Banu (fyrekat) wrote,

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A hymn to Ra

Going through Maulana Karenga's Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt, and finding much to reflect on. Most of it isn't anything shockingly new, but it's explored in such great detail and with such care that the reading has been an intense and wonderful meditative session every time I've found a few minutes to settle down with the book. Today I found this hymn to Ra, from papyrus Boulaq XVII:

O Ra ... Your love is in the southern sky,
Your pleasantness is in the northern sky.
_ _ _ _ _
You are the Unique One Who made all that is,
The sole and only one Who made what exists,
From Whose eyes humans came forth,
And from Whose speech the divine ones came into being.
The one Who creates the herbage that nourishes the animals
And the fruit trees for humankind.
Who makes that on which fish in the river live
And the birds in the sky.
Who gives breath to those who are in the egg
And nourishes even the young snake.
Who makes that on which gnats live
And likewise worms and fleas.
Who supplies the needs of mice in their holes
And nourishes flying things in every tree.
_ _ _ _ _

Honor to You because You created us.
Thanks to You from all cattle.
Praises to You from all lands.
To the height of heaven, to the width of earth and the depths of the sea.
_ _ _ _ _

One Who raised the heaven and laid out the earth,
Who made what exists and created what will be.

The section I'm currently reading is exploring the implications of an ethical system based on ma'at for environmental concerns. I've often thought of ma'at as a system of relationships which, when properly balanced, leads to a dynamic sense of community and an inter-active lifestyle resulting in the maximum potential health and happiness of every member. It is such a profoundly simple concept, and it applies very well to many aspects of life. I think it's a wonderful summation of what should be the goal of the recent "Green revolution," where people are finally viewing themselves as a part of nature rather than apart from it, and recognizing that their behaviors impact on the ecosystem and that in turn impacts on the future of our own race. I'm pleased to see that this seemingly very modern application of ma'at philosophy has been spotted by someone who is far more eloquent and who has far more influence than I have.

Karenga comments on the notion of the shared origins of man and nature, and its expression in hymns to creator gods like the one I quoted above:

"This conception offers similarities to a modern scientific concept of nature which poses both humans and nature as evolving from similar substance. Especially close then are organic beings which are co-evolved and interdependent as the praise poems to the Creator suggest. This unity of being concept with its stress on nature as a biotic organism, a living web of interconnections and mutual effect coincides in a meaningful way with the ecological concept of "biotic community." Thus Maatian ethics will, of necessity, direct moral attention to the welfare of nature which means respect for and defense of its integrity, diversity, and stability."

It's fascinating and beautiful to contemplate. Although... I must admit that I still struggle to accept fleas as part of a sacred community.

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