Dear NEAAERSt and Dearest,
The Well of Ancient Mysteries is across the street from our apartment.
To look at it, the Well is a small piece of land covered with mango and banyan trees, tropical flowers, and a mural-decorated house surrounded by a 7-Eleven, an empanada food truck, a Metrorail station, and flashy high-rise buildings. A wood sign with the faded-paint words “The Well of Ancient Mysteries” hangs on the property. I knew from the day we moved to Miami there was a story there. I walked by it frequently on my way to the grocery for over a year before I tried to find out about the Well. I eventually found an article from the Miami Herald. The article tells the story of a sacred space and the man who protects it from development in our rapidly changing neighborhood. In the Herald article, the owner of the property explains the Well of Ancient Mysteries sits on an ancient site that has spiritual significance to the indigenous people of Miami. As an anthropologist and activist, the owner refuses all offers to buy the property in order for him to protect the site.
The story of the Well makes me think. Is there anything that means so much to me that I would refuse great wealth in order to dedicate my life to its preservation? How do I define sacred? What would I do to protect sacred things? Do I pay enough attention to my world to both see and protect the sacred on my street, in my neighborhood, in my community, in my country, in my world?
The answers to these questions have presented themselves to me throughout my life. I think back to my childhood when the people who loved me taught me right from wrong and the Golden Rule. I think back to being a teenager and young adult and making my own decisions for the first time about the person I want to be in the world. I knew it was up to me what seeds I wanted to sow. I think about the time I stepped fully into adulthood and took true ownership for my decisions like what work I wanted to do, what service I wanted to be, and what connections I would make to the people and things that matter. I think about today when I actively try to be a loving force.
From what I understand, the man who owns the Well land knows where he stands. He values sacred spaces over money. He values history and humanity over concrete. He values tradition and spirituality over short-sighted commercial progress.
A conversation about what we value is vital right now. It is about knowing what truly matters. It is about knowing what we will not tolerate. It is about having clearly defined boundaries and ethics. It is about protecting and defending the good. At this time when values are being debated (as if hate and violence can be justified), civility and compassion are hard to find (as if they are no longer how we aspire to live), and loving kindness is being ridiculed (making even snowflakes a negative thing), it is important to stand (and kneel) for something.