Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Everyday Altars

Altars are a microcosms of the world. On them, we honor what we believe is sacred. We leave off what we think is profane. Altars concentrate the mess and mystery of living into focal points of order and clarity. They are stage sets for the creation story each of us uses to shape the forces and substances of nature into the architecture of dwelling. A Christian altar inflects the world toward a different narrative than a Buddhist one. An altar in a tropical jungle might be laden with orchids and papayas. One in a desert might be decorated with stones and bones. 

Our minds are altar-makers. They are raised places, moving through the world, filtering and sculpting sensory data into stories. These altars of the mind honor what aligns with our preferences and reject what doesn't fit our values.

Homes and cities provide countless physical altars where we honor the varied actions of living. In a kitchen, the cooktop is an altar for transforming raw food into nourishing meals. The bathroom sink is a raised place where we honor the purification and beautification of the body. A bed honors sleeping, dreaming and loving. An office desk is an altar to creativity and commerce. Apples stacked in a grocery store bin honor nature in the marketplace of exchange.

On these everyday, altars we concentrate nature into seeds of imagination. Day after day we cultivate some of these seeds and weed out others. Through choice after choice to honor this and neglect that. In this way, the garden of the world is formed and reformed. Mostly we tend the garden unaware of what is designing us and what we are designing. Yet, each stopping point—a desk, a table, a market bin and more—offers us a chance perceive what the world is offering itself and that select ways to interact with it that foster sustaining ways of dwelling here now.

No comments:

Post a Comment