Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 15

This project has made me do a lot of reflecting on my own life. When one spends so much time glossing over the details of their own existence, opinions and behavior, that sort of thing is bound to happen. Sometimes I land on pleasant memories and other times I end up hitting some of the sad moments of my past. Good or bad, both of them have molded me and deserve equal reflection.

This afternoon I was heading back to the office and was approached by a group of middle-aged Korean men weilding six-foot crosses shouting that the end is near and that my soul is sure to perish if I don't do as they said. As I made very clear during my Buddhist month, I am not a fan of carrot-and-stick theology. I will not be blackmailed or guilted by any god who wishes to threaten me with torture. And just like I don't prescribe to that god, I don't have any intention of allowing myself to be made to feel guilty or in need of salvation for the sole reason that I will be saved from the depths of hell. 

In fact, I haven't thought about the afterlife very much this month at all. The previous two months dealt more with elements of the next world or at least what we can expect. This month is a little trickier because there are so many different branches of Quakerism and each of them have their own take on what happens next. Generally, you'll find that many Friends focus on the Earth as one of God's most important creations. This focus, however, has led to the rise of Nontheist Friends -people who are more like naturalists than theists. Since I've only been to one Meeting so far, I'm not sure what my Meeting believes, so I'm going to have to add that to the list of things in need of discussion after worship.

This split, however, between evangelical Friends, liberal Friends and Nontheist Friends is actually quite intriguing. If you remember my little moment last month when I was walking my dog on a hill next to a wooded park near my house, my soul was captured by the scent of dew.
To me, the beauty of God's work can be seen in dew. It's there for us all, but if you don't take the time to seek it out, you'll miss it.
That line could really work in all three of the aforementioned stands of Quakerism just as it would work with most religions. A few words need to be altered perhaps, but all spiritual people at least recognize the splendor and beauty of the world. 

Want to know one of my happiest moments on this Earth?

In college, I was on a packing trip with some of the "Band of Merry Men" -a term coined by my uncle in reference to my circle of friends who happened to be mostly men. It wasn't gay or anything, we just focused on rocking out in college rather than dating. Some of us had serious girlfriends which, of course, inadvertently shielded our group from new female additions. I don't really think there were many applicants though. Chicks don't dig bearded, hairy men that preferred festivals to dating. Hell, I even skipped prom to see Dylan, Panic and Cheese back in high school.

Either way, we were in the middle of the Smoky Mountains and it was an early morning after a heavy all-night rain. Like usual, I woke up first to find that not a single other person was even hours away from stirring. Typical. I lit the fire, ate a blueberry-tuna-Cheese Whiz concoction that only tastes good in the woods, and left camp. I remember hiking off-trail for about twenty or so minutes. Foolishly perhaps, I was never concerned about getting lost. Finally, I came to a hill where the trees were pretty scarce and in their place were hundreds of two to three-foot ferns. In the center of all of that green and damp beauty was a moss covered stump. I pushed my way through the ferns and sat down. 

From there, I could see virgin forests lush with century-old trees entwined with decade-old vines. A wide creek was at the bottom of the hill and just beyond that, as the hill leveled out, were patches of budding rhododendron. The air was wet but not muggy. Gusts of wind gently rustled the ferns at my feet competing with the song of the Kingfisher and the delicate labor of the Woodpecker. I sat there in silence and smiled. Not once did I think about the details or worries of my life. I simply sat there in the thick southern forest and observed myself as part of the wonders of the world. I was part of what some have called "southern energy". And to be honest, just thinking about that moment and similar ones out in the protective covering of nature, a tear is just begging for permission to exit. Something about the natural world summons deeper emotions within me than any human ever will be able to muster. It's our primordial connection to the earth that forever binds us to this heavenly place. 

All things share the same breath - the beast, the tree,
the man, the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.
-Chief Seatle, Duwamish Chief

This emotion is actually making me reconsider cremation. Maybe I do want to be part of this world forever. I want trees, flowers and animals to thrive above me as I give my energy back to the world. Besides, all energy is borrowed.

1 comment:

  1. Had a similar experience in Oct. 2007 at Grand Canyon north rim. Friend Larry and I had arrived night before in rain. The next a.m. we hiked from our camper to lodge and slowly the panorama opened up before us through the lingering mist.