What Came Before

Be Here Now is a monumental spiritual book written in 1971 by Ram Dass. It was one of the first expressions in North America of living in the moment, feeling the all of it, whether that was beauty or agony or anything between. Don’t be caught in the woes of the past or the unknowns of the future.

All well and good, and valuable. But there is a place for flowing towards the evolving that is to come, and for allowing past events to wash over us. Tonight was a visit to the land of before.

I went on a nighttime tour of Ghent centrum with an historian named James and about fifteen learners. The darkness above the evening lights of the city showed me the way to long ago. What drove the people of centuries past? What dominated the culture? Tonight there was a lot of nasty stuff on display.

“When the people of Ghent refused to pay extra war taxes in 1540, Emperor Charles made the notables of Ghent go around with a noose around their neck, as a sign that they deserved the gallows. To this day, the noose is the symbol of proud resistance to any form of tyranny and misplaced authority.” What’s missing from this account is the fate of those seventeen civic leaders. Charles decided not to hang them. Instead he had their heads cut off.

We stood in Vrijdagmarkt, an ancient square with a long history of coronations … and executions. I felt long dead human beings, some no doubt waving flags of celebration, and others yelling “Off with his head!” The whole symphony of human behaviour. The most heinous crime back then was apparently circulating counterfeit coins.

We paused before the stone walls of the Old Meat Market Hall. The rich people of the past went inside to buy choice cuts of meat. The poor folks lined up before little shacks attached to the main building. Their dinner consisted of entrails … whatever was left after the good stuff was sold. For these people gossiping wasn’t a good idea. If you were caught, your ears were nailed to the market hall walls for 24 hours. People would wake up and head over to the market for their supplies, wondering who they’d see impaled. The job of decent folks was to throw rotting fruit at the transgressors.

James did a masterful job of painting pictures of the past – some of them inspiring but most deadly. I could give you many more examples but that’s enough revulsion for a day. All I can say is …

Thank God for evolution

May we learn from prior meanness and ignorance

3 thoughts on “What Came Before

  1. This is so awesome! I do love hearing your words, and the treasures you find, the joy and the whole exploring of your new town! so so awesome. Many thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s