In these modern times, we are beset by a mentality of being “one with nature” and praising the act of “being natural.” Of course, “mother nature” holds a place of very high esteem for us, but what exactly does “naturalness” mean?
It is a paradoxical stance by modern civilization’s members, who are in fact responsible for stretching nature to its limits through environmental pollution, global warming, nuclear contamination and the extermination of various species. We resemble crocodiles that shed tears while devouring their prey.
Modernity is destroying not just nature, but cultures as well. It is attempting to make the world a monotonous place. In our quest for being “one with nature”, we become partly responsible for modern civilization’s animosity toward cultures, which it attempts to destroy and thus creates a monotonous version of itself.
Our fixation with nature and being “one with nature” obstructs us from seeing the massacre of cultures by modernity and makes us complicit in the crime without realizing it.
If we think about it a bit, the word “nature” does not contain within it a promise to elevate a person or a society. Living in “nature” means that a person is ruled by fear and faces serious dangers on all fronts. A person in a natural state faces tough conditions and requires protection. What makes a human a human is not naturalness, but culture.
We have to take culture as a basis for understanding how we developed as humans and how we can confront modernity today.
Culture is the sum of everything that allows humans to exceed their natural state. It is what animals cannot do and pertains to humans only. Culture is the knowledge and potential we have acquired to restrain the forces of nature for our benefit. Culture is the interaction among ourselves and, especially, the ability to distribute all the goods we produce.
We owe our humanness to culture, which in turn draws from the three impulsive desires of naturalness. Culture, in fact, allows us to suppress these three natural desires. These three impulsive desires are self-protection, hunger and the need for procreation.
Cultures impose limits on these desires hence making us human and creating societies. You will not kill your fellow man. You won’t cannibalize and you will create order in your acts of procreation! One cannot become a human society without prohibiting murder, cannibalism and incest!
Prohibitions alone cannot help the formation of a culture. A societal platform is required where common ideals and heritage can be created. Every culture tries to encourage, motivate and provide suitable recognition to members of its society to compare its ideals and heritage with other cultures and compete with them.
Thanks to culture, the first meaningful network is formed when a society is forming its unique identity.
The first meaningful network consists of the main framework of a society, beliefs that allow the formation of basic prohibitions and religious ideas. When societal ideals and heritage are developed in a way that sets them apart from others, a sense of pride develops.
Places of divinity and beliefs are essential to societal life. Thanks to them, we find the courage to purge ourselves of the evil within our natural selves and the forces of nature.
Divinity in particular is the medium that allows us to reconcile with death, which is a cruelty of fate. Divinity provides priceless opportunities to cope with the hurt and deprivations that arise from living as a human society.
The place of Kurban, or sacrificing animals, within divinity is very solid and goes back to the basic prohibitions. Kurban is a divine manifestation of man’s first contract “you will not kill your fellow man and cannibalize.”
That is why every religion, even more so, every culture and basic belief, has bloody or bloodless sacrifice rituals.
Just as prohibitions on incest grew within its original mold to include various family members as cultures progressed, the rule of “you will not kill your fellow man and cannibalize” also continues to mix and grow with different rituals and formats.
Kurban sets the rules for our conduct concerning edibles we need for sustaining life. It reminds us of the need not to kill our fellow man and cannibalize in particular. Separately, it also allows us to get closer and show gratitude to our maker for the blessings and opportunities provided in our worldly life. By getting closer to our maker, we get the opportunity to express our inability and request assistance to ward us from evil.
Undoubtedly, different cultures have a varied understanding and approaches to sacrifice. The most out of line and perverse one is that of sacrificing humans.
For Muslims who believe the words of Almighty Allah are directed at them, they are required to perform the sacrifice worship in a mature and befitting manner, just as the same is expected of all of their other behavior. “The meat and blood of the sacrifice doesn’t reach me; only your piety does” (Al-Hajj 37) as revealed in the Holy Quran.
With the hope that the Feast of the Sacrifice will allow us to sincerely think of worldly life, nature, living beings, animals, ourselves, our humanity, modernity and the state of Muslims, I wish you a happy Bayram.