Monday, December 14, 2009

A Line I Can't Cross

I reached the line in Gerald May’s The Wisdom of Wilderness that I can’t cross.

We’ve been reading May’s book as part of a discussion group over at The High Calling Blogs. This past week, we read chapter 10, “Natural Being,” in which May recounts a dream he had about encountering a mountain lion. From the dream, May moves to a short discussion about animal being and healing. When he talks about healing, he says this:

“Some of us still see the earth as an enemy, something to conquer, subjugate, and squander. More of us, thank God, now see it as something to cherish and to care for. But even in our cherishing, the earth remains an ‘it,’ a ‘something,’ an object that is not us. The popular language is ‘stewardship of the environment.’ Stewards are managers, overseers, caretakers, and no matter how benevolent they are, they must forever remain apart from that which they care for…Before we can effectively heal the wounds we have inflicted upon the rest of Nature, we must allow ourselves to be healed. And we must allow the rest of Nature to help us…

“I have never been able to do this for myself. It has to come through grace, in the Presence of the One I called the Power of the Slowing, the Wisdom of the Wild.”

May is not talking about God, but he is talking about a kind of god, a god that is creation. He’s infused it with a supra-human spirit and given it voice and personality, but it is still, ultimately, creation, the natural world, but the natural world that has a very human-like presence projected on to it.

There's one chapter left, and I will finish the book. But this is a line I can’t cross. Perhaps I’m too modernist, too corporate, too “religious” – but May has now formally established the point he’s been aiming at all along – oneness with, and the worship of, the creation. It’s an old, old problem, and it’s called idolatry. And it’s ultimately destructive of that very self May is so desperate to find in his book.

10 comments:

Laura said...

I am hearing you, Glynn. I think I've convinced myself that maybe May is talking about God...because that is Who heals me. And that's what I want to believe. But he has given us hints along the way of this way of thinking, and I think perhaps you are right.

Thanks for calling a spade a spade.

L.L. Barkat said...

It's so interesting how we respond to these things from our unique perspectives. I admit that I am getting a different message from May. And it is a subtle difference, I guess.

To me, having done that year of outdoor solitude, I identify deeply with the "healing power" of nature. Not one worthy of worship, but one worthy of acceptance as a gift from the Creator. Interestingly, this has some support now through psychological studies (the way nature heals us, not the part about the Creator :)

In the end, I can't really know May's heart or determine for absolute sure what he's experiencing. But I can say what happened to me. There is a letting down, a letting go, a kind of Sabbath experience when I go outdoors... much like the way the Psalmist finds his deepest thoughts under the stars.

(so glad we are reading this together! :)

Marcus Goodyear said...

Yes, you are right, Glynn. We should never worship the creation instead of (or in addition to) the Creator.

And yet, parts of the creation contain the image of God. Humans do at least. And our relationship to creation is very very important.

Funny that you think of yourself as too corporate. As we finish this book, I'd love to hear from you what you think would be a good study for the next one.

Doug Spurling said...

Glynn as I read what I thought to be a teaching contrary to the Word of God I was nervous that you were going along with this, and then relieved that you drew the line.
Thank you.

It seems quite clear that we ARE stewards to have dominion over and tend the garden God has given us called earth.

God says it this way:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”;

nAncY said...

you were able to do what i could not bring myself to do. i could not continue reading the book and continue to post on how i felt about it any more.

i felt the very very fine line that he was crossing over. from finding God speaking through His creation over to speaking of God's creation as a power seprate from God.

if we go to a place to pay attention, then God is going to be there.

if we went into the dessert to pay attention, then we would conntct with Him there.

if we went into a padded cell to pay attention, then even the cell would seem like it had power.

i think that it he actual power that we feel is when we come to a place to be alone with and to seek God we will feel His power speak to us through the Holy Spirit. and that can seem to us as if it is in anything around us as well.

if we look to a certain place, person, group, building, as the place to connect with God, it can be a very fine line to cross from there into seeing that place, person, group, building as being a the power that we feel. God can speak to us through all these things, yet it is still God that is the Power.

anyway, that is how i see it.

nAncY said...

i find it a lot to think on. after i commented, i went to read more of chansing francis, and i am in chapter five.

it was last year that i had started another vegetable garden after years of not having one. i felt that God had told me to plant one as a group effort...as it was, a lot of friends joined in for that year. they came once a week to weed a little and to have a potluck. it became mostly about the potluck which was fine with me. and many mornings a week i spent on my knees in the dirt going down the rows picking weeds from between the plants. as the plants grew i was out there one morning weeding and was a little tired and crabby, and was wondering why no one else was joining me in this weeding. on my knees with my face close to the dirt with hands in the dirt, i heard God sauying to me...you weed the garden and take care of it so it can grow, that is what i do for you. all my anger turned to awe. after that when the sunflowers were grown i would go out and lie in the cool dirt between their stalks to think and pray. i thought of how God made adam from the dirt of the planet that He had created. just feeling that soil made me feel connected to God in another way and He spoke to me in new thoughts from that place.

i am having a lot of thoughts about the earth and the universe and creation and human beings and God...along with relationship, communication and how everything is connected and or used for this.

along with words and pictures..and how these come to me...and what is in the sharing.

it is all connected and used.

i think that God connects, lives, works, Loves, through more than i can take in or understand.

i think that we possibly build walls that are for comfort and they can become walls of separation if we do not ever open a door.

it is fun how somtimes i know that God is speaking to me through different things and people... and saying much the same thing through each one that it makes me feel His power of connection.

Glynn said...

Thanks for the comments. Like L.L. said, the fascinating part of doing a book discussion like this is to see how people react differently. Next Monday I'm going to post an overall discussion about what I learned from the book and the discussion -- and I did learn a lot. It was definitely worth doing, and I'd do it again in a flash.

nAncY and Doug -- thanks so much for you comments here. A lot of wisdom gets packed in a small space. And thanks to Laura B. for guiding us through the book all these many weeks.

Marcus threw a challenge at me, and I'm thinking. I sent him one recommendation and he came back with another challenge. Editors!

nAncY said...

sounds like marcus has a lot of ideas these days!

Sam Van Eman said...

Good stuff, Glynn, and I agree.

I wonder if May's healing experiences in the woods and his lack of physical healing from God contributed to this generic (and seemingly idolatrous) spirituality.

He skirts around God, seemingly unable to fully surrender, yet willing to fully embrace the wilderness.

nAncY said...

i makes me think about leaving this earth and everything i have known. things that i did not appreciate while i was here. but, i guess that is part of the surrender. letting go of the things that i think i missed...and i suppose that is what i am doing now, only slower. letting things go as i am also letting go of this body that is aging.

i think outdoors is where children go to be free and be themselves.

the body and mind of humans on earth is forced to forget the joy that heart of children can find.

i think that outside is where many of us go to remember. to connect with that child heart.

though i think that there are other places too, that can help us to remember this child heart that is more open.

a heart that is easier to be hurt, yet also more open to God and joy.

returning to the tender heart of a child. perhaps this is surrender.

the Holy Spirit is the one that is speaking to our heart. i wonder if our chagne of heart is similar to our small child heart.