Words of Power: Sacred

In my wanderings, sometimes I find things which are supposed to be sacred. Places, actions, ideas. Not sacrosanct or untouchable, but sacred as in special. The sacred is that which is awesome. Not awesome like a hot dog or a new skateboard, but awesome in the original sense of the word. It fills you with awe, peace, or purpose. We all have sacred things, even secular humanists, because the sacred isn’t limited to religion, though they’re often intertwined (not surprising, as the Latin word sacerdos means priest). They’re objects, moments, or spaces we set apart from our everyday lives. Summer days, sunsets, church, family, even just being alive. Holidays are a good example of a common sort of sacred time. There’s stuff that we’re supposed to do not just from pressure, but because the time itself is somehow special, like on a birthday. Everyone has their own, and probably has more than one. I have a whole bunch. The final snap and sound as I lace up my boots makes me a little excited to walk in them. The weird percussion you can hear at six am on a Saturday morning in the city, people just starting to open garages, work on decks, or mow their lawns, but free of the sound of rushing cars. A rock that I took with me just before I moved to this town twenty-two years ago. I could barely carry it then, and now it fits in my hand.

Now here’s the thing. Bollocks on the sacred. If these things are so great, if they’re the moments and objects which make life worthwhile, we should be doing them all the time, or at least as much as possible. If Christmas time is special because giving people presents is nice, then why not give people presents all year round, whenever the urge strikes you? If you look forward to your birthday because it means hearing from people you never get to see anymore and having the chance to talk with them, then why not phone them up? We should change the sacred into the everyday by looking for ways in which we can incorporate it rather than looking forward to the times when it comes to us. Here’s three important considerations when doing that.

1. Know It
You have to know the things which are most important to you. Think through your life, and imagine what it would be like to be without each thing, each time, and each person. Maybe it’s a camping trip you went on years ago, and that feeling of sitting out by the lake and having no responsibilities. Before you can catch hold of anything, you have to know what you’re chasing. Picturing the loss of something can help you understand how much you value it.

2. Make Time
We’re not always as in control of our time as we’d like to be, but if you can make time for even the smallest sacred thing, it can give you a big boost, like a breath of fresh air after a muggy day in the office. Find things which are small that you can do every day, whether that’s doing something to relieve someone else’s burden or taking some time for yourself. I usually keep a what I call my medicine bag with me, which is a bag a friend made for me in which I keep some small objects that remind me of important feelings. When I need to, I know I can pull one of those out and pick myself up.

3. Follow Through
Don’t just do it one day, or mark out a day of the week where you promise to make time for it. If you can find the time to do something sacred every day, then do it. Don’t let things happen, make them happen, because those little events will add up, and those feelings you chase will start becoming feelings you have.

It’s not always easy. We get busy, our day tends to wear us down bit by bit, like water over a stone, but that’s why those moments are so precious to us. They lift us up, or rather they allow us to lift ourselves. There also seems to be this persistent worry that if we do it too much it goes from sacred to ordinary, as though the sacred offers diminishing returns. On the surface that seems like a risk, but it’s actually an opportunity to examine what we really hold dear. I used the example of tying my boots and the feeling I get, but if that were true, I’d tie and untie my boots all day, which doesn’t appeal to me at all. So it’s not tying my boots that I value, but what that means. Going out, leaving my house and getting fresh air, seeing people, and wandering around the world instead of just my apartment. Tying my boots is the moment when that becomes real for me.
Furthermore, we decide what’s sacred. We’re makers of meaning, so if leaving my house becomes a burden because I’m travelling a lot, I can acknowledge that the moments I spend at home are precious to me, and try to balance my life that way.

In short, the sacred should be the commonplace. We already wish that it was. Don’t let anybody tell you to wait for a specific day, time, or event to do the things you hold dear, whether that’s giving a present or going to church. Do it.


  1. Excellent points.. and after reading this yesterday, applied it. I was having a crappy day and realized I was taking my laptop's desktop background for granted. It's my reflection in Moraine Lake, a beautiful and peaceful scene, my favorite photograph I've taken.. but even as my desktop, I never LOOK at it. So, I took a moment to appreciate it, and the breather helped.

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