Place

One of my favorite places in the world is Broadmeadow Brook.  It’s an Audobon Sanctuary, sort-of a privately owned park.

I’ve been hiking the trails at this place for years.   One of the things that I love about it is that the begining of the trail is nestled quite close to civilization.  Leaving the world behind is this gradual transformation.  I am prepared slowly to enter a different world.  This is somehow more powerful than suddenly being fully isolated from houses, streets, and roads.

The other thing I love about it is that I know it.  Deeply and intimately.  I have hiked it in all four seasons.  I have hiked it alone and I have hiked it with friends.  I have hiked it in the depths of my most lonely sadnesses.  I have hiked it so fully immersed in the presence of God that I thought I might burst.

In some way I have formed a relationship with this place.  Just as my own spirits have ebbed and flowed at different stages of my life, so to does this place change through the seasons and different weather patterns.  I have it seen it jungle-like after the rains, over run by ferns and so very green that even the most-frequently walked trails are carpeted in moss.  I have it seen it at fall’s end, naked tree branches reaching longingly into the sky, leaves (of course) crunching under my feet.  I have been at this place when it’s so hot and sticky that my t-shirt sticks to me and the mosquitos make kamikaze runs at my ears.  I have been there bundled up, when everything is white, white, white, and blanketed in snow. I have crossed the river when it is little more than a mud pit, and I have crossed it when it was so over-full that I wasn’t sure it was a wise thing to do because the rocks I usally leap across were mostly under water.

And yet, for all these changes, it is of course the same place.  There is this tree that looks like it was shattered somehow, and yet there is no charring, so I don’t think it was lightening.  There is a rock formation.  There are these benches, and place where the trail is on a raised platform so that you don’t traipse through a swamp.  These are constants in my relationship with this place. 

Everyone should have a relationship with a place.  Not just a relationship with the buildings that they spend lots of time in.  But relationship with a place.   When we are involved in relationships we value both the constants and the changes and we know that it is always there for us.  We don’t just appreciate what the “other” can do for us.  We are simply thankful that it exists at all, that the “other” is in the world.

There’s a whole post (at least) in what scripture has to say about all this.  If I were to boil my thoughts down to a sentence, on this topic, I think I would say this: it’s not so much that the bible says it’s a good thing to have a relationship with a place.  It seems to me that it’s almost taken as a given, it’s assumed that we will.

And there’s also a post (at least) in what hike was like yesterday.  God was so very present yesterday.  and I felt like I really needed that. 

Perhaps I will get to more details about those things.  But that’ll be later.

Do you have a relationship with any places?  What is that place like?

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I’ll bite the stream

The post here began to spin an interesting tangent by some remarks partially by this guy.  (After posing the question below, he asked if anybody was interested in “biting the stream” which I found to be a pretty cool image and slole for the title listed above.)

To summarize: it might be useful, as we ponder whether Intelligent Design is a useful hypothesis to determine the distinction between the natural and the super natural. 

Even if this question turns out to be irrelevant to the whole ID debate, I think it’s an interesting question.  I’ve got a few guesses on the question.  I’ll throw them out in what follows and hope that others will jump in and share their own views.

At the most basic level, a simple analysis of  the words “natural” and “super natural” leads me to realize that the latter is above, beyond, or in addition to the former.   Supersonic speed are in excess of the speed of sound in the same way that whatever is supernatural is beyond what ever is natural.  (Sometimes we use the word “super” to imply very… As in something is supercooled if it’s very, very cold.  I don’t think that the use that’s happening here.)

People sometimes try to run a definition of supernatural wherein it’s basically any time the normal course of things is violated.  It’s natural for people to fall into the water, it’s supernatural for them to walk on water. 

I think it’s right to think about the supernatural as being beyond our expecations and predictions.  But I think if we go to far with this idea we end up with a picture of God like a teen ager, who just found new cheat codes for his favorite video game on the internet.  Everybody else is subject to the ordinary rules of the game but he put a funny word in somewhere and now his character has invulnerabality. 

