Moral Elevation on Holiday in Burma


“Awe is the beginning of wisdom”

– Rabbi Heschel

“Our ego so voraciously grasps at whatever it can get for itself; typically, it does not have what it needs, which is connection with something holy . . . rather, the ego needs to be given a sacred task.”

– David Sardello, The Power of Soul, 13.

“Enchantment is the natural state of children. It is common among the aboriginal people of the world and also among religious mystics. Alas, among Western adults, enchantment is all too rare. Insulated from nature, bombarded by technology, compulsively busy, and accustomed to noise, we leave precious little space for wonder. If here is a universal criticism of the Western world, it is that ‘we have lost our awe.'”

Dave Pruett, From Reason and Wonder: A Copernican Revolution in Science and Spirit, p. ix.

Introduction

Darting right onto a side road towards another series of temples, I ride past a parked bike, run into a dead end of a thatched roof home, and swing back around.  A middle-aged woman with mostly black hair has now appeared next to her bike.

“Enjoying the temples?” I ask.

“Yes, they are wonderful,” she replies in a French accent.

“How long are you in Bagan?”

“15 days,” she replies.

“Wow – that’s quite a long time.”

“You know us French – we have to know it all!” she smiles.  Showing me a map, she says, “Yesterday I was riding down in this area, all alone, no one trying to sell me anything, and I came across the most beautiful frescoes of Buddha.”

Her appreciation for Buddhist temples prompts memories of the UNESCO World Heritage gem in central Laos.  “Have you been to Luang Prabang?”

“Oh, yes!  The monks on the streets, so many temples . . . ” She trails off, breathes in, lifts her shoulders, and smiles.

Seeking Moral Elevation on Vacation

Returning to Hong Kong and feeling mentally and spiritually refreshed by our family trip to Burma, I thought about other vacations that my wife and I (before kids) and our family (after kids) have enjoyed over the years.  Nineteen years ago we chose to spend our honeymoon at the temple ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  When we went to Europe, we thoroughly enjoyed two quiet days in the small town of Chartres where the famous Gothic cathedral still stands in all its glory.  Even more fondly we spent a weekend in Assisi, Italy, where the shutters to our hotel opened to the basilica dedicated to St. Francis. Our favorite vacation in Asia was the week we spent in Luang Prabang, Laos, even if the two kids were less than enthralled by a small town of temples.

Returning home, I wondered why was it that we seem to seek out similar kinds of vacation spots?  What was the common thread of these experiences?  As I reflected, the image of the French woman’s simple response kept returning to me.  Then it clicked: something in her breath and the lifting of her shoulders reminded me of something I had read in a book called The Happiness Hypothesis.

University of Virginia professor Jonathan Haidt writes that all human cultures have three dimensions of social space, which he displays as x, y, and z axes on a graph.  The horizontal dimension, or x axis, is relational closeness and distance.  All people in a given community have a range of family, friend, acquaintance, and distant relationships.  The vertical dimension, or y axis, is hierarchy.  All community members have a certain social status and recognized social power.  The x and y axes are common experiences in modern society.

However, ancient societies had another dimension, or z axis, that Haidt calls moral elevation.  Traditional cultures had spaces and activities that provided a sense of moral uplift, such as temples, community rituals, and greeting customs.  There were also negative z axis values that Haidt labels as “disgust”: blood, feet, and deformities are examples of pollutants capable of contaminating positive z values. Haidt’s (2001) table below summarizes the positive and negative aspects of the moral elevation dimension:

Component Elevation Social Disgust
Elicitor People moving up, blurring human/god divide People moving down, blurring human/animal divide
Motivational Tendency Merge, open up, help others Separate, close off
Affective phenomenology Feel lifted up, optimistic about humanity Feel dragged down, cynical about humanity
Physical changes Chest (warm glow) Gut (nausea)
Contamination Positive Negative

