Big Blue Puddle
We don’t know what the first humans thought the first time they saw an ocean. Since Africa is the cradle of civilization and the lands south of Egypt seem to have been settles first on the African continent, the first ocean seen was most likely the Indian Ocean. Did they think if a magical mud hole with clear blue water?
The Seychelles are an independent African state with one hundred and fifteen islands that make up the country or state. The islands are located 932 miles or 1500 kilometers east of the African continent. The Seychelles are thought to have been uninhabited until 1502 when the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Game sailed nearby and saw them. An English seafarer working for the British East India Company recorded the first landing in 1509.
The culture of the Seychelles is mostly matriarchal, like that of early Africa. The music and cuisine reflect the history of the area and the effects of France, Britain, and African rule. This is very common in Oceanica, an area of the Pacific Ocean which varies in definition, referring to everything from the area around Polynesia to the entire region from Southeast Asia to North and South America.
The traditional religions of the lands of the Pacific Ocean are directly tied into the mythology of the history of the people and are generally animist. The term “animist” is derived from the Latin “anima” meaning breath, spirit or life. In religion is means a belief that non-human things have a spiritual or life-like essence.
The indigenous people of Oceanica are so connected with animism that they don’t have a word for it. Anthropologist Sir Edward Taylor called animism “once of anthropology’s earliest concepts, if not the first.” Animism believes that the physical world and the spiritual world are the same, not separate things. These early cultures knew that all life was dependent on water – not the water that surrounded them but the water that fell from the skies, the heavens. That water affected both the physical world as well as sustained life for humans beings.
I confess I adore that concept of the two worlds being connected. We would be much better stewards of our environment if we realized how connected and dependent we are on it. While we don’t drink the salt water of the oceans of the world, we do rely on them to maintain the ecological and meteorological balance that is so vital to our life.
I have used the term “steward” several times in the past ten days. Usually this is a time when many churches and temples initiate their Stewardship campaigns. I feel it prudent to have a conversation about the word “steward”. It has nothing to do with fund-raising or money or budgets at all. The word literally means “guardian”. It was used to identify the work or employee tasked with guarding things like the house, or cattle or other workers.
We each are stewards, stewards of our health, our careers, and our beliefs. We are called as stewards to act, not react. Let me say that again. We are called to act, not react. While the big blue puddle of a river or lake or ocean is beautiful, no one wants to fall face down in a puddle – of any size and of any making. We avoid that by conscious acts, by being good caretakers of our souls and respecting the spirit of life in all things and mankind.