It's the start of the New Year and with the change of date there seems to come an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and steer our lives in the way we'd like them to go. Alas, within a few weeks or even days our resolutions become dissipated and scattered - at least mine usually do. By February we often don't remember them at all, becoming caught up in the duties, chores, demands and general messiness of life.
But there's still value in the exercise of orientating ourselves on the course we wish to follow; a trace will remain and may even guide our actions unconsciously at times. At the start of this year I've been re-reading some excepts from The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk's novel of a Utopian, ecologically-based society and its struggle to defend itself from a military state:
Declaration of the Four Sacred Things
The earth is a living conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water and earth.
Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of the Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.
To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economies, our laws and our purposes must be judged. No-one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.
All people, all living things are part of the earth life and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom.
The Fifth Sacred Thing
Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.
To honour the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom and beauty can thrive.
To honour the sacred is to make love possible.
To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences and our voices.
To this we dedicate our lives.
The Five Criteria of True Wealth
Usefulness, sustainability - meaning it must generate or save as much energy as it consumes... Beauty. Healing for the earth, or at least not being destructive. Nurturing for the spirit.
from Starhawk: The Fifth Sacred Thing
In a world in which these things are not sacred - a world in which all living things are not seen as a sacred part of the earth life, a world where, as Robert Graves has said “serpent, lion and eagle belong to the circus-tent; ox, salmon and boar to the cannery; racehorse and greyhound to the betting ring; and the sacred grove to the saw-mill… ” I think it's valuable to point our compass in the direction of these values and ideals however much we fall short, however flawed we are and however much we are implicated in the destructive, driven-by-profit ethos of the 21st century. We need to remember there is another way against which we can measure what we do. Like the stars, we won't reach them in our lifetime but we can still rise a little way towards them more strongly than if we never saw them shining.