August 14, 2014

As some of you know, I deeply appreciate the wisdom of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (See his Essential Writings, edited by his daughter, Susannah Heschel, if you are interested.) This week as I was enjoying yet another beautiful morning and reading Heschel I came across this wisdom: "According to the Bible, the "inner life" of nature is closed to humanity. It does not claim that things speak to humanity; it only claims that things speak to God." He goes on to ask who has heard the trees sing to God? And that scripture claims that the mountains "tremble" in God's presence, for instance. He says our modern way of thinking about nature is to dwell upon its order and power and thus we are preoccupied with what is intelligible and manageable in the universe. A prophetic way of looking at nature, on the other hand, is to see it as "mystery and marvel." He concludes by citing Psalm 121 that encourages us to "lift up our eyes to the mountains," and when we take in the grandeur of life we understand that the world is really more of a question than an answer.

Silent worship is another way that we gain a prophetic or mystical sense of the wonder, the awe, the Question that is truly the beginning of a faithful life. There is something very humbling sitting there in silence in a circle with you all or in quiet prayer at the beginning of the day. It is a deeply humbling state of being.

Yes, we believe we know a great deal about nature, about the universe, about the human brain, for example, and we continue to learn more. But from the perspective of wonder and mystery we know so very little - about how birds fly, how trees communicate, the nature of some primal "love" that drives the procreation of all of life, or, for that matter, what incredibly complex process it takes for me to manage to create these ideas and words and send them to you! Isn't it sort of exciting to think that, after all, the "inner life" of nature, and by extension, all of creation and God, is actually, ultimately "closed" to us. It is enough, perhaps,  to have even the amazing if limited access we do have to the wonder and awe that surrounds us.