I’m open to the idea that God grants occasional exceptions to the conditions he imposed on the universe.  But I don’t think that this is the fullest understanding of the supernatural.  I think this is probably a rather trivial subset of the class of supernaturality.

My thinking right now is the full definition of the supernatural is rooted in my assumption that the universe operates on laws that are too complex, sublime, and sophisticated for our puny little brains to comprehend.   This is sort of a “Is the light off in when you close the refridgerator door assumption”: It seems hard to imagine, by it’s very nature, how one could actually verify it.

I’m comitted to the idea that our intelligence is limited though.  I don’t think there’d many people who would dispute this.

We can point to people and animals of lesser intelligence, and claim that they can not comprehend things that we do.  Many of us can point toward smarter people, assume that they are speaking the truth, and admit “I have no idea what he means and I don’t think anybody could ever help me understand that.”

Given these propositons, it’d seem rather arbitrary if the complexity of the universe just stopped at the level of complexity of the human brain.  Therefore, my suggestion, is that the most common examples of the supernatural are those facts about the universe that will elude us because they are forever beyond our capacity to understand.

I think we’re beginning to nudge into this territority.   Physicists recognize that it doesn’t even make sense to say that light is both a wave and a particle at the same time they say it is a wave and a particle. 

The supernatural, then, is any thing which both true and currently not understood.    There are aspects of the supernatural that are changing.  Something which counted as supernatural to the ancients seems quite normal to us.  There are aspects that are eternal, forever beyond our ability to comprehend.

So there it is: my first attempt at the question.  What do you think?

 

cycles and rhythms

I took this hike with my youngest today. He and I reconnected with this chunk of land we both deeply love. And as we savored the late Winter/Early Spring environment, I had this realization about the nature of things… That in life there are great, big cycles, like the annual cycle of the Earth revolving around the sun. And then there are little cycles, like morning, day, evening, night, then back to morning again: the Earth spinning on it’s axis.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning.
Weather and business and laziness had conspired to keep us away from this Wildlife Sanctuary I love to take the kids hiking at. As we meandered down the path, my six year old began observing changes: a new trail cut off from the main one, a fallen tree that hadn’t been fallen before, a high river line that washed over the rocks we’d normally use to get to the opposite bank.
We enjoyed some marks of the season. Though the trees are still naked some of the animals are awakening. A squirrel took these great, flying leaps across the path in front of us. A blue jay trotted up a tree. A branch was covered in this strange, furry moss. It looked like it was transforming itself into Chaka, from land of the lost.
As he made all these observations, I felt this welling of pride, blessedness, and pleasure. It’s so awesome that my kids can have a relationship with a place, that they can know land so intimately that they can see its changes and transformations.
I began to wonder about those who lived thousands of years ago. People who didn’t have the luxury of isolating themselves from nature: they’d observe cycles…
Cycles of the day, and cycles of the seasons. To some extent the seasons would impact the daily cycle, in that Winter time days would be shorter and Summer time days would be longer. But they would be much more impacted by the dawn every day, much like the dawn and sun set are so impactful for those who go camping. And they would be so impacted by the seasons.

