Holy Metal

Twice a year, the Balinese people hold ceremonies and pray in temples during the day of devotion to Sanghyang Pasupati and Siwa, the guardians of all things metallic; cars, buses and motorbikes, weapons, the kris (ceremonial Balinese knife) all have prayers and offerings made on their behalf on this day.

Leading up to the day of metals, the locals prepare intricately-woven floral and palm decorations – punctuated with hot pink flourishes – which are affixed to front grilles of cars, motorbike handlebars and other metallic items found around the family house and compound.

Prayers are recited, more offerings – little trays made of palm, filled with flowers, rice and pieces of fruit and food – are laid out on the ground in front of homes, shops, temples. These talismans, indicating that the vehicle or item has been blessed, remain attached even once they have withered and dried out; until they are blown away by the wind.

These Balinese are onto something.

So here’s what I think: Instead of reviving the practice of tying yellow ribbons around trees, imagine if we could start a universal tradition; the regular and mandatory display of decorative palm leaf offerings on all vehicles. Once, twice, three times a month – or more.

Cars coming off an assembly line would be required to pass inspection that included the manufacturer’s sign-off blessings and signature talisman; motorbikes could not be driven off a lot unless the buyer duly promised to participate in the upcoming Harley Davidson-sponsored metal-and-palm procession; most significantly, tanks and SUVs in Iraq and Libya – on all sides – would be barred from heading out to the field without submitting first to the obligatory offerings, ceremony and blessings.

Maybe, with a beautifully crafted ceremonial ornament hanging off each vehicle, in plain sight, people might think twice about causing harm to others. They might even say a silent prayer as they approached one another. And maybe, just maybe, we’d inch every so closer to diminished road rage, to courtesy, to consideration, to gratitude and peace.

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