In Issue 10 of Young Ravens Literary Review, we delve into the question of what constitutes a sacred space.
Is everything sacred? A worn elephant statue of the god Ganesh may enshrine the warmth and weight of prayers, becoming a focal point for human hopes and reflection. Or the human heart itself may become the vessel that transports us to a higher state of being or spirituality. Carol Alena Aronoff imagines Teresa of Avila as a wingless bird that still soars, her humble confines “filled with the piety and purity of purpose.”
Sacred imagery may be revealed in anything from a thin slice of fruit that transforms into a meditation mandala to a single bead of dew—as infinite as worlds and stars—that draws our gaze in wondering reverence. Even measureless sorrows can become hallowed through remembering, living, and loving.
In “Illuminated Manuscript,” Nate Maxson proclaims us all “candidates for dissolution,” which raises the possibility—if there is no divine design sustaining our existence, perhaps sacredness lies in the sheer act of being “electrified by breath” in a universe that is ultimately our un-being. Maybe we are all seeking a way to root ourselves in the proximate cosmos of the earth. We gather strength from fingernails rimmed with dirt and preserving tubers in pearlite. Even the repetitive mundanity of doing laundry can become an act in space and time that takes on its own peculiar hallowed state. Ritual and habit may anoint our consciousness with rich meaning.
Is nothing sacred? The natural world is eroding around us under callous disregard and ungrateful appetite, giving way to a far lesser dream of paradise now. Unwilling to reckon with the accumulated damage of human history, people fall into cruelty and picket their hearts and soil with crude walls, deafening their ears to the child’s cry. The language to understand each other—a numinous tongue evolving over millions of years—is in danger of becoming lost to us. Even so, there are still notes swelling like a chorus against the chaos that may bridge our deepening divides.
Can we sanctify our species? Imagine if the true core of every sacred space lies in the empathy of connection. But in a rapidly changing world where instant gratification becomes increasingly hard to resist, do we have time for anything beyond satiating our own endless stream of desires? It is conceivable that we can transcend the enclosure of our skull-bound minds in how we acknowledge the existence of the other. Marly Youmans states, “I can’t whisper how to walk /On both sides of the singing river.” Perhaps we must all find the singing river springing in ourselves before we can earnestly seek it out in the world, and each other.