Sacrifice

The word and the concept of sacrifice has been perverted in common parlance. Nowadays you hear people claim they sacrifice their time or effort for their job or relationship, or something like that. Sacrifice is also used, confusingly, as an intransitive verb, meaning the sacrifice has no object. You just sacrifice. You don’t sacrifice grain, a goat or blood. For example: “When Are You Sacrificing Too Much in Your Relationship?” Can you please specify what am I sacrificing? Do I need to sacrifice animals or virgins for successful relationship?

I’m an old fashioned guy. I played Magic: The Gathering, a collectible card game, in my early teens. In the game you sacrificed cards, usually for some sort of benefit, like for summoning a demon you had to sacrifice another creature. This is how sacrifice works. It has been part of every religious tradition in history as far as I know (not that Magic: The Gathering is a religion, it just uses the word sacrifice correctly). In the Bible Cain sacrificed grain to God, which displeased him since God is a carnivore, whereas Abel got in his good grace by giving God livestock. Aztecs and many other cultures have practiced human sacrifice; cabrit sans cor as it is known in voodoo (you learn a lot from computer games). There’s the trope of sacrificing a virgin to the volcano god to appease him. Even nowadays people in East-Asia sacrificed fruit and alcohol to buddhas and ancestors. This is sacrifice.

It is not sacrifice if, let’s say instead of playing computer games all day, I write my university dissertation. As noble it is to quit playing games for a while, it is not sacrifice. My only true love, the Online Etymology Dictionary describes the verb sacrifice: to offer something (to a deity, as a sacrifice). Furthermore: from Old French sacrifise “sacrifice, offering” (12c.), from Latin sacrificium, from sacrificus “performing priestly functions or sacrifices,” from sacra “sacred rites” and root of facere “to do, perform”. To sacrifice means to offer something to a deity in a sacred rite. If I sacrifice something for my girlfriend means I would be treating her as a deity. Sounds like sacrilege to me even though I’m not Christian. And I doubt she’d be pleased if I sacrificed a goat for her.

Modern people use the word sacrifice synonymous with giving up. I can say I give up my gaming time to do work. I can say I give up my free time to do something nice for my girlfriend. However, neither activity is an act of sacrifice. Why has the meaning of sacrifice been perverted this way? My answer is, since there’s nothing sacred anymore. Few people seriously consider that anything can be sacred, so their minds forgo the possibility of participating in a sacred rite.

According to modern sensibilities the act of sacrificing something means simply to throw it away. Why throw away food for non-existent deities or kill animals for them? Yet maybe we’re wrong. Perhaps since sacrifice has been existed all throughout history it can have an effect. Some quantum creepy-action-at-a-distance kind of thing. Yesterday I read about a woman who auctioned her virginity to the highest bidder (although she backed out in the end). But she wasn’t the first to do it, nor will she be the last. When the next one comes, maybe I should participate and buy a plane ticket to Vesuvius or something…

 

Links:

When Are You Sacrificing Too Much in Your Relationship?: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/when_are_you_sacrificing_too_much_in_your_relationship

Sacrifice etymology: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sacrifice&searchmode=none

Virginity auction: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/11/elizabeth-raine_n_5290291.html

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