Table: Diametrically opposed features of elevation and social disgust

While this sacred and profane distinction was a mark of traditional societies, modern secular society views this dimension with suspicion.  Yet Haidt notes that such moral sentiments were a part of European and American scholarly, even scientific, discourse until World War I.  Referring to philosopher of religion Mircia Eliade, Haidt (2006) writes:

The modern West is the first culture in human history that has managed to strip time and space of all sacredness and to produce a fully practical, efficient, and profane world . . . Eliade’s most compelling point, for me, is that sacredness is so irrepressible that it intrudes repeatedly into the modern profane world . . . [through] “privileged places, qualitatively different from all others – a man’s birthplace, or the scenes of his first love, or certain places in the first foreign city he visited in his youth . . . : they are ‘holy places’ of his private universe, as if it were in such spots that he had received the revelation of a reality other than that in which he participates through his ordinary daily life” (p. 193). 

Re-reading Haidt’s work, the image of the French woman’s deep breath, lifting of her shoulders, and the sense of peace that she exuded seemed to embody Haidt’s concept of moral elevation, and confirmed for me why my wife and I frequently choose to visit temples on vacations.  Borrowing Eliade’s language, the profane world wears us down, and we intuitively seek out energizing sacred spaces in search of restoration and well-being.

Two Moments of Elevation

During the trip, I wrote about a couple of experiences of what Haidt calls elevation while visiting Buddhist temples.  The first one comes from our visit to Schwedagon, a Buddhist temple complex in central Yangon, that our guidebook suggested would be the highlight of any trip to Burma.

“My family and take off our shoes and socks and store them at the entrance of a long entrance way.  The ascending passageway is distinctly dark and surprisingly cool in contrast to the blazing tropical heat that we left just moments ago.  We make our way past shops that support the needs and interests of pilgrims and tourists: wooden Buddhas, incense, prayer bells, and other momentos of a visit to Schwedagon.  We slowly walk up towards the mouth of the corridor, buy our foreign visitor’s tickets, and then step into the temple sanctuary. 

The first steps back into the brilliant light are disorienting, for in front of us is the largest golden stupa any of us have ever seen.  It distinctive and graceful bell-shape design is only appreciated once one has recovered from its nearly overpowering golden splendor.  Beneath one’s feet is cool, smooth white marble that grounds this site in extra- ordinariness.  The tinkling of traditional Buddhist wind chimes descends upon us from atop stupas and spires.  A Burmese woman sitting at the entrance strikes a small gong-like symbol that produces a medium-pitch sound.  To our left, pilgrims strike a large metal bell, rippling the space with deeper resonances.  Other visitors sit in front of various shrines and sites praying, chanting, or moving their thumb and forefinger along prayer beads.  Families repeatedly wash a Buddha figure with water.  A mother in a bright pink blouse lights candles with her young children. 

Despite more mundane scenes on display in front of us – two young people that are enjoying magical moments of intimacy, picture-taking in front of shrines, story-telling among friends, or even some taking a nap inside quieter worship areas – the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, smells, and various ritual actions maintain an aura of sacredness, and even a heightened sense of possibility for the human condition.  Walking clockwise around the central stupa, the burning afternoon sun increases the sense that spiritual energy is abundant in this space.”

A second such moment came a few days later.   We had flown an hour and a half north to Bagan, an area in central Burma, that has the most spectacular display of temples anywhere in Asia.  At the end of our first day, my family and I crossed the street from the hotel and followed a dirt path towards a few local restaurants:

“We have just ordered food at a vegetarian restaurant that sits only 200 yards from the famous Ananda Temple in Old Bagan.  While the family is looking at paintings by a local artist, I sneak away towards Ananda’s golden dome.  It is 6:30 PM and the sun will be setting in the next few minutes.  I enter a dark corridor that reminds me of Schwedagon.  The contrast between dark and light, I understand, is not happenstance; it is symbolic of the spiritual journey. 

