One of my best friends, Gabe, is getting married. This weekend, we along with other close friends went hiking in the mountains not too far north of Montreal. I really enjoy the Canadian mounts and woods, it’s the kind of scenery I would only see in movies when growing up. All those lakes and pine wood everywhere.
That’s all I could think when staring at the sunlight coming through the foliage, the greenness of the moss, the colorful mushrooms, the exposed rocks, the roots wrapping the dirt all around and making natural steps as we moved up the mountain, while hearing the water rushing from the cascades into the lake. Too beautiful. Awesome. Awe-full even.
It is not surprising that these places are often sought for prayer and contemplation, both for the atheist who stands in awe of creation and for the religious who praises the Creator. Perhaps there is nothing that brings us more towards transcendence than being raptured by beauty and awe. That sense of smallness, when we realize we are on a speeding and turning rock around a blazing ball of fire and that there are trillions of other balls of fire that are huger than our wildest imagination, and that we call them stars, and yet they are so distant they look tiny to us. The irony, specks of dust staring at the night sky and seeing all those twinkling stars and thinking they are so small when they are worlds bigger than anything we know. The glory. The sense of smallness when we learn about how the atoms and particles and cells of our bodies and of everything around us work, and how we are so mechanical and so machine-like, perfectly designed, yet we are not even close to understanding everything, we have no idea how a good part of our own bodies work. Or that sense of smallness when staring at ruins of great empires and civilizations that had knowledge and technology that surprises us the more we know about them, making us think of how our great and smart civilization is really not that great, not that smart, and certainly won’t last forever.
Or even the sense of smallness when you look in the eyes of someone you love. When you have a million words to say and a million words you would like to hear, when desire and possibility clash and you don’t know what to do, you don’t know about tomorrow, and above all else, you realize that you never own or fully know another person’s heart. That you have to abdicate your control and learn to trust, even at risk of loss, if you ever want to love.
This beautiful, hopeful despair that makes us small and liberates us, the surrendering awe that perhaps is best demonstrated in silence and in kneeling. It is a deeply religious feeling, because it brings us to question and to look beyond our immediate reality.
I wonder if animals have that, I mean, I am not sure if there is any animal that goes hiking for two hours just to see a beautiful scenery. I might be wrong, but I think this is a big hint that we are more than simply animals. We watch, we worship.
We all do it, and you don’t need go to a mountain or lake, really. Close your eyes and look inside. Look deep into someone else’s eyes. When you are walking home, stop, and look to the sky.
Say “Thank you“.