Category Archives: modern faith
In honour of International Women’s Day, I shall describe the visitor who came to us during our recent Florida vacation as female. Apparently male and female egrets appear identical—a fitting attribute for the day.
The visitor, when she arrived, alighted 20 feet away from us. A comfortable distance. Non-threatening. We appreciated the special gift of her presence and enjoyed witnessing it from afar, like she was a gift intended for someone else.
Then she lifted lightly into the air, flew closer and set down on the peaked roof right in front of us. A nervous distance. Mildly alarming. Verging on creepy. We marveled at the proximity, and fought the desire to shrink away to a safer distance.
We enjoyed the extraordinary presence. We didn’t want to run away from the awesomeness. But a little corner of our souls experienced discomfort at the closeness of a being that shouldn’t be so close.
Just hours before we had kayaked in the mangroves swamps of Caladesi Island, Florida, and we had paddled silently by an egret in his wild habitat He had looked at us from a nervous distance like we were mildly alarming. Verging on creepy.
This visiting egret turned the situation on its head.
I guessed that this bird visited us because someone somewhere had broken the invisible rule of not feeding wildlife. The two worlds—the wild and the domestic—are meant to brush up against each other but remain separate. Respected as “other.” We can appreciate. We can witness. But we should maintain the separation as much as possible. Wildlife must stay wild.
But the separation had been breached, so there was the visitor right in front of me. Staring me right in the eye.
The visitor lingered, so we had plenty of time to marvel at the purpose-built beak, the graceful neck, the delicate white feathers waving in the breeze. The setting sun created the silhouette of an angel, lent a divine aspect to this earthly creature.
A car roared into the parking lot below, obnoxious music blaring out of its speakers. Traffic whooshed on the highway nearby. Unwelcome and mundane sounds barging into the extraordinary moment.
The world of the unwelcome and mundane brushing up against the world of the divine.
Inevitably, the sun set, the air cooled and we shivered in the cool evening. We moved on, because such moments are not meant to last forever. Come the time, we move on, savouring the memory and living with the unwelcome and mundane.
“Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.” —Sir Arthur Eddington, British physicist
I read the quote above in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book was one way magic appeared in my life over a Christmas season replete with the word. At noisy parties, we talked about people with magical personalities. At informal gatherings with friends, conversations turned how children fully embrace the magic of Christmas. We went to see the enchanting, magical theatre production The Wizard of Oz. At our Christmas dinner, the crackers contained magic tricks.
It was almost magical how the universe led me to ponder magic.
Of course, each of those things has a rational, logical explanation. People don’t really have magical personalities; some people are just more outgoing and charismatic than others. Children do embrace the magic of Christmas, but there is no man coming down the chimney. The Wizard of Oz? Please. We all know we have to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. And to perform magic with our cracker prizes at Christmas dinner, we each had to know the secret behind the “trick.”
There is a rational, logical explanation. Except when there isn’t. Something unknown is doing something we can’t figure out.
In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to allow some of that unexplainable magic into our lives. Why not? Doing so opens doors instead of closing them. Doing so might lead to some “Wow” moments. Doing so is just way more fun.
Tomorrow is Epiphany—a good day to open the door to Big Magic. It just might be fun.
More food for thought from Bishop Steve Charleston
“We do not know what is around the next corner.
We do not even know what will pass in our lives between sunrise and sunset. Therefore, whether we claim it or not, we live each day in faith.
We believe. We believe in ourselves. We believe in our family. We believe in others who are close to us.
Some of us believe beyond that, to name a loving power that guides us, to walk with others who pray with us. But we all believe, in some way, in our own fashion.
Let that thin thread, that simple affirmation, bind us in a shared respect. We are not strangers in shadows, but believers searching for the light.”
—Bishop Steve Charleston