Three rake-thin dogs race past in front of me across the passageway and into an adjacent, dimly lit courtyard.  Another dog barks at me as I walk in.  Walking through the closed shops selling Buddhist statues and lacquer ware, I see a young Burmese soldier sitting at the end of this tunnel-like entrance, holding a rifle.  This young man was not here just two hours ago when I first visited Ananda.  Being my first encounter with the Burmese military, I walk gingerly towards him with my camera held away from my body, as if to say I have nothing to hide.  He stares at me, and then motions for me to take off my shoes, which I do with some relief.  I enter the temple.

I walk into another darkened corridor, but a minute’s slow walk reveals a brilliant 50-foot high golden Buddha.   Two young Burmese men sit in front of the statue in their longyi.  Approaching the Buddha, I hear what sounds like girls’ voices.  I turn right into a connecting corridor and walk towards the growing chorus of voices echoing through the temple.  Then into view appears more than 50 Burmese women sitting and chanting in front of another large golden Buddha.  Many of these women are dressed in colorful, but formal attire.  I listen for a few minutes to their chanting, and then head back out into the near darkness, towards the restaurant. 

I pause for a moment.  Standing in the courtyard of a thousand-year old temple at dusk listening to the on-going chants of pilgrims, I think of Medieval cathedrals that I used to teach about.  How poorly we modern people understand the beauty that comes from being in an ancient sacred place.” 

Conclusion

Now as I return to the normal world of preparing to teach another school year, I am pleased that we chose to travel to Burma this summer.  I am reminded that the word “holiday” originated from “holy day.”  While most of us today don’t link the two, our trip to Burma has shown my wife and me that a holiday that doesn’t contain a “holy” dimension doesn’t really provide the renewal that we seek.  As we experience the wear and tear of modern society on our souls, we seek out vacations that provide us with moral elevation to sustain our spirits. In both the ancient and modern sense, a week in Burma provided us with a calming and restorative holiday.

References

Haidt, J. (2001). Elevation and the positive psychology of morality.  Accessed July 27 from http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/haidt.2003.elevation-and-positive-psychology.pub026.html

Haidt, J. (2006). The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic.

Pruett, D. (2012). From reason and wonder: A Copernican revolution in science and spirit. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Articles of Related Interest

  1. Jennifer Aaker: How to Feel Like You Have More Time, Stanford Business, July 13, 2012
  2. Gateway to Myanmar’s Past, and Its Future, NY Times, July 9, 2012
  3. The Most Inspiring Way to be Happier, Time, March 29, 2016
  4. See this highly engaging video by Jason deSilva on awe.
  5. A talk and a TEDx talk on a Museum of Awe by David Delgado.
  6. Strong talk by researcher Paul Piff on the effect of law on generosity, compassion, and kindness.

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About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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19 Responses to Moral Elevation on Holiday in Burma

  1. Jonathan Ying says:

    This was a very insightful blog. I totally agree on having moral elevation during vacations, because it is when you visit different places that you actually realize how grand and how beautiful other places are, and not just your home town. One of my other teachers told our class that if we have the chance to, we should go backpacking, in order to truly discover ourselves, and discover exactly who we are on the inside, and what exactly we want to do with our lives. This blog and your writing helps support my other professor’s sayings, and adds a whole new light to places which I might have thought were boring before.
    I actually didn’t know the origin of the word ‘holiday’ came from ‘holy day’, but now that I read it, it makes total sense. Also, I agree with you saying that today’s society ‘wears and tears’ at our soul, and that we seek out moral elevation to raise our spirits. I think that this is true to everybody, but everybody’s moral elevation to raise our spirits may be totally different. Some people may become morally elevated just from gaming on the X-Box, while others take long vacations to different places around the world and visit different cities in order to find out more about the culture in the country their in.
    Overall, I think this was a very insightful blog that you have created, and after reading it, it makes me feel that everybody should be seeking moral elevation in all aspects of their lives.

    • Jonathan Ying says:

      Adding on to this comment, I actually feel like when I play tennis, I get some sort of a feeling of sacredness, because most of my life I’m working on homework, doing projects, and everything is based on school. However, when I play tennis, I forget all my worries, and the time that I spend playing tennis feels sacred, and I would treasure every minute I have to play tennis instead of doing stuff for school.

