Spiritual geography reminds us of constants
By Ray Waddle
At the beach, the Book of Genesis comes to mind – all that
sky, sea and horizon, the basic colors and elements of creation.
Visiting Kansas I think of the Book of Ecclesiastes – the
stark wind, silent beauty and farmer humility in the face of vast forces of
New York City feels like a re-staging of the Book of Acts
– the global tongues, the secret spiritual yearnings amid the epic strivings,
the Gospel message jostling with material distractions and other unknown
The habit of responding to spiritual geography – the
religious clues and moods embedded in creation – is fast falling out of favor.
Technology cheerfully directs our attention elsewhere.
Traveling by train recently, I noticed the strange modern silence: everyone
around me looking intently down at their screens, everyone in an internet world
of their own, doing work, chasing data, sharing or retailing their online
personalities. The created earth outside was a matter of indifference.
The era of the smart phone crackles with confidence and
speed. So do the latest dispatches from the world of neuroscience, which is
pleased to report that God is just a God gene, and
free will is just a fictional term for the blind ignitions of the brains.
The dramas of the tech revolution leave the impression
that we can impose a narrative on the cosmos. We make the facts; we control the
outcome and results.
Whenever I start feeling that sense of secular triumph, I
go outside and take a walk (and leave my cell phone behind). What strikes me on
these strolls, whatever the weather, is how patient
creation is. It absorbs our violent fevers and misunderstandings and still
offers itself as a steady refuge, evidence of a silent Creator who put it in
place and sustains it.
Science and technology keep changing. Today’s confident
discovery in physics is tomorrow’s discredited false conclusion. What always
remains is the mysterious fact of the earth itself, its beauty and fierceness,
the signal and work of an invisible God, holding firm.
Ray Waddle is a columnist, author and the editor of Reflections magazine, published by Yale Divinity School.