Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Merry Christmas to all of my great friends in the blogging community!  Your names are too numerous to mention individually, but you know who you are.  Throughout this year, you have lifted my spirits and enriched my life with your words, your images, your ideas, and your creativity.  Staying connected with you has been nothing less that soul-work for me, and I am deeply grateful for your stabilizing presence is a world that often seems to be imploding.

I extend my heartfelt wishes that you and your families will find great love, peace, and joy during the holiday season.  May you reap the abundant treasures envisioned by John O'Donohue in his fine blessing, For Equilibrium:

                             Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
                             May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

                             As the wind loves to call things to dance,
                             May your gravity be lightened by grace.

                             Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
                             May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

                             As water takes whatever shape it is in,
                             So free may you be about who you become.

                             As silence smiles on the other side of what's said,
                             May your sense of irony bring perspective.

                             As time remains free of all that it frames,
                             May your mind stay clear of all it names.

                             May your prayer of listening deepen enough
                             To hear in the depths the laughter of God.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


If there is one thing clear about the centuries dominated by the factory and the wheel, it is that although the machine can make anything from a spoon to a landing-craft, a natural joy in earthly living is something it never has and never will be able to manufacture.

Henry Beston

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of the fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

Richard Feynman 

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness?  Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

Rachel Carson 

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
 John Muir

Only spread a fern-frond over a man's head and worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in.
John Muir 

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious unity and integrity is wisdom, the mother of all . . . There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness, and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being.
Thomas Merton 

Look!  Look!  Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.

Albert Einstein

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
E.B. White 

The earth laughs in flowers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I begin to see an object when I cease to understand it.

Henry David Thoreau

Wisdom begins in wonder.


                                         i thank You God for this most amazing
                                         day: for the leaping greenly spirit of trees
                                         and a blue dream of sky; and for everything
                                         which is natural which is infinite which is yes

e.e. cummings

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Lao Tzu

The world will never starve for wonder, but only for want of wonder.

C.K. Chesterton

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains?  Nature remains.

Walt Whitman

Notes on Photos:  All photos were taken in the last couple of days here in coastal South Carolina. 

Monday, December 5, 2011


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Johann Nepomuk della Croce

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about "thin places," a concept which has its roots in Celtic spirituality.  According to my understanding, "thin places" are those places where the boundary between the material world and the divine realm becomes so thin, so porous and permeable, that we can experience the total fullness of reality.  A thin place can be a geographical place, of course, but it can also be a poem, a person, a work of art, a piece of music, an experience with nature—any situation that lifts the veil, dissolves our preconceptions, and offers a glimpse, if only fleetingly, of the divine mystery of the non-material world.

While reading What I Believe, by the iconoclastic Swiss theologian Hans Kung, I came across a passage that speaks eloquently, I think, of the thin places created by certain music.  Mozart is the focus of Kung's musical passion, but what he says strikes me as relevant to other types of music, indeed any music that opens one's eyes to the formless reality beyond the intellectual forms (preconceptions, e.g.) that permeate our thinking.  While I can find thin places in certain classical music, I can also find them in other types of music.

So on with the quote.  Here is Hans Kung speaking of his experience with the music of Mozart:
Sometimes when studying or relaxing, I open myself to the music, let it flow into me, and abandon myself completely to it, not only with the intelligence of the head, which is necessary for scholarship, but with the intelligence of the heart which binds, integrates, communicates totality.
It is this experience that draws me back to this music time and again.  If I am listening to Mozarts' music utterly and intensely, without outside disturbances, alone at home or sometimes at a concert, my eyes close and I suddenly feel that the body of sound is no longer outside me but part of my being.  It is the music that now embraces me, permeates me and resounds from within.  What has happened?  I sense that I am wholly turned inwards with eyes and ears, body and spirit: the I is silent and everything external, any subject—object split, ceases to exist.  The music is no longer outside me but is what embraces me, permeates me, brings me happiness from within, fulfills me completely.  The phrase that occurs to me is: 'In it we live and move and have our being.'
This is a saying from the New Testament, from the apostle Paul's speech on the Areopagus in Athens, where he speaks of seeking and finding God, who is not remote from any of us, in whom we live and move and are . . . Truly more than any other music, with its sensual-nonsensual beauty, power and clarity Mozart's music seems to show how fine and narrow the boundary is between music, the most unobjective of all the arts, and religion, which has always especially had to do with music. Both, though different, point to the ultimately unspeakable, to the mystery.  And though music must not become a religion of art, the art of music is the most spiritual of all symbols for that 'mystical sanctuary of our religion,' of which Mozart once spoke, the divine itself.
The conclusion is that Mozart's music is not proof of God but even more not a pointer to pessimism and nihilism.  On the contrary, sensitive listeners will sometimes find themselves opening up, in that reasonable trust which transcends reason.  With this fine hearing they may then perceive a wholly Other in the pure, utterly internalized sound, say, of the adagio of the clarinet concerto; the sound of the beautiful in its infinity, indeed the sound of the infinite that transcends us and for which 'beautiful' is not a word.  So music is a 'tuning in' to a higher harmony. 
Six words literally jump out of this last paragraph for me—"that reasonable trust which transcends reason."  Thin places, including music which dissolves the boundaries of thought, are good places to find that trust.