  2. Ivy Tse says:

    Analogous to your experience at the ancient temples, I experienced a overwhelming wave of emotion that may be associated with “the sacred” while watching the dolphin show at Ocean Park. After they plunge deep into the waters, there’s an uncertain moment where you fear that they may not be able to come back up again, but then they emerge and are able to jump to such heights. The 4 dolphins were amazingly in sync, and although I knew they were trained to do it that way, it still took my breath away and brought me to tears. Something passed through me at that time can be connected to what caused the French woman to act in the way you described just by reminiscing about a similar experience.

    It must have been the beauty that mesmerized me. Although it was a “show” with large noisy crowds, I felt as if I was enclosed in a silent, peaceful bubble. To me, there was more to the dolphin show than being entertained and wowing at their amazing abilities. What others may have missed is the sacredness of the animals’ ascendance that displays their strong spirit. Part of the alluring effect may have also sprung out of the simplicity of their movements that is a contrast to the busy streets of HK. Perhaps taking a different view than Profession Haidt, this may be an indicator that animals are actually closer to “the sacred source” than us humans. Free of stress and complicated social hierarchy, everyday in their being is a “holy day”, in which they operate through the so-called z-axis.

    Similar activities that allow me to appreciate beauty may bring about the same feeling. These include watching a full moon, counting stars in the night sky, or walking in a garden. When I dance or sing in/listen to an amazing choir, I also experience that indescribable feeling. Everything is a miraculous piece of art that either we humans are capable of creating or that just so happens to occur in nature. In these sacred moments, we come in touch with that field of moral elevation that we have almost lost a sense of in modern society, so much that it becomes a mystery to us.

  3. Emma Laskowski says:

    I agree with the author. I believe that you have a higher moral elevation during vacations. I believe this is true because you are able to see things that you never have before. These different ruins makes you look at how beautiful the world really is. Also I think that being in different places helps you reflect on your life. I think this is true because when you go somewhere that you don’t know you aren’t as comfortable so sometimes you don’t take the things for granted.

    When ever I paint or draw i feel like it is a “sacred” experience. It is kind of like a temple. I feel like I am in my own little world and I don’t want to stop. It feels like there isn’t an outside world. I had this same feeling when I stepped into the synagogue I felt like there wasn’t an outside world. I couldn’t hear any sounds from outside. Whenever I paint I feel like there is a bubble around me and I don’t pay attention to anything other that what I am painting.

  4. Jon, Ivy, and Emma have all contributed valuable blog responses. As I said in class, religion begins with experience rather than belief statements. Following these experiences, groups of people create traditions, writings, and practices to help understand those experiences and promote similar experiences in the future. Getting to the experience level helps us understands why religions have been attractive to people across the centuries. It is sad that we seem to be losing the Z-axis of the sacred, and I hope that bringing such experiences to your conscious reflection will help you value the role religions may play in facilitating a more satisfying life.

  5. Katie Wu says:

    I feel the same way. I feel that you have a higher moral elevation during vacations. I think this is correct because you experience something that’s completely different and maybe you enjoy it. As I was in Europe a few years ago, I visited a lot of sacred beautiful places and it just kind of lifted my spirit up. Since I’m Christian, I visited a lot of churches. One place I remember in particular, I am not too certain where because it was a few years ago, but there in a museum of some sort, were the steps that people say Jesus walked on, on the way to his crucification. Something inside me just tingled. Maybe it was because it was the steps Jesus supposedly walked on or maybe it was just the location I was in, but something, inside me kind of just blossomed.

  6. Kristine Koehler says:

    Reading this blog post it had me reminiscing about two experiences I’ve had with moral elevations. The importance to be connected with your spiritual self, no matter what religion you practice or if you don’t practice on at all. I agree that as modern people we have such busy lives and we forget the importance to visit places with such strong energies in which you have a strong spiritual connection to.

