Postcards From the Margins

Vincent Van Gogh's "Half Figure of An Angel, After Rembrandt," September 1889
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Half Figure of An Angel, After Rembrandt,” September 1889

WHAT IS “SACRED”?  Definitions are the (relatively) easy part. At the SACRED exhibit currently showing at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), dictionary meanings displayed at the start of the exhibit run from the fairly narrow, “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity” and “worthy of religious veneration,” to the more encompassing “entitled to reverence and respect.”  Most broadly, we’re given simple words like “holy,” “unassailable” and “inviolable.” 

The harder part, of course:  what is sacred to you?

I live in, and write from, the margins of my Catholic faith. When I was a child, “holy” was the operative word:  Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, Holy Eucharist.  Even now, I can’t write any of these without using capital letters.  In a recent fiction submission I was asked to change a character’s statement from “Good God!” to “Good god!”  I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  Some things are sacred, even when much around them crumbles.

But maybe one key to “sacred” is both/and, instead of either/or.  Holy Spirit and holy spirits.  Good god and Good God.  The oil painting Christ Crucified by Diego Velasquez and Yamantaka Mandala (part of the SACRED exhibit) by monks of the Guyoto Tantric University.  And what about this, in an email from another margin–my nephew studying abroad in Ulan Batur:  “One of the central tenets of traditional Mongolian shamanism, Tengrism,” he writes, “is that nobody can really understand Tengri (god, associated with the sky) and if people are still doing good things but recognize something else as god, Tengri doesn’t really care and neither should you.” 

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the MIA SACRED exhibit you’re in luck because it’s here for a few more months (until July 13, 2014).  But you might want to drop in sooner rather than later if you’re interested in any of a number of MIA/Loft Literary Center events. In the Sacred Shorts Writing Contest participants are asked to respond to one of three works of art in the SACRED exhibit and submit a prose or poetry entry of no more than 250 words.  The deadline to enter is April 16.  The winning entry will be displayed next to the chosen piece from May 8 until the end of the exhibit.

Other upcoming Loft Writing Center/MIA collaborations can be found in two places on the SACRED‘s opening page.  Scroll down past the Yamantaka Mandala, past the ad and you’ll find two columns, Sacred Salons and Related Events.

First up (in Related Events) is a six-week class starting tomorrow, Wednesday, March 19, Writing the Galleries, led by teaching artist Jessica Orange. A few spots are still available.  Another great option (listed in Sacred Salons) is Karen Hering‘s Writing to Wake the Soul, a one-time guided writing session on Saturday, April 5.  And put this one on your calendar now:  The Hero’s Sacred Journey, Thursday May 8, 5:30 to 8:30pm. Join us for a drink, answer the call, and make your own (or another’s) hero’s journey.  Look for more info, including details about a class I’ll be teaching this summer at the Loft (“What We Write About when We Write About the Sacred”) here, on my blog, in upcoming posts.

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