The bus collected us at Victoria Coach Station for our excursion to Stonehenge. It was Eileen, our grandson, Corey, who is studying London for a term and me. Don’t get me wrong, there were 48 other people as well, but there was WIFI on the bus so you could stay in your personal space, except for Eileen who knew an awful lot about her seatmate, Dr. Dave before we hit the M3.
As we left the highway and the tour guide got back on the mike, it was still early morning: “You should be able to see Stonehenge in that field on the right but the fog and mist is hiding it. Hopefully it will begin to lift before we take the shuttle bus from the visitor center to the site.” I sort of thought, this is how you should see Stonehenge, a little bit of mist and a little bit of mystery, although, I did want some good pictures.
And then she was right and then it was there. Across the fields, the sheep were barely moving, little non-discriminate mounds in the grass, everything shades of grey. Stonehenge slowly emerged: a statement to a civilization and culture that knew how to keep its secrets, from how they got the stones here to what their purpose. Yes, there are theories and I am sure some day one of us humans will figure it all out, but right now they range from the magical to the ritual, the astronomical to the sacred, a place of healing and magic or a place of sacrifice and death. I like some of this unknowing. I believe in mystery. I am attracted to the mystical. It makes me appreciate the hole of knowing at the center of life.
So it was ok with me that the sun wasn’t shining. The ancient stones were resting on a bed strong enough to keep them erect and resilient enough to keep them mysterious. It was ok with me that I wasn’t certain if the stones may have been a place where the sun and the moon found alignment or the stones may have been a place where people were sacrificed to some unknown but demanding deity. What isn’t ok is that centuries and millennia later we are still finding reasons to believe that the gods want us to kill and to maim, to blow up suitcases and people and the smoke that rises from the explosion is a sweet smell of obedience to a cruel and uncaring universe. What isn’t ok is to believe that these acts of terror are courageous or even part of a holy war one civilization wages on another.
What’s sad is that we have lost the meaning of the word mysterious that for me implies knowing that you don’t know. I believe built into the word sacred is the word doubt. I believe in a healthy dose of skepticism in my approach to faith and it is a wonder to me that independent of the physicality of my brain, I am conscious of life I live. There is a wonderful Jewish teaching that the black handwritten Hebrew letters on every Torah scroll are only half the story. The creamy white spaces between each letter tell the other half. So maybe it isn’t the stones at Stonehenge – maybe it’s the galaxies in between and their placement in this field of fog, mist and haze.
In my worldview that which is sacred is the humility to be in awe of how much we do not know. No one has a lock on truth.