    One experience I’ve had is about a year ago, I walked up many little steps to an enormous Cathedral that made me feel smaller than I already was. Plants hung off the building, creating a sense of history with the rustic beauty of the Taal Cathedral de San Martin de Porres. As I entered the Cathedral I noticed that it was just grand as the outside, but as I started walking to the front of the church I approached a beautiful statue. I was all alone in the church, other than the occasional voice or sound of footsteps. I got closer and closer to the statue placed in a ark of gold and wooden pillars. I felt a strong presence, that I will never be able to explain fully. But soon enough I couldn’t help but notice myself standing in front of this statue and just crying.

    I feel like that this presence is somehow gotten with the connection you have with yourself spiritually, and in a lot of cases; the spiritual connection you have with your god. This time I think that I felt the presence stronger because of the age of the Cathedral. It is claimed to be one of the first churches made in the Philippines. And you could feel all it’s holiness, and you could somehow feel how much knowledge this inanimate statue had. How many people came here, hoping for miracles, &etc. I believe that spiritual connections/moral elevations happen with personal thoughts and experiences. That like many everyday things, things that touch you like this are things you believe in. Things you rely on, and things that have you thinking about your own spirituality. I know that I may not feel the same to what other peoples ‘sacred’ experiences, and I know that they wouldn’t feel the same to mine. What matters is the moral elevation that people experience on their own.

  7. Angela Fan says:

    1) Your blog talked about the wonderful trip to Burma you and your family went for the holiday. It was definitely relaxing for you guys because it pulled you out from reality and the modern society. It sounds like an amazing trip for people who likes to learn about the culture and traditions of the country. This would be a great field trip for our class (only if it was in Hong Kong… and for free). I liked how this blog explained the different levels of Elevations because it clearly explains each level of Elevation.

    2 and 3) I already explained my feeling in the synagogue, but I want to talk about my feeling when I was standing at the toppest point of the Great Wall. As I entered the doorless pathway and my whole body was standing at the most highest point, I felt like I was ruling the world. I could feel something twinkling around me. I guess I was at the “Elicitor” part, where I could feel myself reaching for the heavens, yet still not allowed to touch it. I felt like that place was so ‘special’ that if I did something wrong, it would just ruin everything. There’s like a barrier between you and that “special obstacle” that’s above you, so close, yet so far away. At that moment, reality disappeared. There was just dusty air, the Great Wall itself, and me. Nothing else. This feeling completely blurred myself from reality and it was a weird feeling, but still interesting. Although the pollution there wasn’t great (and still isn’t), I couldn’t care less at that moment. It was just me and this sacred feeling. While I was on top of the Great Wall, I wondered how the slaves or servants built it (even to THAT high!) It took years and years to finish the Great Wall, resulting in many deaths as well. I could feel myself connecting with the servants, and appreciating what they’ve done to complete this gigantic wall. It’s like, “I have touched the object that servants from many many years ago built and died for!” I feel like I’ve connected with them, like it’s going to be within me for the rest of my life.

    4) I guess I will only feel a sense of sacredness if I’m being pulled out from reality, being so close with something very traditional and sacred to specific religions, or having a moment where I’m not thinking about myself. I think that’s the way people should be living. Not always caught up with the modern technologies and society. Sometimes, we should remember that there are things that will always be meaningful in the world than just your phone, laptop, or new clothes.

  8. Brendan Leung says:

    I agree on moral elevation when you visit temples and sacred locations. When i visited the Vatican City i also felt the same thing. To be in sacred place like the Vatican City, i felt that their was some sort of powerfulness or sacredness in the area which made me relaxed and comfortable to be in such a place. It wasn’t just the feeling, but also the view of how beautiful it was. With birds flying overhead and surrounded by wonderful architecture and building, the trip was a special and interesting visit that i will never forget.
    The Overall feeling we get from these visits is from the idea and picture we have about how sacred/important something is. We think about what something had been in the past or what it is even today. Just the idea itself makes us feel this way and it can be anything from just an activity to a vacation like yours, Mr. Schmidt. Everyone has a different thing that makes them feel the way i did at the Vatican, but some just don’t have the feeling because they’re not bothered to waste their time on something that is not important or sacred to them. Even the slightest thing, like when im spending time with my family and were having a good time, i feel some type of “sacredness”. I get the feelings of something there and the feeling that i am surrounded by something special, which for me is my family.

