Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spirituality and the Landscape: Movies

In the Light of Reverence is a documentary that explores spaces sacred to American Indians and the conflicts that arise with shared space. For example, Devils Tower in Wyoming is sacred to the Lakota, and used all year as a place of worship, particularly during the solstice in June. However, rock climbers want to climb all year and have sued the Forest Service, which discourages climbing during June, in order to protect their "right to climb." The rock climbers claim climbing to be a religious experience similar in significance and depth to the Lakota practices.

If only there were one conflict over land use in the west. The Colorado Plateau in the Southwest contains sacred spaces to the Hopi, only some of which are on reservation land and so have been bulldozed by private landowners. One of my favorite quotes here is the landowner who talks about how he can't "see" the sacred space (I went out there and looked. Where is it? Is it here? Is it over there? What part of this mountain is sacred?!?). So he sells the mountain to a mine, which bulldozes it for gravel for the interstate.

And Mount Shasta has a sacred spring for the Wintu, but it seems to attract everyone from hikers and their dogs to ski resort prospecting to Wannabes, who don't seem to understand that smoking pot and running around naked might be offensive to the Wintu in their sacred space. I suppose it would be okay to do that in the Four Square Church down the street....

The Giant Buddhas is a documentary that explores the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2001. You'll remember the public outrage with this demolition of the Buddhas (shown pre-demolition to the left).

The Giant Buddhas explores the same territory as In the Light of Reverence: a dominant culture systematically destroys religious spaces of less visible cultures. It's a form of subjugation, and, I think, not only exploitation of resources, and humiliation of people. What a pity.

Image of Devils Tower via Colin Faulkingham and image of Buddhas of Bamyan via Wikipedia