Sunday, August 22, 2004

nature notes

A rose, in my garden...

I have just spent a weekend in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside with a friend of mine who is in "training" to become a Druid Priestess. Living in suburban Surrey, I don't often get the chance to appreciate the natural beauty of the British Isles as much as I'd like. It seems I have marvelled more at Argentine mountains and Bolivian salt flats this year than I have at the wonders of God's creation in my own backyard. What's more, how many of us (those of us who aren't Druids) take the time to simply be with nature? How often do we step away from the hustle and bustle of the world to sit and look at the clouds and trees? I think it can be worse sometimes for the religious. All spiritual traditions are, to some extent, guilty of forcing us to look away from the natural world. In the west monotheisms we're all waiting for heaven, and in the east, the world is simply an illusion or maya. I think Christians can be especially bad at relecting on the natural world. In a futuristic episode of The Simpsons, chronicling Lisa's ill-fated wedding, Reverend Lovejoy reacts to the cancellation of the ceremony (which is outside in a marquee) with the words:
"uh, this is very sad news, and it wouldnt've never happened if the wedding would've been inside the church with God, instead of out here in the cheap showiness of nature."
Didn't St Paul arrive at Rome and declare "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands" (Acts 17:24)? But how often have Christians constructed churches and cathedrals in which to house God? Not that there is anything wrong with religious architecture; one only has to look at Gaudi's Temple of the Holy Family in Barcelona, the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India or Stonehenge (even the Druids have their man made structures!) to see that man's search for the Divine has inspired some of the greatest buildings in the world. However, I reckon we all need a bit of time to remember the importance of Creation...

Well said there - I've often found woods to be a quietening temple, the grassy tops of hills to be touching heaven. The divine manifest in our gardens (technically most of our landscape is managed and only semi natural you know) may be viewed as idolatry by some, but it seems a more healthy situation to be facing the tree of life, with a pointer or two from others.
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