We have been honoring a Native American elder, Rod MacAfee, by sharing his story as told by his wife, Linda Neale. 

In one of his final television interviews, Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” explains how finding meaning in life overcomes despair, depression, and emptiness even in the most extreme suffering. Uploaded to YouTube by Noetic Films

 We have seen in his story, which included a death and rebirth experience from being homeless and on the street due to alcoholism, to being a healer for others in so many ways, a story that parallels those told about the resurrection in the earliest Christian circles. 

 Resurrection is less about an empty tomb, as Bruce Chilton would say, than about a transformation that serves the world.  The first resurrection is about waking up.  Like what happened when Paul encountered a risen Christ; and Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, and 500 others. 

 Their lives were changed; courage took over; and hope; and possibilities for all that heard the Good News and could overcome their fear of death.  Before long, people were tested by the same empire that killed Jesus to face martyrdom at the hands of lions and the rest in coliseums around that empire.

“Bloody Sunday” – A state trooper swings a billy club at John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, during the civil rights voting march in Selma, Alabama, 3/7/1965. Lewis sustained a fractured skull. AP file photo uploaded to Flickr by bswise.

Not unlike Dr. King, who was asked one day how he can march in suburbs of Chicago when he knew people wanted to kill him, and responded, “one must love life more than the fear of death if one is to live.” 

Lives dedicated to a message worth sharing, one that advances humankind and promises love and justice all came about by transformations we can call experiences of resurrection.  Not unlike the civil rights marchers who faced death and opposition in the sixties and a new generation still does today.

That was the story told about Rod by Linda and by all who knew him the second half of his life.

“Sweat Lodges, Standing Rock.” Water Protectors engaged in daily ceremony seeking healing and guidance in their struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline. Photo by Phila Hoopes.

At the heart of Rod’s service to others was ceremony.  Ceremony is so needed in our time for it is ceremony, as psychologist Otto Rank pointed out, that links the human psyche to the cosmos—yes to something bigger than its own projects. 

To our ancestors in the full meaning of that term—not only our human ancestors but also our greater-than-human ancestors without which none of us would exist. 

To the 13.8 billion year history therefore of the birth of planets and stars, our earth and our sun therefore, our galaxy and our supernova that birthed so much of the very atoms of our bodies, to the original fireball and all the rest in this graced universe of two trillion galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars (our star alone, the sun, can hold one million earths!) and there is a star being born every 15 seconds.

“Ramadan Mubarak – Night of Power!” A Muslim elder prays with his subha (prayer beads). Photo by Steve Evans on Flickr.

Who, what, brought us here?  How do we thank this Who or What for being here?  And why are we here?

All these questions are addressed in ceremony whether it be a Ramadan fast and prayer whose season began this week; or a Passover meal; or a liturgical celebration of Jesus’ Last Supper; or a sweat lodge, Sundance or vision quest.  Ceremony is one memorable way we say “Thank You” collectively for our very existence.  To be continued

See Matthew Fox, “Ceremony,” in Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 136-138.

Banner Image: Painting of a feast / Early Christian catacombs / Paleochristian art. Tomb of Vibia – Catacumbes of Domitila – Rome. Paradise Sacred (Banquet Justos Anunciacio?) Wikimedia Commons.

What are your experiences of resurrection?  How has ceremony facilitated your own resurrections? 

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Upcoming Events

Our wounding and heartbreaks – how can we face, heal and change these? Where can I find support and hope? How do I let go of wanting my life to be different? Cate Gaffney interviews Matthew Fox among other healers, magic makers and believers on April 15 at 9am PST (12 EST). Register HERE.

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2 thoughts on “Ceremony and Human Survival”

  1. Avatar

    A possible answer to your question “Who, what, brought us here? How do we thank this Who or What for being here? And why are we here?”.
    I found my own name for ‘God’. It is the “Great Whoever” who invites us to the “Great Wherever”. History tells us that when ‘man’ coined a name for ‘God’ he used that name to monetize their own religious institution, i.e., the Golden Calf in the Vatican selling indulgences which could be invested in a cushier hereafter for those who ‘bought in’.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, I really like your name for God [the Great Whoever”] and the invitation to “Wherever” the “Great Whoever” calls us. And despite our feelings for indulgences, isn’t there a sense in which we all need to be “investing in heaven” from a spiritual point of view?

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