  9. Vanessa Lucas says:

    Ever since I was a little girl whenever I go on vacation my dad likes to in a way become local. He believes that unless you have really explored the place, and do what a local would do for one day then you haven’t really been there. When people go to all these different countries but just stay in their hotels all day, it doesn’t really count as you being there because you didn’t do anything. So when you go on vacation, you should try new things, for example, try a new food, a traditional food from the place, do a certain activity that is famous in the country. When you try new things you are opening yourself up and connecting with the world that you aren’t used to. I feel like every time I go to a vacation, to explore (not to visit family) I change in a small way, something new always opens up for me. 2 years ago for Christmas I did a service trip with Habitat for Humanities with my family, and I felt so good, the feeling is so happy. I did something not for me but for somebody else that Christmas. And because I wasn’t focusing on myself and I was focusing on helping, I didn’t really mind that I wasn’t opening presents, and eating and usual stuff you do. So I do agree with the author, you change during trips and it stops becoming more about you and more about the big picture.

    When I saw the Torah I felt so surprised and fascinated at the same time. I felt like this because we had just talked in class about how the Torah was so holy to the jews, and that it can’t even be touched. I didn’t actually expect to be able to see one so close. I felt like there was no bad in the room and everything just went good. In the way that I believe in the saying there is always some evil in good, and some good in evil. But at that moment everything was good. I haven’t really ever experienced the same feeling before. But when I was little and I went to Egypt to the Pyramids to explore. My mom and I went inside the second pyramid, and I was just as fascinated as I was with the Torah. It’s something that you hear about all the time, but you never really think you will see it with your own eyes.

  10. Agnes says:

    I agree that one will have a higher moral elevation when taking a vacation. Being in Hong Kong, and especially in an international school, we tend to always be isolated in this black hole that we cant get out of. I think we should spend our vacation going to different places and experience different things. We can learn so much more by going and visiting the orphanage in China than reading about it, we can learn so much more by going to africa to help the starving children than just donating money. Not only do we gain more experience but it makes you reflect on your own life. Like said, i didn’t know that “holiday” came from the word “holy day.” I agree that we should be spending our time exploring.

    When ever I perform on stage, weather it is for theater or singing, it is at that very moment is when i feel like its “sacred.” When stepping on the stage, and you have become the character of the play, it was like stepping into the synagogue. Like stepping into another world, into someone else’s shoes. Like that women when you explained how she trails off, smiles and lifted her shoulders, that is the same feeling i get when after a performance. Feeling empowered and accomplishment, it is like all my hard work had payed off.
    Another “sacred” moment would have to be when i am playing basketball in a game. It is like all my worries about homework, friends, grades had vanished and all i focus on is winning the game. Just like stepping into the synagogue, it was like being in a different world, a world where i am determined and concentrated.

