Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mid-Week Thoughts on Air

We've been thinking about air this week during the Easter e-course from Abbey of the Arts, taught by Christine Valters Paintner.

First, I had to share this amazing link, via Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, who say:
Ken Murphy's A History of the Sky is a fantastic art project recording, collecting, and displaying time-lapse movies of the San Francisco sky.
The movies are displayed side-by-side in high definition-- one little video for each day --and synchronized to show the same time of day in each movie. It's simply stunning to see the progression in the length of the days as the seasons change.
Here's the video:

(You can read more about the project here.)

In Christine's book Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements, she offers a meditation or prayer based upon Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's conception of "the breathing together of all things." One expands one's consciousness, first from one's own breath, then to that of loved ones, to the breathing of all people, to that of all creatures, to trees and plant life--"which offer us a mutual exchange of breath. Allow this prayer to connect you to the vast matrix of pulsing life within which we live" (p. 23).

This was deeply evocative for me when I first read it and imagined the breathing of the entire planet. And when I came across this video it seemed the perfect visualization of invisible, fluid air that circulates constantly all over our planet, as the breath of animals, people, and plants, carrying clouds and rain, eternal motion and flowing. Every time I watch this video I am enthralled and feel that it is another way of experiencing the enormity and beauty of our globe and its atmosphere, in a sweeping and total visualization that reminds me of the famous "blue marble" picture of the earth seen from space.

I haven't even finished the "air" chapter and it has been revelatory several times over. In particular, besides this vision of the breathing of all creations, I was captivated by the meditations on "carried by the wind"--conceiving of giving up control and direction and entrusting these to God, the divine. Christine speaks of  the idea of "peregrinatio," purposefully submitting in trust and faith to God's direction: seeing where God's wind takes us. Our culture is so fascinated with responsibility, will, and control that, amazingly, I feel as if this thought is completely new to me: that abdicating the need to direct everything could be not only healthy, but the will of the divine. As Christine mentions, this does not mean that we ought to give up all self-direction, but it is deeply appealing to me to think about leaving some part of my life open to divine serendipity.

I have only had time to take a brief moment in the mornings to stand and face the east in prayer; but I am taking time to meditate, pray, read the book chapter, and stay mindful of the week's topic. Ever since childhood I have been fascinated with watching dust motes in the sun, little particles of water (steam from a shower, or fog), smoke--these give air shape and allow us to see air's fluidity and remind us that it surrounds us. This week I am returning to my fascination with all these things. I find myself constantly aware of wind and air in my day-to-day life, and often thinking of the rising sun in the east, the morning breezes, the birds gliding about tree branches, and their calls ... I feel a bit as if part of my soul is living in the treetops right now. This week is a perfect time to think about all these things, too, as our part of the world has been waking up from cold and rain into warmth, spring buds, and sun!

And, as often happens when everything is right and you are in the "flow," I keep on hearing about airy thoughts and images everywhere. Last night I was listening to an archived Sound & Spirit program on dreams and heard famous language from Shakespeare's The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, 
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
(The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1, 148–158)

Thanks to Shakespeare, we often use the phrase "melting into thin air", but the words have lasted because it says something about our assumptions. If there is nothing else, there is still air, invisible but omnipresent. For someone like myself who believes in the immanence of the divine, meditating upon air is a way to remind myself of the enormousness and pervasiveness of God throughout creation, but in another way the air itself is God (because everything is). Concentrating upon this helps me remember that our entire world is holy and filled with holiness. In this way sacred space, as I talked about earlier, exists everywhere as well.

To return to the central theme of this e-course, I am not sure what all this says about resurrection in my own life, but thinking on all these things continues to feel like a resurrection in itself, so I will cast my own spiritual coracle on these waters (or air) and go where I am taken.

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