The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Rootedness and Reclaiming the Sacred

Rootedness and Reclaiming the Sacred

There is a peculiar existential loneliness that entombs us whenever we lose our sense of connection to the web of being — the self begins to feel like a twig torn from the tree of life, and something inside us withers with longing. We are left without sanctuary — a word that comes from the Latin sanctorium: a repository for holy things. The word “holy” shares its own Latin root with “whole” and has its Indo-European origins in the notion of the interleaving of all things. When we lose that sense of connection, that sense of belonging to the sanctorium of life, we are left less whole.

Naturalist and ecological philosopher Lyanda Lynn Haupt offers a remedy for this in Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit (public library) — a lovely lens on “how to live on our broken, imperiled, beloved earth.” She writes:

Rootedness is a way of being in concert with the wilderness — and wildness — that sustains humans and all of life.


The word rooted’s own root is the Latin radix, the center from which all things germinate and arise. The radix is the radical — the intrinsic, organic, fervent heart of being and action. Rooted lives are radically intertwined with the vitality of the planet. In a time that evokes fear and paralysis, rooted ways of being-within-nature assure us that we are grounded in the natural world. Our bodies, our thoughts, our minds, our spirits are affected by the whole of the earthen community, and affect this whole in return. This is both a mystical sensibility and a scientific fact. It is an awareness that makes us tingle with its responsibility, its beauty, its poetry. It makes our lives our most foundational form of activism. It means everything we do matters, and matters wondrously.

One of artist Margaret C. Cook’s 1913 illustrations for Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print)

For those of us who live with secular rationality and a tenderness for life, that sense of wonder and connection is a kind of spirituality — the fundament of the sacred, in which the everyday holiness of this world comes alive.

Haupt gives shape to the way in which “apprehension of life’s radical interconnection” — whether we call it rootedness, or belonging, or love — reclaims the meaning of “God” for us who don’t abide by religion:

When the fraught name God comes up in conversation or reading, I always remind myself that whatever the source or language used, we are at root on common ground — invoking the graced, unnamable source of life, the sacredness that cradles and infuses all of creation, on earth and beyond. I know that prayer is the lifting of our hearts, our thoughts, and even our bodies in conversation, or contemplation, or remembrance, or supplication, or gratitude within this whole, requiring no dogma, only openness. Hildegard counseled, “To be alive is to give praise.”

Complement with poet Diane Ackerman’s wonderful personal religion of “the Earth ecstatic” and the young poet Marissa Davis’s exquisite ode to our primeval bond with nature and each other, then revisit the poetic physicist Alan Lightman on science, transcendence, and our spiritual connection to nature.

Published January 22, 2023




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