Thursday, August 18, 2011

An Open-Air Cathedral

There are no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being children of nature, we are intensely poetical. We would deem it sacrilege to build a house for The One who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and in the vast jeweled vault of the night sky! A God who is enrobed in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire; who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth spirit upon fragrant southern airs, ... such a God needs no lesser cathedral.
          From: The Wisdom of the Native Americans, Kent Nerburn, Ed., pp. 86-7
I practiced T'ai Chi Chih today in the temple of my backyard. I was filled up with the spaciousness and silence of my surroundings. The sun was hot, the breeze infrequent, the quiet interrupted only by the occasional dash of chipmunks chasing through the vast undergrowth.

Once or twice my temple bells--wind chimes--rang out into the quiet expanse of trees and vegetation. The goose and chickens, dog and cat ... all were silent.

Last night Frances and I watched the movie 127 Hours which is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a 20-something hiker and adventurer whose daytrip into a Utah canyon turned into a five day odyssey of survival. Ralston eventually escaped his predicament by bravely excising his lower right arm.

Afterward Frances commented that the movie reminded her of a Native American vision quest. Indeed, Ralston experienced numerous memories, visions, and hallucinations throughout his ordeal. Ultimately it was a vision of his future son--conceived with a wife he would meet three years later--that spurred him to perform his life-saving deed.

According to the movie, Ralston's traumatic experience did not stop him from venturing back into the stark beauty where he lost his arm. It's easy to understand this because the film poignantly portrayed the beauty and sacredness of Ralston's own beloved natural shrine.

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