtson and David Suzuki suggest a need for “Global Environmental Ethics” based on Gratitude, Sanctuary, and Sacrifice in their book on “Wisdom of the Elders”. I suggest adding “sacredness” to this list. 

Each group and nation and tradition has its own sacred symbol and its own sacred image and its own sacred text.  Sacredness is a status conferred on an object by us humans. Once an object is considered sacred, our attitude changes. We treat that “sacred object” with respect and care. 

This observation is voiced in a report on “Preserving and Cherishing the Earth: An appeal for Joint Commission in Science and religion” presented at the Global Forum on Religion and Ecology held at Moscow in 1990. In that statement signed by several respected scientists such as Freeman Dyson, Hans Bethe and Stephen Jay Gould is the following passage: “As scientists, many of us have had profound experiences of awe and reverence before the universe. We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Our planetary home should be so regarded. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred”.

I suggest that we combine these ideas with those of Joseph Campbell, Scott Momaday and Stuart Kaufmann and consider Mother Earth as “our shared sacred space”.  She has given her bounties for all lives to live for millennia and continues to do so. What better way to thank her and reciprocate her generosity than to treat her with respect and care? 

We need a shared sacred to replace the isolated, parochial one. Scott Momaday, a Native American poet who has written an essay with the title Re-inventing the Sacred and Stuart Kauffman who wrote a book on Reinventing the sacred point out that items and places that are sacred are considered to be so to specific individuals and to specific groups. Obviously, once an idea or an image becomes sacred it becomes inviolable. It is an isolated or exclusive sacredness, to one person or to one group. Both Kauffman and Momaday suggest that we reinvent the sacred, a shared sacred in addition to the isolated, parochial ones. 

Joseph Campbell suggested that we need new mythologies and recommended cultural heritage tours of ancient temples and monuments to learn about the substance behind the symbols. The old mythologies have lost their relevance and not their importance. We need new mythology and new symbols. We need new world mythology. That is possible if we visualize the picture of the earth our space-scientists have given us.  One unit. A beautiful blue planet hanging in space with only one border, between water and earth.

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