01 October 2007

Holiness in a bottle

A friend tells me that it's possible to buy Bottled Holy Water from a company in Canada. The first thing that came to my mind:

"When something is sacred, it does not have a price. I don't care if it is white people talking about heaven or Indian people talking about ceremonies. If you can buy it, it isn't sacred. And once you start to sell it, it doesn't matter whether your reasons are good or not. You are taking what is sacred and making it ordinary." -- "Dan" (Neither Wolf nor Dog), Lakota elder [from elexion.com]

7 comments:

Sam said...

I will debate that, in part. I agree wholly with the quote. However, I submit that what is being sold is not necessarily sacred in and of itself. The ordinary water is being sold. It happens to be very good water, according to the site. What makes it sacred is the belief of the recipient. This is far from selling ceremonies (or tickets into Heaven.) The fact of the matter is that the process of acquiring this base substance which has been attributed transcendent qualities requires time, effort, and credit. Remuneration is in order, and does not detract from any transcendent associations, as long as the buyer realizes that what they are purchasing is not the transcendent, but the base through which they encounter the transcendent.

MWT said...

What makes their bottled water different from other companies' bottled water then?

Sam said...

The fact that the buyer thinks that it is closer to the transcendent than other waters. Someone who worships Dasani, on the other hand, would purchase Dasani water for their rituals.

Of course, this seems kind of petty. Why be picky when other water is theoretically just as good? Well, that's an unfalsifiable statement. Other water could be worse. We're in the realm of faith here, and people can (and will) nitpick about the trappings of their faith all they want.

MWT said...

So what it sounds like you're saying is that the water is the same, but the seller advertises it as being more transcendent, and the buyer believes the seller that this is so? Does that make the seller a liar?

Sam said...

Yes and/or no. The seller is a liar to the person who believes that the water is not more transcendent than other waters, just as atheists believe that priests deal in untruths.

It's not false advertising. It's unfalsifiable advertising. Oddly, the latter is impossible to prove or disprove, yet has caused far more grief in our history than the former. Have you heard of anybody killing others over misleading packaging of breakfast cereals?

Alcar said...

I'd like to throw it in an entirely different context -- simply the reality that what counts as sacred does NOT extend across cultures. By the dubious logic of your quote, mad cow disease and the like are because people don't hold the cow sacred like the Hindus do, and have put prices on them and cooked and eaten them in vast quantity -- which also can lead to heart failure, so counts as "proof".

And, well, tobacco had a price -- if only in time and effort needed to gather it etc. It could be traded (for all I know, it was among native tribes), but that is neither here nor there. A thing can be sold and remain sacred: original works of art count in that regard. His argument ONLY applies to his own culture and is invalid for others.

MWT said...

Hmmm. A few bits of context: alcar is the friend who pointed me to the bottled holy water, and our ensuing discussion involved references to tobacco:

"The tobacco is like our church. It goes up to God. When we offer it, we are telling our God that we are speaking the truth. Whenever there's tobacco offered, everything is wakan —sacred or filled with power." -- Dan again

and

"When the Europeans started to use tobacco, they saw it as a market, and thus corrupted its function. Now it is being misused, and you see what happens when a gift that has been given is misused." -- White Deer of Autumn while talking about the pipe ceremony

That's what alcar is responding to, I think. As for me, I'm still ruminating over the comments thus far and might come back to say more later...