There are ways that this would be a bad thing. Farmers might approach the scarcity of Fall and Winter with something like terror. And I love having access to easy lights, at the touch of my fingertips, quite literally.
But there’s also a problem in all this. One is that God’s rhythms are so much greater than ours. We’ve isolated ourselves from them, and that’s not good or natural.
And I began to wonder: would watching these cycles day in and day out, year in, and year out, what would this do to our spirituality? Could the ancients comprehend the fullness of “This too shall pass” in a deeper way than we can, because they lived the Spring following the Winter every year? Because they lived the dawn following the dark every day? Yes, we know these things. They might even effect us a bit… But the ancient peoples, they lived in these reality in a much deeper way than we do.
Some people believe that all things go in cycles; other people believe that things progress in a straight line. I don’t know if I can actually express the next realization I had. It’s sort of that we have little cycles (days) and big cycles (years) in our lives.
I’ve got this job in a Suburban School. I’ve had it for less than a year: in other words, I’m pretty new at it. My current job, it’s the big cycle, it’s the year. It’s a progression, a journey. There are some things which tie a year together. There are some things that will tie my entire tenure together at this particular school. Obviously, as long as I work at this specific school I will go to the same place, work with mostly the same people, teach many of the same kids. From my first day until my last day at this school, there are ways these days are similar.
On the other hand, if I compare my experience of being sort-of new at my current place, there are ways that it strongly compares with being sort-of new at other places. Being in the sort-of new stage, regardless of where I am, this cuts across the places I’ve been. Whether I’m at an inner city school or a suburban one, whether I am teaching in a public setting or at a residential point, the sort-of new stage is the time when some of the shine and novelty has worn off; when I start to know names of even casual aquiantances; when I start to think about next school year.
There are things that happened in a given year, and my brain sometimes files them together… 1996 was the year that such-and-such happened.
But there are also ways I identified months. June, whether I was 12, 22, or 32, meant no school, hot days, lemonade…
I don’t know what this all means. It’s funny how thoughts progress.

Spring

I love this land.

this land.

The curve in the trail

reminds me of the line

your thigh makes

in the semi-darkness

up from the knee

down, into the hip

and then up-

there is a river

Can’t you hear it?

I love that I know this place

by touch, smell, and sound

I love that it still surprises me

like you.

I am ashamed that I litter

unhelpful thoughts on the trail behind me.

But when my mind is empty

it is like running my fingertips

across your bare back

in the Spring.

While I am here (with you)

I am Here (with You.)

I might exhaust your being,

unfold your secrets.

Know

You

Fully.

I love that I can go away

come back again

and rediscover you:

Embrace the newness

fresh soft grass-colored moss

on the old oak tree trunk,

or the chirp chirp chirping

of the babie larks.

Rhytmn

And there is a rhythmin this forest;

a just rightness.

Copper acorns are embedded

in a melting layer,

the last layer,

of snow.

Moss on rocks and tree trunks

is a foretaste of the greenery to come.

The brook whisper-chatters.

A sunbeam intersects

a fallen tree

at a perfect angle.

Me?

There is mud on my pant cuffs and

I accidentally slam my three-ring binder closed too loud.

I create a whip/crack that does not belong here;

Others are coming up the trail

my pen hesitates on these words.

I am filled with artifice

I wish I could truly paticipate

but.

instead.

I wonder if I should

act as if I wasn’t writing.

Or if I should

act as if I don’t care

that they see me in this private moment.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep

I breathe with you.

I submit to your submission,

I find and try to adopt your rhythm.

When I succeed

in letting go myself

I am with you

within you.

I am you.

God:

I know that

you can bring me

beyond this artifice.

God:

Please open my ears

to your rhythm.

Of thee I sing

I love this land

this landThe curve in the trail

reminds me of the line

the silhoute of your thigh makes

against the wall

in this semi-dark;

up from the knee,

down, into the hip

and then up-

There is a river over there-

Can’t you hear it?

I love

that I know this place

by touch, smell, and sound

I love that it still surprises me

like you.

Hiking this trail,

I am ashamed of the litter I trail:

unhelpful thoughts polute the path behind me.

But when my mind is finally empty

it is like running my fingertips

across your bare back

in the Spring.

While I am here (with You.)

I am Here. (with you)

(Even if I could exhaust your being

as it is

now

even if I could come to know you fully–

I love that I can go away

to come back again

and rediscover you:

I will

embrace the newness

that has arisen in my absence.)

The fresh soft grass-colored moss on the old tree trunk;

the chirping

of the baby larks.