  11. Elise Chan says:

    I haven’t encountered a feeling of the ‘sacred’ in my life, but when I do, I find that it affects my feelings a lot. When our religion class went to the Ohel Leah Synagogue, we had the chance to enter through the thick curtains and into the room which contained numerous Torah scrolls. When I entered, everything felt different. The sound, the aura and the feel of everything seemed to change, almost as if it was another dimension with completely different concepts. As soon as I stepped into the room, everything became quiet. The scrolls radiated a sense of power, which I was really attracted to. At the same time, there was this other thought in my head- one which told me NOT to touch it, and to stay away. In class, we talked about how restrictions usually make something more appealing, and it was that way for me. Another occasion where I experienced something similar to this was then I went to a basilica in Europe- I forgot exactly where- and we got to see a saint’s hand, preserved within a embedded gold glass case. It was basically a miracle, considering how it hadn’t received a single bit of treatment and was still perfectly preserved on its own. It even had gold rings on its fingers. While I was filled with disgust, I also felt a sense of ‘sacredness’ because this object was extremely rare, miraculous and was ‘restricted’. (not that I wanted to touch it or anything!) I think this feeling connects to the ‘Big I and small I’ topic we talked about in religion class a while ago. These religious experiences contribute to my ‘Big I’, because I am able to gain a more whole sense. I think the main thing that gives me the ‘sacred’ sense is when I go to any Christian event. Usually the place I get a more pronounced ‘sacred’ feeling would be at Resound(a Christian concert) or during service. The music really brings that mood to me, and makes me feel really reflective and deep.

  12. Arnesh Batlaw says:

    I really agree with this post. I think we do feel a moral when we go on vacations. I think this is because we away from our everyday, normal, ordinary lives, and we enter the special world. We venture into the unknown, and experience sites that are bigger than us.
    I though some more about why we felt the sacred in the synagogue. I think it’s because the Torah is so much bigger than us. It’s been around for thousands of years, and so many people worship it. Often times, we feel like we are the center of the world. However, when you come to the synagogue, you get that feeling of being a part of something bigger than you.
    I felt the sacred when I used to live in Switzerland. We went to this famous, huge church, although I don’t think the word “Church” is appropriate. This place was huge. It had a tunnel, and even some cells and much more. When I entered, it was an eery silence. I felt a bit vulnerable, but as I ventured farther and farther (each time we came, we “explored” a new part of the place), I started to slowly feel the sacred. The age, design, and meaning of the place made me felt the sacred.

  13. Heidi Kwan says:

    I agree that you feel moral elevation when entering the Synagogue. Walking into the Synagogue I was astonished by how homey it felt. When first walking in that was the feeling I got although as I was approaching the arch at the back I had a different feeling. It felt like I was approaching something very special and I couldn’t help but feel special myself. Not special as in the dictionary definition but special as in different something you can’t exactly explain. While standing under the arch by the door and seeing the Torah Scrolls it was unbelievable. Unbelievable how much effort was put into the scrolls, dedication and grandness was radiating off the scrolls. I feel like not being able to touch the Torah just made the scrolls that much more meaningful and special. It created a sense of holiness. It wasn’t exactly a big feeling it was just the atmosphere that was filled with something different. The Synagogue seemed so sacred and I didn’t really feel the sacredness of it until I was under the arch looking at the scrolls. It’s so sacred if anyone drops the Torah anyone there would have to fast for 40 days. That’s unbelievable how sacred the Torah must be. I haven’t that exact feeling before but when walking around ground zero sort of felt the same way, you could feel thee sacredness of the area and creates a sort of respect to the place, you feel like you have to behave yourself, it turns you good in a way.

  14. Titus says:

    I agree with this post, because when we go on vacations, like adventures, we go deeper into out comfort zone. In Hong Kong, we are stuck in a virtual paradise where everything is given to us and the problems we have are tiny. On holidays, i think it is best that we put our time into doing things that is out of our ordinary lives, such as going to help someone in Africa. Seeing things that we do not see everyday makes it special, or sacred as you say it. It makes it so much more than just visiting a shrine, it goes deeper than just what we physically do.
    Although i did not feel anything when i went to the synagoge, i think that it is good to step out of our ocmfort zone. i did not feel this sacredness but i did feel uncomfortable and a sense that i did not belong there.

