"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's land got to do with it?

The importance of land is a recurring theme in God Is Red by Vine Deloria, Jr.  You would have thought the name of the book would have given me a clue and it did in a way, but I thought more in broader terms like Mother Earth rather than specific parcels of land. Yet, what is Mother Earth made of than pieces of land and lots of water? 

I recall times when I've been irritated how people have fought for land.  Palestinians and Israelis.  That conflict readily comes to mind as both sides seek to keep what they say is theirs. The Israelis wanting their old homeland despite the fact they'd been driven from it centuries ago. And Palestinians who had been living there until Zionists drove them out.

Frustrated at the conflict, I remember "why are people fighting over dirt?!" coming out of my mouth.

Yes, really.

I've honestly been conflicted, too, because it seems in the history of the world "to the victor goes the spoils" is how it works. So if you fight and win it, you keep it.  I wasn't sure if Zionists fighting for Israel and their ability thus far to keep it, meant it "should" be theirs. Just as Mecca now belongs to Muslims and the United States belongs to former Europeans for the most part***.

But after reading this book, I think I understand better.  Vine Deloria speaks of lands having sacredness and certain properties so that even our lack of religious unity can be blamed on the land in which we reside!

With the movement of Christianity to the North American continent, and the subsequent freedom to develop religious expressions offered by the land, the possibility of constituting a Christian culture or unity vanished. Christianity shattered on the shores of this continent, producing hundreds of sects in the same manner that the tribes continually subdivided in an effort to relate to the rhythms of the land.  It is probably in the nature of this continent that divisiveness is one of its greatest characteristics, a virtually uncontrollable freedom of the spirit. (pg. 143)

See? We cannot help ourselves from splitting!  I wonder if this helps explain our political divisiveness as well ...

Tribal religions place more importance on land and sacred mountains or rivers.  Judaism is a tribal religion and you read often in the Bible about setting up stones to remember places.  Also the importance of land is a strong theme throughout the Tanakh.  So I understand why Jews desire their land (or what they consider their God-given land.) It also better explains why Muslims want Mecca and Medina only for themselves. It's not for those outside the "tribe" (i.e., faith).   Deloria explained that there were Native religious ceremonies done privately and not open to outsiders. This may explain why certain mosques do not welcome nonMuslims as well as why certain Mormon religious experiences are not open for nonMormons. 

Membership has its privileges.

What are your thoughts on land and sacred spaces? Do you think certain lands have certain properties that transfer to the quality of life? Do we have freedoms in the United States because the land oozes freedom?

*** This book shows how Natives view the land that we Europeans took. I now wonder how the Canaanites felt about the land before the children of Israel came through. And how the pre-Islamic Arabs thought of Mecca and other parts of Arabia. Are lands made for all or for whoever can keep them?  Are lands something to be possessed and, er, hoarded?


sanil said...

I think I told you before that I had to read this book with The Solace of Fierce Landscape, which is all about desert spirituality. A huge part of my trip to New Mexico over the summer dealt with the way land ties into spirituality, especially in a place where the land determines so much of how you live. Coming from up north, where water is abundant and there are trees and grass and other plant life everywhere, we couldn't help but notice the differences in the land. Dust everywhere, excessive heat, smoke from wildfires (far enough away not to harm us, but definitely visible and the first few days the smoke would sink at night and make it hard to breathe), and signs at every faucet reminding us to use as little as possible because there's a shortage.

Being in such a different type of land definitely changed the way I thought. It might have at least partially stemmed from the fact that the class placed so much focus on it, but I always felt more spiritually awake. The desert is a very real place. There are a lot less of the conveniences I take for granted, a lot more need to actually deal with the world as it is. We spent almost no time in urban/suburban areas, and when I woke up in the morning and walked out of the house, mostly what I saw was nature, not even landscaping and tamed nature like we're used to in the north, just whatever grows and lives there naturally.

Environment plays a role in the way we think and the way we experience spirituality. Whether the environment is the land itself or the ways we've built around the land to separate ourselves from it, it's going to affect how we interact with the world. And I think the whole idea of people owning land is related to the idea that we can build ourselves up enough not to have to deal with the land. It's not sustainable. It makes us forget that we don't actually make the water and oil and everything we use that seems to magically come from machines. And then when we find ourselves running out of it, we don't know how to adapt. I think if people stopped seeing land as something they own and started seeing it as something that nourishes them and that they are a part of, the way we treat it would change and we'd all be better off.

Susanne said...

Yes,I do recall that you read this book and also that you send it to Amber. :) I loved your comment...all of it. Thank you for taking time to share your experiences in NM and I like what you said about oil and water magically coming from machines. We've progressed away from simple living so much, I don't know that we'd know how to function if we had to find water instead of merely turning on the faucet. Thanks for what you added!

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