Just yesterday I became aware of a component of the new craze–Pokemon Go. As I understand it, certain places where Pokemon (Pokemen?) need to be captured are inside buildings such as a library, museum or place of worship. Since these are considered public buildings, it is not possible to refuse entry to someone simply because they are playing the game. I am not certain I understand it completely or that this information is accurate and perhaps someone who is familiar with the game can set me straight. (That would be assuming they would somehow consider this post a more valuable use of their time, however, which is probably highly unlikely!)
This information was shared during a Board Meeting at my synagogue and started a conversation about how we might respond if players come into the building during religious services or school sessions. What about during a wedding or funeral? It isn’t that we expect anyone to be purposefully disruptive or that most people wouldn’t be respectful of what was occurring at the time. But it did start me thinking about sacred spaces and ritual, and whether in our modern world we have lost the concept that there are places that should be held apart from everyday secular activities.
In the Hebrew Temple, only the High Priest was able to enter the most sacred inner chamber, and it was only there that the name of God was spoken aloud. Sanctuary in Christian cathedrals existed because they were considered sacred and worldly powers had no authority in that space. Native peoples have identified certain areas of the earth that are sacred. Most cultures consider places of burial to be sacred.
Humans can create and recognize spaces that are sacred. Even separate from traditional religious thought, the concept that there are places where we can be free of the constraints of everyday life, where we can find refuge and safety is a powerful one.
When I was a young girl, my sanctuary was a massive old pine tree, probably at least 50 years old, possibly more. At one time it had been struck by lightning and the top of the tree had been sheared off. This left a bowl shaped area with massive branches upon which I could lie back and watch the clouds float by. I was safe there.
Is there any connection between our modern inability to recognize and protect sacred places of sanctuary and the increasing lack of compassion and disconnectedness that plagues our nation and the entire world? I don’t really know, but I wonder…..