  15. Allie says:

    I agree with your blog post, about how we lose interest in things so quickly. I personally felt like that when i went to the synagogue because i really couldn’t connect with the Jewish values and beliefs, and quickly lost interest in it. But, i do feel this sense of sacredness when I’m at my own church. Something about old roman Catholicism really interests me, and when I’m at a church I just know that there are thousands of years of history behind what I’m doing. I think the most obvious time i felt this sacred feeling was when i used to go to church regularly. Sometimes, if the weather was just right, the sun would shine in through the stained-glass windows and project this almost beautiful feeling on the entire room, whenever this happens at church it sort of feels like God is with us in the church, and he’s just kind of saying “hello” to us. As a catholic, whenever those moments come along it makes me proud to be catholic, seeing as though the rest of the time I doubt my religion. Anyways, I can’t say where that feeling comes from…maybe it’s just the ultimate power of God hitting me in the face and telling me, “hey, wake up, i’m important!” because that seems like something he’d do to get our attention.

  16. Casey Johnson says:

    Though I am christian, I haven’t had many truly spiritual moments. I thought that perhaps this feeling of a higher being could only be felt in church, but after taking World Religions, I find that spiritual experiences can happen anywhere at any time and you may not even know until the moment has passed. For me, I have never been a very spiritual person, but I find that I feel the strongest spiritual connections when I’m reading my classmates comments. Their opinions and experiences make me think even harder as well as find similarities in the way we think. I learn more about myself when I’m reading comments than I do outside of class. Because of this, I think moral elevation is tied into your belief and religion. I think someone who practices a religion would feel more moral elevation when they walk into a spiritual place, no matter the religion, than someone who does not practice a religion like how you feel happy when you eat a piece of candy unless you’re someone who doesn’t like candy. Those who like candy will become happy and those who don’t will probably throw the candy away. It’s all in who is receiving the candy that determines how they will react to it.
    My feelings of sacredness come from either playing the flute or playing lacrosse. When I play the flute, I often lose myself in the music and get upset when we stop playing and the same goes for lacrosse. I enjoy thinking about all the complicated plays and motions you go through in order to score a goal or even to keep the ball in the net! After reading these comments, I realize that spiritual moments don’t necessarily have to happen in spiritual places. Tying this back into Christianity, this makes me think of how people say god is in everything. Perhaps that is why I can have close spiritual connections no matter the time, place or company I keep.

  17. Jimbo Wang says:

    This blog post really reminded me of my own summer. We stayed at Rome for a week, explored so churches my head started to hurt. But there was one that I would remember for the rest of my life. That was the one in the Vatican. I still remember how I walked in and felt that spiritual energy. As I said before, there was a silence that was almost beautiful. Although it was packed with people, it really had a sense of space and connection with God. This was the moral elevation I had with my own vacation. A spiritual place is very important for moral elevation and spiritual moments. I don’t think anything will be able to replicate that feeling for me. I will never regret visiting that place because it was so sacred, so beautiful. Safe to say, I have had my spiritual moment. However, I sadly did not feel the same when I went to the synagogue. Maybe it was because I had been there before and listened to their boring prayers, maybe it was because I had no connection with the religion. I really don’t like Judaism because they place more emphasis on practice rather than belief. Sure, the bible had the same rules as the Torah, but they’re not really observed in Christianity. Christians don’t have to eat Kosher food, to have Bar Mitzvahs, to be circumcised, etc. That’s what I really love about Christianity: you don’t have to follow all these strange rules.

  18. Carl says:

    I’m an extreme Homie. I rarely go outside and when I do, I’m mostly careless. I’ve been to many temples, but most of them seem to be familiar, populated, with just too much holiness. However I’ve been to only one temple, the only sacred place that was worshipped by only the villagers in the village: Was my Grandfather’s village’s temple. This particular temple is a buddhist temple, yet it shares no similarity of Buddhist temples in the Shinyo-en (<-based on Buddhism). The village temple does not have any color, it is small, and has only one Japanese "mon" in it's entrance. For most true believers around the world, this temple gives out no interest and on top, Buddhism. For me it is a different story. I am taking the word "Moral Elevation" by only it's feelings, more like an okalt interest honestly. However this small temple in the corner of my Grandfather's village, gives me a fuzzy feeling, which I guess similar to feelings when people achieve moral elevation too.

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