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If Victor Hugo had a thesaurus in 1829 would he have chosen the word sanctuary?

I mean, what if Quasimodo cried “Asylum! Asylum” instead of “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!”?

He may have wound up in Asylum de Bicetre rather than the Notre Dame Cathedral. Esmeralda would still have hung and Quasi would have spent the rest of his days starving and dying in a lunatic asylum rather than while holding Esmeralda at a massive gravesite.

Or what if God had said “And let them make me an asylum, that I may dwell among them”?

The Ark of the Covenant would have been carried not by Levites but mad men.

Asylum conjures images of wet dripping stone, chains embedded in ankles and wrists, rats, defecation, darkness.

Whereas sanctuary, well, think of inner sanctum, velvet curtains, plush floor pillows, soft light, incense.

Same meanings, different connotation.

I find myself thinking about these things when I’m meditating, which I do to gain respite from angst.

Angst, according to the urban dictionary means the following:

“Angst, often confused with anxiety, is a transcendent emotion in that it combines the unbearable anguish of life with the hopes of overcoming this seemingly impossible situation…Angst denotes the constant struggle one has with the burdens of life that weighs on the dispossessed and not knowing when the salvation will appear.”

I’d imagine Quasimodo felt great angst when he realized what was going to happen to Esmeralda, as well as Uzzah, who, according to the Old Testament, was smote by God after accidentally touching the ark.

At what point does angst turn into something else besides, well, angst?

While experiencing angst during meditation the other night, the word sanctuary came to mind.

Of course, for me, meditating means a whole lot of words, as well as voices, music and other distractions.

And I cry, a lot, when I’m meditating, which I’ve attributed to angst.

But what if it isn’t angst?

What if it’s sanctuary?

And this makes me wonder, what word would Victor Hugo have used?

Harmonious? My tears are one with the universe?

Or pastoral… aah, yes, sweet nectar of dew coursing down my cheeks.

Maybe tranquil? Though I can think of nothing tranquil about sobs and snot…

What if my meditative space is crying

“Sanctuary! Sanctuary!”,


“Asylum” Asylum”?


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