sanctity of life and death tagged posts

What Is Sacred Space?

At this time of year when much of the world is observing events steeped in ancient lore and enchantments, what can we say about the settings and places where we perceive something as sacred? What do we even mean by “sacred space?” What qualities must any space reflect to be deemed “sacred?” Who decides what those qualities are?

Years ago, “U.S. News & World Report” ran a lengthy cover story headlined, “Sacred Places.” Its rather exhaustive list of such places contained all the usual suspects, though it was dominated by buildings and monuments.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

The Golden Temple in India.

Stonehenge, Karnak in Egypt, the temple of Confucius, the entire city of Mecca.

Interestingly, there was little said about awe-inspiring natural settings—the Grand Canyon, Mt...

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Death and Ritual for a Sparrow

It was one of those everyday tasks one adapts to and just gets done, however odious its undertones: getting the dog poop off the lawn and into the trash.

I went at it with dispatch on this winter morning, wielding my sawed-off shovel with well-practiced scoops until I came across some bird feathers, then a few more. I knew what they meant: If I followed the trail, I would find evidence of my cat’s most recent conquest. Sure enough, a few yards farther across the lawn, an eviscerated sparrow.

When my daughter was young and we came across such finds, we would treat them just as we did the dog and cats and rabbits and fish whose demise shadowed her tender years: by performing a ritual burial and saying farewell. But it was years later now, my daughter at school, tasks awaiting, the morning cold, and the ground hard.

So with my shovel in hand, albeit with dog poop already on it, I set about taking the conve...

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