07 April 2006

Field Trip

Wednesday we went on a field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It's probably one of my favorite museums in the Smithsonian collection. We went because LightHusband has a cousin in town for the week and we met her and her two daughters there for the day. One daughter is LightGirl's age (they are 3 days apart), the other is a year older than LightBoy. We saw a movie, toured some exhibits, and then did a little course on basket weaving ... so the cousin and I had to make a lot of jokes that we were now finally taking that basket weaving course we'd always promised ourselves in college. We all made these little baskets using plastic cups for a base, and a technique perfected by Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest coastline. It's called twining. It was a fun day and our second visit to the museum. I'll go back again next January or so after the summer/fall tourist crowds die down again.

One of the nice things about this museum is their cafeteria. You select foods that are based upon foods that the Native Americans might have eated from each of the geographical locations ... there's the Northeast, Northwest, Plains, South America, Central America, etc. It's really good ... but really expensive. Lunch for the 4 of us cost $65.00 ... more than we usually spend on dinner and we didn't get anything extravagant, nor did we get dessert!!

I think one of the reasons I love this museum so much is that in the planning and execution of the displays (both interactive and static) the spirituality of the people groups is allowed to shine through. The very building itself was designed to be a spiritual building in the nature of Native American spirituality. And you can sense that as you walk through the doors. It is sacred space. Sacred space in which their stories might unfold in a way of their choosing. And they do.

Lately my bedtime reading has been Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
by J. Philip Newell. It's a shortish history of the Celtic/Irish church from about 400 AD and it's my fourth or so book on the subject. Since it's bedtime reading, I get in about 2 pages a night before falling asleep ... it's slow going. But on Wednesday I was struck by some of the gross similarities between the Native Americans and the Celtic/Irish Church. And it got me thinking.

When I first started out in college and was asked to declare a major, I was going to be an anthropologist. So I've done some (I say loosely) studying of indigenous cultures. It was a long time ago, but it's an interest that has stuck with me.

But here's my thought that's sticking in my head ... about most indigenous cultures. Those people who live close to the land, also live close to their god. They do not separate their god from the rest of their lives. Even the Celts, once they had taken on Christianity, absorbed it into their daily lives. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit became one with them and you see this in their prayers. They (the people) invited God to be part of milking the cows, making the bed, plowing the fields, sowing the seed, churning the butter, whatever the chore, the joy, the sadness, the great, the small ... God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit were invited in and were there. And that was the same sense I got at NMAI on Wednesday ... different gods to be sure. But they had not compartmentalized their spiritual life into one place in their lives and their other activities into other places. Their lives were lived in a much more holistic manner. Neither had the Celtic Christians ... they were a holistic people, for whom God was in all parts of their life, not just church on Sunday, or Bible Study on Tuesday. They found His image in the face of all they met, and His words on the tongue of all who they spoke to, and attempted to have His words on their tongues at all times.

I find that very appealing and think there might be much we could learn from living in that way. What do you think?

7 Comments:

Blogger Mike Croghan said...

I love that cafeteria! You must try the chocolate tamales some time - wow!

*Great* thoughts on living integrated, holistic lives. Here's something I was thinking about that - I think perhaps that's easier to do when the culture you live in is "officially" spiritual, not "officially" secular, as is ours. In our culture, spirituality is really not welcome nor considered appropriate in the workplace. Not so for the Celts of old, for many Native communities to this day, or even in the dominant North American culture as recently as fifty years ago. Now, I'm sure as heck not saying that 1950's America (or the other cultures either) was a utopia, but anyway, that was my though about that.

4/07/2006 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

The trip to the museum sounded interesting. I think the cafeteria was a rip off though. Hope it tasted good.

As to the concept of a oneness with the spiruality of the world goes...sounds like a comfortable theology. You sure you're not turning into a pagan??

With regards to Mike's comment "In our culture, spirituality is really not welcome nor considered appropriate in the workplace..." Mike you must remember that those cultures existed with only one belef system...we don't. Spirituality is something that's internal to an individual and it's a silent connection to the divine/the cosmos/the Dao/the whatever...once this spirituality is set into some form of externalized ritual or procedure then it becomes religion, well not quite but maybe you get my point. It is very inappropriate to allow one form/any form of religion in a workplace or public building.

Of course you probably don't share in that opinion, but that's fine. But sometimes businesses do integrate religion into their business, for example have prayers before work and such, these often advertise themselves with a little fish in ads or in their windows. These fish warn me not to do business with them and I don't.

4/07/2006 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Croghan said...

Hi Scott,

I think our opinions differ a little, but perhaps not as much as you might think. I'm OK with "Christian" workplaces as long as they're *completely* up front about it - I think the little fish is a good thing in that regard. I think it's reprehensible to be "stealth" about it and invite unsuspecting employees and customers into what they think is a regular secular workplace, just to lay on the evangelistic hard-sell. But if they're clear to everyone that they're a Christian organization (meaning "we're unabashedly Christian", not "we refuse to deal with/hire anyone who isn't") then that gives folks the option that you exercise - to avoid them like the plague. I don't think there's anything wrong with this from either side. I'd probably avoid most of them like the plague too. If non-Christians want to deal with/work for them anyway, that's their choice.

As to workplaces allowing free (non-coercive, non-obstructive, non-proselytizing) espressions of *all* religions at work, I'm strongly in favor of that. I have both Christian and Buddhist art up in my cube. A co-worker is Eastern Orthodox, and his I think the Russian patriarchs are considering declaring his cubicle a cathedral, based on all the icons he has in it. A former co-worker was Muslim, and our bosses designated a space for him to do his required daily prayers. Other co-workers are Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, atheists, etc., and we tend to be pretty open about it. In my opinion, that's all good and appropriate.

But yes, as you rightly point out, there's only so far one can go when the workplace is a pluralist potpourri - praying together for a coworker facing difficulties is probably right out. Inviting God to be part of the planning meeting is probably right out. And there are major, major benefits to this diversity - I love it! I was just saying that making God part of everything you do isn't as easy in a secularist, pluralist culture. But would I trade it in for a homogeneous Christian culture? Nope, not on a bet.

4/07/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Guess we do think along similar lines. I'm okay with how you put it.

4/07/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Hey Scott ... your question about me turning into a pagan is actually sort of funny (in the weird sense of the word).

One of the most serious indictments that the Roman/state/institutional church had and still has with the Celtic/Irish church is that it never quite dropped it's pagan roots far enough for them. Especially back in the days of St. Patrick and the Celtic monks there were always letters flying back and forth between the Irish monastaries and Rome. The Pope would accuse the Irish of some heresy or other that usually had it's roots in their Druid heritage and the Irish monks would write back disproving his point. So there's a lot of history there ... kind of funny that you brought it up.

4/07/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Mike ... I liked your description of a pluralistic and yet more openly religious workplace. It would be nice if we could reclaim secular space for the sacred ... but for all religions ... not just one. But then I suppose those with no religion would feel uncomfortable. So there has to be some space for those as well.

As with everything ... balance is key. Your work environment sounds good, tho.

Scott ... I'm with you, I avoid the places displaying the fish. Mostly because I want to avoid the shuck and jive ... all the religious talk just makes me gag.

4/07/2006 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger kate said...

To answer your original question, yes. I do. I also think that it doesn't equate with putting icons in your cubicle, or declaring your nation officially one religion or the other. Anyone can do that. It's a little harder to try to walk alongside Jesus every day, in every decision. Which I could do better, but I love the sound of.

4/10/2006 03:27:00 PM  

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