I feel so lucky.
An unfortunately small fraction of our western friends, brothers, sisters, and enemies never look deeply at anything that isn’t almost painfully loud, unbearably bright, and most definitely moving. Captivated by blinking lights, shot faster than we imagine light can go, in myriad colours and shapes, stealing our attention, but mostly our affections. If you ever spend time regretting the way that television and manufactured music and advertising adds a layer difficult to see through over everything that is real and concrete and worth spending time with or on in this world then you, you as well are lucky. You still don’t like how long it takes your eyes to focus after looking at a light, or a screen, just to navigate the true and physical world.
But after that it gets more complicated. Maybe then you are lucky enough to look past ordinary subdivisions and city streets and look at the things human beings have made, sometimes together, sometimes alone, and love them. Architectural wonders, pyramids, excellent music, brilliant and pensive paintings that ask more questions than they answer. We love them, they make us feel like God added a factor to the human mind that no one understands but are eternally grateful for, some sort of creativity that has the ability to imagine the is not and the ambition to turn that into an is. It is beautiful. It is wonderful. And yet if that’s where we left ourselves, we would only be ourselves, believing that the best parts of life are the ones that are most like us.
Another veil removed, we must look deeper. Books may be outside of my hierarchy of sight, as they span through the categories, as a commentary on each, if written truthfully, and always being a part of one or many of them, except perhaps the last.
If you look out on the world and in your imagination of desolate places where your heart and spirit rest, and your imagination is not an art gallery, or an ancient and mesmerizing fountain, but the many sights, sounds and odors that come preset in what we in our limited scope, with base and crude understanding have called “nature”, then perhaps you are one of the luckier still. It should be added that foolishness follows whoever rests and pours themselves into one category only, and anyone whose vision is most focused on the later fields will only understand and find peace there if they understand and appreciate the former.
Today I looked at trees, creeks, foggy fields, mountains under the veil of the mists in their deep sea coloured ancient forms, all the colours of autumn proving once again that age becomes beauty in it’s most mature and lovely way rather than youth, and the veil was torn. You see I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on the natural world. I’ve stared into creeks and water flows and the deepest, darkest forests on some of my coldest nights and begged it for answers. I peered into the blackest night, the brightest sun, the most peculiar shadows and charcoal of leftover campfires, and this is what I discovered: it is a gift, and it is wonderful to behold, transcendental and breathtaking, and yet, it is one more pane in the way of the concrete. We called it nature, thinking it was the most reliable, simple and elegant, hard truth man could know. The ground beneath his feet and the sky that would always be above.
But the truth is, I’ve started to see God in the trees. But that’s not right, I’ve seen the trees in God. No, I’ve seen that, as Augustine writes, what the trees speak louder than ever is: “He made us.” And what that means to me is that He put things that echo His character and beauty in them, but not strictly Himself. What happens when you look long enough is that, Lord-willing, you stop seeing the leaves and the colours and they all mystically and beautifully collect together into a whole, and until you can see the whole you cannot ask yourself it’s truth, and the truth will set you free. Free to worship. Whitman says: “…I guess (nature) is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners,
That we may see and remark, And say Whose?”
But I say it is his raiment, a gift to us as a protection for our eyes, that we might not look directly at him and be destroyed in the process. And I love Him for that. It is the garb He drapes over His unthinkable brightness and wonder so peaceful yet intense and intricate yet clean and one of many colours. It is a present that rivals all others, like the gift of Jacob to Joseph, but in infinite and ever-changing and altering state, according to no algorithm of maths or sciences and so hopelessly complicated that we could stare at it as an ends in itself and never divine it’s purpose.
But I know it’s secret. And now I must plunge head on into the deepest field of vision and hope and pray and pray that He won’t burn them out of my head. I have to stare into the sun, stare into the source, I’m so very very young and I have spent too much time dwelling on and in His creation and not enough trying to let Him tear through the curtain of this haggard and decrepit temple to see Him face to face. I want to see past the last state. To look at the truth laid bare. Look at beauty from it’s source. See justice and peace and grace and mercy at it’s very genesis. Existence deconstructed. To not think and philosophize about trivial banalities and foolish circumstances, and money, O! How wasteful has my time been? My God! I have wasted so much.
But from now till then, I will work, I will strive, and ask to be blessed with the ability to understand the deepest wells of spiritual health and how my eternity has been awakened. I will be used and let Him draw near to me, knowing that He has torn the curtain, and I will draw near to him in the Holy of Holies, fearless, being covered by the robe of the Son. I will flow to the deepest places, like my namesake, and ask humbly if I might be used to give life to His people. If He wills, I will.