Holy Holy Holy

I don’t understand. And I don’t think I’m meant to. The trees. The rocks. The skies. The lakes and the rivers. Yes, particularly the water.

What don’t I understand? The why of it, I suppose. I’ve been thinking about god lately. A new stage of reflection about the whole matter of a greater force. Embarkation, at least. And the only thing I can come to is that any force that could create this world is essentially unknowable. The craftsmanship of an ancient shoreline, the ambition of a river… it is of a scale and beauty so high above any human creation that it indicates a plane of existence we are not equipped to comprehend.

Though that’s not to say I should not try to know it, or at least to admire the work. But I have no confidence that my questions will provide answers beyond more questions.

But when we rip apart the forests to make toilet paper, smash the rocks to make bullets, cloud the skies so children can’t breathe, pollute the water to power the machines that rip and smash, it seems safe to assume that this is not the way to admire the handiwork.

If there is some god above or below or more likely within, and if that god has created this Earth that is our home, it seems the only suitable worship is to bow down before that which it has given us. Trees. Rocks. Skies. Water. Loving the sacredness of our planet seems like a suitable form of benediction.

There is another reason I feel such prayers are necessary. It’s more personal. And that’s the realization that I love this Earth because it is part of me. And I have a particularly frightening love for the parts of it that I know well. The St. Croix. The lakes of the north country. The trout streams. I have become infatuated with it. The idea that, in my lifetime, the trout streams could become too warm for brookies, that the great stands of jackpine in the north, the soft clumps of cedars, could be replaced by oaks or maples, that my children and my grandchildren might never know those same rivers and woods that I love… it’s more than I can even fathom.

And I believe that if this tradition is lost, if this thing which has been passed down for millenia is finally extinguished, that there won’t be much meaning in human life.

So that’s my recent thoughts on the environment. This Earth, our cathedral. Our legacy, uncertain.

* This post inspired by the participants in Blog Action Day.

12 thoughts on “Holy Holy Holy

  1. samh

    Thank you for participating in Blog Action Day. Your post about the grandness of nature parallels the combined effort by like-minded individuals to promote the saving of something so inherent in our lives that the thought of not saving it can only be considered farcical.

  2. dharma bum Post author

    You nailed it. Farcical indeed. I have a hard time writing coherently on the subject because it’s just so hard to believe that people are willing to let it happen. That, to some, it is actually a sign of progress.

    I think it’s important to remember how little time it has been since humans started to leave the land. That we might understand what such alienation does to us as individuals and as a society is ridiculous and frightening.

  3. Jules

    Glad to see you back, and what a powerful post. I sometimes don’t know which is more overwhelming – the creation or humans’ collective ability to systematically strip the creation in the name of progress…

  4. dharma bum Post author

    I know what you mean about the feeling of awe inspired by the grandeur of Earth and the awfulness of seeing it destroyed being almost of the same scale. It’s strange how the two polar opposites inspire such similar feelings in a way. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Lene

    Hey Greg–very nice post & gorgeous pictures. Reading it, I was immediately reminded of another call for submissions I read today. Hope you don’t mind me passing them along. :-)

    Keep writing & sharing,
    Lene

    Facing the Change: Grassroots Encounters with Global Warming will be a
    completely new kind of book about global climate change. Instead of experts
    talking at you, this planned anthology will feature personal responses to
    global warming – what everyday people are feeling and thinking as well as
    what they are doing. Stories, essays, and poetry are welcome, from writers
    and concerned citizens from all walks of life and all ages. Please go to
    http://www.facingthechange.org for more information and submission instructions
    (including a printable version of the full Invitation to Submit). You can
    also help by passing this invitation on to anyone who may be interested -
    friends and family, colleagues, students.

    The world needs your insight, strength, and compassion. Your voice matters.
    Share it in Facing the Change.

    Thanks,
    Steven Pavlos Holmes, Ph.D.
    Independent Scholar in the Environmental Humanities
    Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    steve(at)facingthechange.org (replace (at) with @)
    http://www.facingthechange.org

  6. Night Editor

    Thanks for this. There’s a lot to say for Rachel Carson’s “the wisdom for our own good.” I’m all for her praise of the human creative spirit but also for her call for a collective wisdom to save the earth. I think the best ways to keep the earth alive is to get IN it. The more we and the next generations stay indoors, behind monitors, venturing out only into the cities, the less chance we have to see the earth with “loving eyes.”

  7. dharma bum Post author

    cK – glad it didn’t come off as preachy. that’s the last thing I’d ever want.

    lene – many thanks for the submission tip, I just might do it! :)

    night editor – have you read “last child in the woods?” I haven’t, though it’s on my stack, but it seems to speak to the sentiment you mentioned. and that’s that we (particularly the youngest generations) are getting danerously far-removed from “nature.” and such alienation — a failure to see with “loving eyes” — puts us in a dire predicament, if you ask me.

  8. Mike

    Really nice report! Well thought out and interesting.

    I can agree that the outdoors are my church as well. That first image you posted really makes me feel like I’m in the BWCAW, classic northwoods country, but also they way it’s laid out, there is a timeless feel that matches well with what you wrote in this post.

    Thankfully, we have some people in this country with the foresight of setting wild places aside like the BWCAW. Unfortuantely there are those who will always want to end wilderness, to undo it (Blue Ribbon Coalition, groups in Ely, etc).

    To keep places wild is not easy, or accidental. It is the work of people who are more concerned with other people and wild ecosystems than their own selfish interests.

    When I visit these wild places, sometimes I see the faces of the people who helped keep them wild, as well as the lakes, rocky shores and trees.

    Mike’s last blog post..Moose family, national forest

  9. dharma bum Post author

    Hi Mike – thanks for the comment, very interesting thoughts and important to note that these cathedrals we worship in have taken almost as much toil and anguish to create and protect as any more traditional church.

    And it was the foresight that the great conservationists possessed (and still do) that I am most thankful for. Forty or 50 years ago, it would have been easy to look around and think that there would always be enough wild places that to develop another shoreline, to open up another waterway to motors or another stand of timber to logging, to build another road to access mines or timber stands, wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. But it was those relatively few passionate people like Sigurd Olson and Walter Mondale, Bob Marshall and many others that could see that if they didn’t do something immediately, many of the great places we take for granted today would be lost forever.

    I digress. Thanks for thought-provoking post. I too often think of the people who helped keep a place wild when I visit. :)

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