Tag Archives: God

Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.…

Auguries of Innocence, Wm.Blake 1757-1827

image
Symmetry

A pedestrian event, indeed. I was merely eating dinner. At home no less, with a spouse too tired to leave the house or do much of anything but sleep in front of the basketball game. The simple garden vegetable on my plate resisted the process, by calling attention to its perfection and symmetry.
Meaning no harm, I posted a photo with no caption. Fascinated by things that grow, I do that sometimes. What a furor. I asked whether a scientist or mathematician could confirm whether my little broccoflower spear held within it the mystery of a Fibonacci number, as does a pinecone. Corrected, I now know that the formula which describes the formation of spirals in nature was is called a Fibonacci sequence.

I then asked whether this revelation might not “make theists of atheists, and atheists of theists.” Mistake. Or the most interesting conversation one could have with a diverse group of people. My attempt at making everyone right, “It doesn’t matter whether you call it God or nature,” did not cool matters, but enflamed the conversation. Those who are firm atheists were unmoved; those who are firm believers were incredulous at the inability of their peers to see meaning in nature’s perfection.

I have not returned to the conversation, but concluded that even we, who may not consider ourselves true believers, sometimes catch a glimpse of something more. Clearly I don’t believe the glimpse of something more must be transcendent, it can just as well, more likely in my worldview, be immanent. Yet, it is a glimpse of the extraordinary, the consummate, the perfectly miraculous. Tinker Bell flies by with her little lantern in hand, tiny wings frantically beating, and we catch a glimpse of the eternal. Or we don’t.

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Embodied Religion

By Jule_Berlin (originally posted to Flickr as [1]) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ponte Maceira on El Camino by Jule Berlin (via Wiki Commons) Share Alike

I continue writing about pilgrimage: embodied religion in nature. Serenity itself? Yes. There is beauty in nature, and oneness with nature that those who don’t hunt or fish or climb mountains might not otherwise access. There is beauty and peace in nature, and even fear, in nature that those who go on an evening stroll might wish to deepen or face. In deepening one’s connection to the land, one may deepen one’s connection to a transcendental God, or to the immanental god within.

And all those pilgrim symbols, from staff to cross, and pilgrim paths, within European borders do other, less obvious work. They provide a moving tableaux, a visual demonstration of Christianity as a physical presence. European pilgrimages connect European nation to nation, not undermining the all-important nationalism or nationhood, but reinforcing pan-Europeanism. There is also, surprisingly, something dark that bubbles up in pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is not only a simple and age-old act of putting one foot in front of the other, and circumnavigating a region by foot. It is also often a political act. In some cases it is, and has been, a political act for the good. Sometimes a political act against gender constraints keeping women at home. At others a political act of defiance against circumscription by Vatican authority, commanding the laity at what place, and how, they must worship.

Pilgrimage in Europe, meditative walking, may be broadening, ecumenical, and inviting. It may also be exclusive. Going on European Christian pilgrimage generally does not exclude atheists, agnostics, and seekers. In most cases, however, pilgrimage in Europe is Christian pilgrimage and excludes those of other faiths.

Today, as in ages past, it is the pluralism of Christians and Muslims living together in Europe that is being worked out. Is walking an act of territorial inscription? Probably in part, yet it is much more, and adds much that is positive to the individual and communal good. Pilgrims are certainly more than border control
agents.