Place Sense (Part 2) — Param Bhandare

Continuing from where I left off in Part 1 of this post:

Growing up, I don’t think I was subject to the same forces as those born and raised in the U.S. My upbringing instilled in me a very third-person point-of-view character compared to what around me looked like people living their lives as first person characters. Even though I couldn’t be afforded these deep land, community, and personal relationships that I thought I observed of others—relationships that lead people to lose a part of their character and have emotional connections to place, even experiencing solastalgia—I still think there is a valuable perspective to pull out of my life experience.

It gave me a sense in delineating when a person was doing something themselves or whether the person was doing something subject to some other force transcending them. I could hardly say the transcending force governing a lot of my life decisions are those imprecise visions of who my parents are, whether they are this single Indian Buddhist-Hindu union, or a distribution of what Hinduism and Buddhism looks like amongst various countries, places, times, and within an environment of many other religions even. Moving around so much, there was no force of community or country upon me that fit me into any particular world machine if I wasn’t incorporated to a significant degree with my parents already.

I really do believe there is a process by which the design of a religion follows, as philosopher Alfred North Whitehead writes, from ritual, emotion, belief, to rationalization. The first three steps are all fine and dandy if the religion has no competition and is left to see the end of the transcendental principles it follows. Any echo chamber can sustain itself until the echo fizzles out. It just seems to happen by chance that every major religion today ends up having a war on the rationalization of what they seem to think are the irrational activities of the other religions. Whitehead never wrote a fifth step to this process, but often claimed that some abstract system would undermine the rational systems of religions, a kind of singularity or jump-discontinuity in human cognition.

I claim that the fifth step is more so a step of sublation. It’s already evident in major religions that they absorb the smaller and prior religions that surround them. Especially in the case of Christianity absorbing traditions like the tree for Christmas or eggs for Easter. The fir tree is connected to vast traditions celebrating the pattern of environmental change around Winter solstice, which for the Christian project, coincides with a significant religious event (the birth of Jesus). And the egg serves as a symbol of fertility, and in the Christian’s case, celebrates the Son conquering death, to be reborn. These examples serve to show that the absorption of other traditions isn’t a negation in nature, even though it seems like the original mythology constructed by the paganism of the time was eradicated. Instead, they were only negated by name, but absorbed within the nature of the newer religion. The real dialectic then morphs between the sublated and the unsublated.

My life experiences have shown me that we humans are really subject to a vast dialectic: a back and forth between the individual, the society they’re in, and the sustained forces that grow out of that society—where the individual plays a role in being in control or subject to those forces. I have not been taken away by abstract systems as much as Whitehead was, and I believe that a constant sublation of religions will follow rather than these religions being overtaken by some abstract systems. The religious world is a pulsating one and I think that we are definitely at a point where we are in for another pulse. Maybe I’ll be a participant in the coming pulse, or remain a witness, in third person point of view, to it as I’ve been thus far.