At The Watering Hole 11/30/22

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Some years ago, I learned on a nature show (perhaps it was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, the corresponding zoo being just a few miles away from where I live) that animals respect watering holes.  While predators and prey are leery at the watering hole, apparently the predators do not violate the watering hole, and they do not hunt at it.  It’s not clear why this might be, but they seem to understand the basic need of water for survival, and they act as if they do not want to violate the sanctity of this need. 

This concept of not violating the sanctity of certain places, usually churches or graveyards, has even made its way into popular fiction.  I recall the original “Highlander” movie where even the bad guy reminded our hero to remember his lessons, and not violate the sanctity of holy ground.  This same concept has made its way into our laws, and police will restrict their actions within a church if a suspect has requested sanctuary. 

There’s no point to my bringing this up, really, except to state that it has always struck me as a rather peculiar thing.  Vampires in fiction won’t violate the sanctity of one’s home unless they are specifically invited in.  In World War I, if you look at old photographs of cities that had been massively bombed, it was not unusual to see freestanding churches as the only surviving structures after the devastation.  This is because of a convention that one does not bomb holy places or culturally significant locations, a convention the US abandoned by the second war to end all wars with the advent of “carpet bombing”. 

The US Constitution had a form of sanctuary built in when it was ratified.  After British Soldiers made it a point of entering domiciles at will and taking what was needed “to support the troops’ including shelter, the Constitution guaranteed privacy in the form of requiring a legal writ (a “warrant”) before entering a home, and guaranteeing that soldiers would not take up residence in private homes.  This was meant to protect our privacy, a right that, frankly, we are giving up these days as people post so many private things to social media.  We invite technology like Google Home into our houses, allowing them to listen to our conversations (in the name of awaiting their “wake-up word”) and often, since we rarely read the agreements, to record us as well “to improve the software”.  By our own actions, we are reducing our own “sanctuary” areas more and more.

Sanctuary is actually very important for physical, emotional and even ecological health.  I can’t say that predators have figured this out intellectually, but if you think about what would happen if their prey were afraid to drink at the watering holes, it would be devastating.  Without a regular source of water, their prey would dehydrate, and eventually die off.  This would leave the predators with less to eat and eventually destroy them as well.  Is it possible that they know this?  I doubt it, but it’s intriguing to consider.

For us, a sanctuary where we can feel at least moderately secure means our minds can rest from worries.  This affords us opportunities to recuperate mentally.  A friend of mine just built an office in her home, no doubt for her new career path, but I’m sure that at the same time it will become something of a sanctuary for her as well.  Because of the nature of her career path, even her family, including her husband, are not allowed in the office.  No matter how close she is to him (and she is), sometimes we just need a moment to ourselves.  We need our private little sanctuaries.

Feeling safe is also critical to things like sleeping soundly.  The reasons for sleep are still not clear to science, but it’s clearly a time of rejuvenation for the mind and body.  Lack of sleep leads to insanity and even death and has been used as a torture method.  When our homes are not so secure, we find ways to make them feel more so.  I have a handgun in my bedroom and have installed security systems.  Others might have dogs to alert them when something goes wrong.  These and other techniques are really nothing more than securing our own little sanctuaries where we can rest, recuperate and relax. 

And here we are, at the end of the blog, and I still really have no point.  I guess I’m just suggesting that we think about the importance of sanctuaries and respect each other’s needs for it when it arises.  No, if your significant other needs to be alone for a bit it’s not the end, and no you shouldn’t feel threatened.  It’s just time to recuperate. 

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