Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Sacred Balance Sought

I've been preparing myself to participate in my first ever pagan ritual on the full moon tomorrow. A pagan friend has honoured me by consenting to perform a ritual on the full moon tomorrow, during which I hope to discover my animal totem. In addition to procuring tobacco and sweetgrass as offerings, I am not permitted to eat meat, drink alcohol or have sex for three days leading up to the ceremony. I am looking forward to the experience as I have read some on Wicca and, according to my results on the Belief-o-matic, the neo-pagan beliefs are very much in line with my personal values and ideas.

Much of what I read on Buddhism and Hinduism has suggested a purification of the self: nothing in excess, no smoking, simple vegetarian diet, etc. In fact, most religions seem to support such notions. The health benefits of clean living make sense in terms of maintaining overall physical health of the body, and, ultimately, I can see a direct correlation to mental health, ergo spiritual health. Still it raises questions about purity.

Our world is toxic. The food we eat – even if organically grown – possesses toxins, has been genetically modified and so forth. One may ask, on the one hand, why would one add fuel to the fire through the addition of other toxins, but, on the other hand, why not? There is part of me that agrees with the statement that "if it feels good then it probably is." I am a pretty clean living fellow. I eat a pescatarian diet, don't smoke, consume small amounts of alcohol and have never taken any sort of illegal drug. There was I time that I would have argued that if someone enjoyed smoking, then that was their choice and, so long as you don't subject others to your second hand smoke. Likewise, if you enjoy drinking or the odd joint, that's your business so long as it isn't an addiction and you are not doing things under the influence that will harm others whether we are talking about violence, operating a motor vehicle, etc. I think, however, that I am overestimating individual's self control and therein lies many of the social issues stemming from the use of such things.

Ultimately, we can not escape the fact that everyone and everything in this world is interconnected. Outside of social and health issues around our favourite vices, we must also examine the land used to procure such things – land that might have been used to grow food instead of barley or tobacco. Is this carelessness on our part or something we might justify? Could we argue that land and food is appropriate to our needs, but our population and consumption levels are being irresponsible? Then there are all the corrupt and illegal factors looming in the background whether it's mega-corporations or organised crime.

I don't know.

This all keeps me coming back to the whole pleasure issue. Life should be an experience of the senses in many ways, but what is good and what is not good?

Sex is another issue. Society is obsessed with sex. There is a magic associated with intercourse that results in procreation on the one hand, earning this act its sacred aura. On the other hand, sex is a simply physical act that stimulates nerve endings and creates sensations. All other ideas around sex have been fabricated by humankind. If it wasn't for our monogamist perspective that dominates our society, could we not view sex like any other physical act? Perhaps the free loving hippies of the 1960's had a point. But again, sex, like alcohol and drugs can become abusive.

Even on a spiritual level, there are religions who have used drugs to obtain a higher level of consciousness such as the Rastafarians, and those who have condemned drug usage as it could limit the amount of spiritual awareness cultivated by the individual. Tobacco was used ceremonially by the Native American Indians, long before all the chemical additives that have created the addictive weed we have in our world today. Monks are the main developers of alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine, and we can not ignore the whole transformation thing pertaining to Holy Communion. Ultimately, there are spiritual links to many of our vices, just as there are many spiritual arguments against such things. Perhaps the line has grown fuzzy through lessened self-control on behalf of individuals and raised awareness surrounding physical health and addictions. Perhaps it is a lack of respect and indulgence in these things that has caused them to move from the sacred to the sacrilegious. I am only raising questions for contemplation, not making a case either way. I can see the meditative side of smoking tobacco as you follow the beautiful pattern of the breath as it leaves the body and connects to the environment around us, but I also see a potentially fatal, addictive drug that lessens one's ability to enjoy the limits of their lungs through physical exertion. I enjoy the feeling after having one or two drinks, but I can also see the domestic violence, drunk drivers and cirrhosis of the liver associated with alcohol. I can understand the relaxed feeling someone might gain from a toke, but also see the violence of organised crime and additives like meth to the marijuana on our streets.

Ultimately, I am seeking the sacred in a world where nothing is sacred and everything is abused. I alluded to the genetic modification of our food, the chemicals added to our water and the general toxicity of civilisation. It is not my place to instruct others how to live, but it is my responsibility to contemplate how I live. We can only be responsible for our selves. This is not an easy undertaking.


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