Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – December 12, 2015

Sacred Geography

I give the beggar-sadhu in his tattered saffron dhoti with open sores
on his arms a 50-rupee note.
He is barefoot; he turns and pads away toward another tourist.
His is not a sacred begging performed in imitation of Lord Shiva.
The Varanasi sadhus who live in and around the burning ghats are
impoverished and neglected.
Nor are they impressive: broken down, sickly, sometimes plainly
–not divinely–mad.

Forty-five years ago, a blip sometimes called The Age of Aquarius,
–embedded in the cruel overarching Age of Kali–occurred.
It coincided with hallucinogens, which enabled many users to
witness different landscapes.
Interiority, dreamspace, what may be called sacred geography,
became intimately familiar.
Young people meditated, read visionary writings, traveled east to
Asia and south to Central and South America to inhabit the sacred
geography at its source.
East Indian sadhus and yogis were at a premium.

Forty-five years later, for intricate reasons, technology has replaced
Digital geography has replaced sacred geography.
Now young people tend to travel with their fingers.
What Paul Virilio calls “motility” instead of mobiliy.
We access the harshest, grandest catastrophes on our miniature
smart receptors, where they merge with professional football.

Can digital and sacred geography coexist?
With difficulty.
With Mother Earth perishing rapidly, digital and sacred
geography must find a way to coexist for the duration.
Cruelty will continue to dominate.
Death is our heart’s mother.
I envision the collective spirit regaining energy, even compassion, at
the end of the end.