Yet as with all things, there is a shadow side to this holiday. As a species, humanity has come so far in its conception of the world. Of life and its meaning. Of our place in the scheme of things. The evolution of our interconnected global village has revealed the amazing variety among human culture. It is accepted as fact that all humans, regardless of race or gender, are human. All sentient, thinking, feeling beings, capable of the full spectrum of emotion and behavior.
But it was not always so, and some people still do not accept this fact. Today I watched a film, "Twelve Years a Slave", which chronicles the experience of a free black man who was kidnapped and enslaved in 1841. Not many minutes had passed before my partner remarked that I would be soon be yelling at the TV. He was right. Mere words cannot express the intolerable choler of rage that filled me.
I can remember when I first learned about slavery. I didn't take it well. It is no easier for me now, some 30 years later. I didn't understand it then, and I certainly do not understand it now. Oh, on some intellectual level, I can see the outlines of the justification of this behavior. But my heart does not accept this crime against humanity, against the Earth's children, against the Divine.
For we Pagans know the truth of the matter. All beings, whether they be human, animal, plant or mineral - ALL BEINGS CONTAIN THE DIVINE ESSENCE. All beings are constructed of the same energy, and that energy IS the Divine. This is the Spirit which connects us all. Spirit IS all.
It is important to note that this energy is the building block of the Earth herself. The reality is that this entire planet is a giant organism. Even physicists are catching on to this fact. Go read some Fred Alan Wolf and see what I mean. Environmental educators and pioneers of the field like Thomas Berry, Aldo Leopold, John Muir and Edward Abbey knew this truth. Go read them as well. Some terms are different, but the spirit is the same.
"The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects."
If this is so, then all beings have value. All beings have a right to existence, or at least the chance to exist. All beings deserve dignity and respect. From the lowliest zygote to the mighty mountain, we are all one.
If this is so, then no being can be owned. At least, not in the Westernized conception of ownership. The Earth too cannot be owned. Does the flea own the inch of the elephant's hide on which it resides? No. Instead, we are but stewards and caretakers of a fleeting and ephemeral nature. Even our bodies are worn but for an eye blink. They too, return to the Earth of which they came.
So on this blessed day of Litha, of the Summer Solstice, take a moment to reflect. Take a moment to honor those before us who endured captivity, indentured servitude and slavery. Take a moment to honor the animals who have lost their homes to urban development, who have died in inadequate zoos or from neglectful owners or abandonment. Take a moment to honor those who have fought and died for their belief that things should be different. Take a moment to lend support to those beings who still live with cruelty, exploitation and abuse.
Take a moment to commune with our Mother Earth, who has suffered so much for our evolution, yet who continues to love and provide for us.
Take a moment to look into the shadow, that the light may shine ever more brightly within you and that the beauty which surrounds us this Litha day may become ever more precious.
Join me, brothers and sisters. Speak up for what is true and right. Stamp out intolerance and cruelty wherever you find it; replace it with compassion and love. Let us shine the light of respect and reverence into every corner of the globe. Let us make each step we take be a prayer.
So mote it be!