Theologians and scientists agree: ritual is good for the human soul. But I don’t like ritual much. It’s probably my Zen upbringing. If ritual is poetry in the realm of acts, then perhaps my poetic-action aesthetic is too used to the haiku or koan: short, unrehearsed, improvised, intentionally subversive. But one thing I do like about ritual is the creation of a sacred space. Rituals tend to start by casting a circle or otherwise setting a boundary in space around the participants — or else they take place within a sacred space that has already been established (like a stone circle or a cathedral). Within that boundary, the normal world and normal time is suspended, set aside; and the cosmos is re-created in miniature, resized to fit the human imagination.
We explore the significance of sacred animals as guides, gods and omens. News of the birth of a rare white buffalo stirs the Lakota community in the wake of a series of tragic deaths earlier in the summer, and we explore the importance of cattle and other domesticated animals in human history and our relationship with the natural world. Then, Ali and Jeff each tell the stories of their own encounters with animal guides and how such relationships can shape our ever-changing understanding of ourselves.
We look at an innocent casualty of war that is often overlooked as we explore the ecological impact of human warfare throughout history, the environmental cost of maintaining military might, and why the instability and insecurity brought about by global warming is encouraging more and more military leaders to start thinking green. We share a few laughs about an epic pillow fight that can teach us a few gentle lessons about real-world conflict, and we settle into the still center of peace within ourselves with a closing meditation on cultivating peace in the Celtic tradition.