Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring to teach me something. When by seeming coincidence a certain idea presents itself to me in various forms over a short period of time. A call to consideration that if I claim to even pretend to be self aware I can't ignore. That's what happened this past week. In one form or another, I encountered the themes of faith, place, and longing. The idea that we are connected in some way to the land and that there are places in this world that resonate strongly with us - sacred places as it were. Or at least that we all suffer from a sort of "global homesickness" - the results of the disconnects present in modern society which leave us all longing for home.
It started this past week as I read Anne Bishop's novel Belladonna
, the second book in her Ephemera series. It is a fantasy novel about a world where one must resonate with a particular landscape in order to live in harmony there. Being forced into landscapes not of one's heart leads to dissonance, depression, and destruction of the Light. People know intuitively what landscapes they resonate with because they feel content and whole in them - they feel at home. So as I read about resonating with the land I traveled to the beautiful woods of Northern Michigan. I found myself among family and towns that seems to share similar passions as I. So with this vague conception of connecting with the land playing through my mind, we drove the 7 hours home and by sheer coincidence ended up listening to two podcasts on that very topic. The first was Rob Bell's "Wine and Heaven" sermon (available for free download for a few more weeks here
). It is an amazing sermon well worth listening to that covered a lot of ground, but in it he mentions how we have lost our connection to the earth. How we must go on vacations to get outside and be reconnected with nature (and each other). So with those words in mind we then selected to play a NPR podcast of Speaking of Faith
with Krista Tippett about Pagans Ancient and Modern
which brought all those themes together. The program interviewed Adrian Ivakhiv, an environmentalist at the University of Vermont and a scholar of Paganism. Who "was first drawn to Pagan literature because of its strong emphasis on ecology, the natural world, and a sense of place. He's studied how ancient Pagan ideas are woven together in Western culture and even mainstream religion. He describes a fascinating connection between magic and meaning, and between sacred landscapes and what he calls "our global condition of homesickness."
Our global condition of homesickness. A desire to reconnect and resonate with place. The idea that there is something mystical or even magical that calls us to certain places - some that we sense are sacred, others that just feel like that's where we are meant to be. I understand that desire, I feel that need to be at home. A few years ago if I had encountered such ideas, I would have immediately assumed them to be examples of what C.s. Lewis described as sehnsucht
- a deep "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what." As he put it (and then fleshed out in his famous sermon The Weight of Glory
), "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
But I don't know if I agree with that anymore (or at least the common interpretation of it that I've been taught). I know its generally considered heresy for a Wheaton alum to question the wisdom of St. Jack, but I no longer believe that our hope is in a pie in the sky when we die sort of scenario. I'm not sure that's what Lewis was intending, but that it most assuredly how evangelicals have co-opted his words (just read John Eldredge
). But our hope is not in escaping to Heaven, but in the bodily Resurrection and a New Earth (and yes I see the significance of "new" there). So, I wonder, how can we say that we are completely in exile here or that this earth is not our home? Beyond the environmental disasters such theology has permitted, it has also led to our disconnect from the land. We no longer live in the places we resonate with and long to return home (whatever that may mean). So what if the answer to that homesickness isn't some gnostic escape hatch theology, but a need to see the truth that the "pagans" have clung to all along - that we can resonate with creation, find God in the Sacred (thin) places, and actually feel at home? Or some blessed balance of both?
I want to explore this more, I need to explore it more. I have no answers just many many questions as once again assumptions I had about the nature of the universe are clouded with doubt. My journey into the emerging church conversation has led to many such questions and I appreciate the challenge to seek understanding as unsettling as it can sometimes be. I would love to hear other's thoughts on this as I work my way through it.
Labels: Environment, Personal, Reflections, Theology