When you are simultaneously reading books about wisdom, nature, and brokenness, your mind swirls in eddies of hope-drenched enchantment. This despite so much evidence to the contrary; seeing our world with despair-tinged eyes, where the sights only confirm our overlord mentality in regards to creation care; studying the metrics that confirm a warming planet and melting polar icecaps; watching ‘progress’ chew up farmland and forest for pre-fab, over-mortgaged, faux-rich plywood houses.
Yet, I remain swaddled in hope. It is a hope born in an infantile understanding of creation as beauty, of nature as God’s artistry, of the stranger’s face as an image of God.
As a physiologist by training, it is natural for me to misunderstand the “whole” of things for spending too much time in the weeds of all the contributing parts. A stunning sunset becomes a thought-train of the influence of polluting forest fires to the west creating atmospheric conditions for super-red hues; a cloudbank over the water wraps the sunset in royal robes of purple and crimson, while my mind delves into the barometer’s dive signaling an approaching storm.
Truth is, the beauty of the whole of creation is best appreciated not when you can reduce each strand to its explainable source, but when you can understand that it is a cosmic marriage of what we know (reason) with what we cannot know (holiness). That sunset? It is love, and Spirit, and unity that only my lack of understanding tries to fracture into discordant parts. Paul Griffiths calls this the “vice of curiosity.”
And that gets us to the notion of understanding, something we humans almost never achieve because we are too engrossed in overstanding. By this I mean that, in our drive to subdue the earth, we take on a superior stance that towers over all creation in ruthless domination rather than a shepherding dominion. To stand under something requires a willed humility, acceptance of the role of steward, caretaker.
So, when I see a particularly lovely sunset, I must hush my instinct to overstand it, to explain it, to force its harmony into vile little shards of scientific reason. Instead,
I remind myself of the holiness of the moment, as God prepares both me and his creation for rest while the sun withdraws on tiptoe, because everything I see, in its wholeness, is painted glorious with hope for a new and better day to come. It is an unsaid nightly prayer…
, a “sally of the soul into the unfound infinite…kindl[ing] science with the fire of the holiest affections…[in which] the invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” Oh, that I could be that wise.
Paul Griffiths. The Vice of Curiosity: An Essay on Intellectual Appetite.2005.