Some notes on the sacred and the secular
In the next few posts, I will be discussing the “sacred secular” by reviewing two very different books published in the last year that take up the problem of the sacred in a world beyond traditional monotheism:
1) “All Things Shining” by Hubert Dreyfus (UC Berkeley) and Sean Dorrance Kelly (Harvard) is a secular/poetic polytheist reading of classics in the Western Canon.
2) “Radical Judaism” by Rabbi Arthur Green (Hebrew College) is a neo-Hasidic reading of Jewish theology
Before taking on any of these three giants, I thought it would be a good exercise to post some notes on the topic, some stabs of my own at death-of-God formulations of the sacred.
Here are some sample definitions for “sacred”:
-whatever is of utmost importance to me, often assumed to be of universal importance. (Ex: Love, Life, Justice, Creativity, Community) These things are sacred because I intuitively tend towards life and happiness, and I universalize those tendencies. My life and happiness are sacred to me, and I wish upon all people those elements which I think ‘make’ life and happiness.
-A basic definition of sacred is “that which is worthy of reverence, often to a superlative degree.”
-Sacred is whatever is of utmost importance and demands to be attended to
-Sacredness inheres in the facts that serve as ground for morals
-Sacred is that which you promote and defend. It’s whatever you put your time, energy, and care into. It’s that serious.
-Because sacred also has a sense of desirability and fragility to it, I like to think of it as “what’s most precious.” The loss of a sacred is usually tragic and traumatic. Only the sacred can be violated.
-The sacred is bound up with the ethical. Not everything that draws human attention and care is sacred. While I think that pleasure in general is sacred, many forms of pleasure are not, or at least can be engaged in profane ways. I believe that most entertainment is profane.
-The sacred is bound up with the ethical. To me, “what’s worth caring about” must include considerations of human flourishing, including an end to suffering.
I will end this post with a graphic I made, mapping out the idea of the sacred.