Sacred and profane are simply two ways of interacting with the same phenomena. We grew up thinking that these were inherent characteristics of things. Certain words, like “amen” for instance, were sacred. Certain words, I dare not write them here, were profane.
The sacred and profane cluster and clarify, especially, under things we label as taboo. Sex and money are the two most obvious taboo clusters in our society. Typically these clusters exhibit a bipolar frenzy. We parade them, we avoid them. We exploit them, especially sex and money, in our marketing fantasies. We avoid open talk about them at an interpersonal level, throwing a moral wet blanket over our silence.
This bipolar activity simply illustrates our frenetic discomfort, the tug of war of chase and avoidance, grasp and repulsion, fear and desire, loathing and lusting. We cycle around, we yo-yo back and forth between the poles, always missing the powerful untouchable center of the taboo.
We abandon or abuse power in this bipolarity. At one pole we are a victim, at another we are the conqueror. We hoard wealth, we gloat in the spoils of the sexual conquest. It’s a zero sum game with a loser for every winner. There is a lot of money to be made, a lot of power and position to be garnered for anyone who can master the art of keeping the yo-yo of the masses going around these things. The oil barons, the pimps, the hedge fund managers, the priests and imams of false religion sit atop these untouchable centers, taking their fees and building their empires on the wasted energy of the masses flying back and forth between the poles of desire and despair, having and not having, satiation and repulsion.
At the center of all this bipolar cycling stands the metaphorical Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Al the center of all this bipolar cycling stands the metaphorical Tree of Life. It is the same tree. All that matters is the lens we look through. Do we view it through the clouded and profane lens of scarcity and hoarding, of good and bad, of fear and violence? Or do we view it through the clear lens of sanctity, the lens of non-judgment, satisfaction and enough?
All that we desire, everything we want and need hangs freely as fruit on the tree. It tastes good. It feels good. It shelters and sustains us. We can approach in fear of scarcity. If we get there first, we can take more than our share and use the excess to harness the fears and desires of others. We can use that yo-yo to fuel the frenzy that feeds our stash of wealth and power.
Or we can choose, when we reach the tree, simply to take and enjoy together what we need, leaving enough for others, experiencing peace and satisfaction, giving and receiving with grace.
Our choice, friends. The tree is rooted firmly before us. As individuals, as societies, do we choose the lens of the sacred or the lens of the profane? Do we rest in the true power of enough, or do we exhaust ourselves in the bipolar frenzy of fear and grasping? Food, sex, clothing; shelter, health, the environment; borders, commerce and security – sacred or profane? Which tree will it be?
© Two Trees in the Garden. Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.
*From World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, © 1991 by International Religious Foundation.
Jerry Kennell now provides spiritual direction by Skype. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.