Sacred Art, Ritual the 1992 Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Communion with nature can come in the form of visual art and craft; in the form of storytelling; or in the form of dance. Each of these modes of creative expression invokes the unknown, powerful forces that underlie creation. Even though science can measure, explain, and manipulate nature it cannot answer the ultimate questions of why and how nature -- or human beings -- exist in the first place. Religious rituals offer human beings a way to seek answers to life's biggest questions through direct experience.

Different cultures have approached nature differently but traditional cultures share in common a reverence for the natural world that is all but absent in modern, industrialized societies. The religions that have sprouted up in modern nations parallel the worldview that human beings should triumph over nature rather than work with nature. In Baraka, devastating footage of death and destruction show what human beings are capable of when they lose respect for nature.

Because Fricke shows scenes of ancient and modern temples, Baraka also addresses the issue of time and progress. Human beings have worshipped differently throughout time. The human relationship with nature has also changed considerably since the industrial age. Yet traditional cultures continue to cultivate the direct experience with the divine that nature worship and its associated rituals provide. Dance, storytelling, and art that uses nature as its focal point empowers people as much today as it did at the dawn of human civilization.

Nature can also be used as a symbol for meditation. Focusing on concepts like birth, growth, death, or on the behavior of water or fire can stimulate awareness into the ultimate Cause of reality. Contemplative religious traditions like Sufism or Buddhism perfectly illustrate the power of the human mind. Through meditation the mind uses symbols to stimulate self-awareness and general awareness about the world or even the meaning of life.

A total eclipse of the sun forms some of the most dramatic footage in Baraka, and also raises several pertinent questions about the interface between humanity and nature. First, the eclipse reminds viewers of the plethora of superstitions that have underwritten many if not all of the world's religions. Eclipses have been widely viewed as omens. Inferring meaning from a natural occurrence is how superstitions are formed, showing how human beings creatively interpret the natural world.

Likewise, eclipses show how science helps human beings understand nature in profound and meaningful ways. Eclipses can be predicted: showing that science can pierce through the veil of nature. Yet science in no way eclipses the beauty of the natural phenomenon. Only when human beings deliberately set out to conquer nature does science become an instrument of destruction. Eclipses also symbolize all that is temporarily hidden from consciousness. For a brief moment, the sun stops illuminating the earth. It hasn't disappeared; only the human perspective has.

One salient feature of Baraka is the imagery of the sea of humanity in many manifestations. Whether in the footage from the Mecca hajj, the Indian rituals of cremation, or on the Tokyo subway, the film shows how waves of humanity struggle to find peace and understanding. Their struggle appears organic on screen in Baraka. Humanity is not necessarily in conflict with nature even in starkly industrial settings like Tokyo. Bringing the attention back toward the interconnectedness of life, individuals can transcend the pain and suffering that characterizes the human experience. Films like Baraka help viewers achieve that goal, even if only for the duration of the…

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