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Holy Lands, Holy People, Holy Earth

'' The holy land is everywhere,'' Black Elk, a revered Native American spiritual leader, once declared. By proclaiming that the principle of sacredness was not confined to one holy land but immanent in all lands, he transformed one of the most potent journeys in monotheistic traditions into a recognition that Earth itself is holy.

Holy Land Black Elk

Nevertheless, perhaps paradoxically, Western civilization—historically dominated by colonialism and capitalism's values and vices—has fragmented territories, bodies, psyches, spirits, and the human community into contrived sections of artificial and often imaginary spaces.

The imperial project of that civilization and its most recent economic manifestation (especially in its neoliberal version) has imbued some parcels of land with greater exchange value and sanctity while relegating others to limbo, considered as wasted land or sterile rocks.

What fascinates me is that this separation is reflected in our physical boundaries, spirituality, and religion. We've been told that only certain places are suitable for prayer and that there exist places that are ''holy'', and places that are not ''holy''. We've been told who is ''holy'', and who is not. Who is worst saving and who is not. Which person's suffering is more important than others.

All of this is purely arbitrary and culturally reinforced, and it has been carved into our worldview since we were born into Western culture. Not only have we lost the sense of unity in all things, but we've relegated this unity to a purely contemplative exercise that has no bearing on ''reality''.

The Deer jumping over fences does not know boundaries. The pollen flying across borders does not know boundaries. The birds migrating across countries do not know boundaries. The water of the oceans and rivers does not know boundaries. There is no place, and no one, our kin from the non-human world, has ever looked at as non-holy because the 'holy' is not confined to specific places.

It permeates our everyday lives, in the interactions with our neighbors, in the meeting of our breath with the breeze, in the rustling leaves, in the smiles of others, in the wild creatures and plants. It can be felt when we share a meal with our family, witness a beautiful sunset, care for the voiceless, or help a stranger in need. It's in stone and brick and extends far beyond them, transcending the limitations of any religion or culture.

We are boundless beings with boundless hearts, in a boundless family living on a boundless land.

I often wonder how this systematic separation started and grew to the point of dogma. Was it during the birth of agriculture when we transitioned from hunting/gathering people? When did we decide that land resources were not to be shared? When did the narrative of greed and a perceived lack of resources take over the reality of an overabundant planet? The dandelion plant that produces over 15,000 seeds does not indeed know scarcity. Is the dandelion wiser than we humans?

As we witness and confront the wounds of colonialism and capitalism, let's also start dismantling the invisible barriers that turn the once-sacred land, people, and spirits into mere objects and separated individuals. Because the mere fact that we classified things, lands, and people into what is holy and what is not was the beginning of dominance and the justification for most of the violence in this world.

It seems like a utopia to imagine a world without borders, where lands are shared kin, where people are all related, where the Oak tree is a brother and the river a sister. It may be time we rediscover what it means to respect the Earth beneath our feet, to truly see and honor each other, and to feel the bonds of kinship that unite us.

Angell Deer

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