Of all the thoughts and images that have sprung, in my mind, from the assassination of Dr. George Tiller last Sunday (31 May 2009), one leapt to the fore immediately, and has stayed there ever since.
The man was killed in a church.
Say anything you like about the religions that built the churches, or mosques, or temples – their avarice, their bigotry, their hypocrisy. I’m even likely to agree with most of it. But if there is any one thing that the houses of worship themselves have come to represent, it is this.
Hell, most of them are called “sanctuaries”, in whole or in part.
In Europe during most of the Common Era, Christian churches have been known as places of sanctuary, where persons in strife go for protection against their circumstances or their adversaries.
The principal is pretty universal. In pre-Christian Hawai‘i, a person who broke a kapu or otherwise offended the gods or their agents on Earth had the option of retreat to a pu‘uhonua (sanctuary, usually part of a heiau, or temple). Getting there was more than half the fun (to reach Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau, the refugee had to swim a fair distance across a shark-infested bay), but when (if) the offender arrived, the attendant priest (kahuna) would absolve the refugee from wrongdoing and release him [sic] back into the community, where he would be immune from harm. At least until the next time he offended.
To be sure, the principle of sanctuary has been both abused and violated throughout history. We the People of these Untied States, for example, are used to being told that, for certain Iraqi mosques, “sanctuary” is spelled A – R – M – O – R – Y, which is why those mosques are now one with Ozymandias’s lone and level sands.
Nevertheless, I think we relinquish the notion of sacred sanctuary at our peril. Which is why the death of George Tiller, a man whom I did not know, on whose attention I had no claim despite his position of prominence in our culture wars, continues to bother me.
For whatever it may be worth, a piece of music sprung into my head as a result of my reflections on George Tiller’s murder and the violation of sanctuary that the killer, and whatever sponsors he may have had, committed. Below, a link to a sound file of that piece of music (.mp3). The sound is not quite what I’d like, and I can’t add the lyrics; I’m at the mercy of my rather inexpensive music-writing software. Maybe one day you’ll get to hear it with live instruments/voices:
(* Latin [in hic loco], “in this place”. Pig Latin: drunken and crazy.)
Inscription: In memory of Dr. George Tiller, and of all those who have sought the sanctuary of a house of worship in vain.
Lyrics: (slightly altered from the original)
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true,
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you.
It is you, Lord, who came to save
The heart and soul of each one of us,
It is you, Lord, who knows our weakness,
Who gives the strength we hold in trust.
Lead me, Lord, from all temptation,
Purify me from within.
Fill my heart with your holy spirit,
Take away all my sin.
[Repeat v. 1]
For any who are interested in such things. The music is scored for oboe, English horn, and four-part choir. The oboe and English horn parts can be played by any number of instruments of similar sound quality, including flutes, recorders, or harmon-muted trumpets/cornets. I tried adding rhythm (guitar, keyboards) but didn’t care for the results, at least not yet.
Copyright as for this blog. Contact me or Quilly if you’re interested in the sheet music or whatever. Especially if you plan to make a million bucks off this thing. As if.
– O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.