So much for promising to write on Sunday. You know, I am realizing that one of the reasons this journey with my daughters is going so well is because we aren’t being terribly goal-, much less deadline-, oriented. Gotta remember that as I get this blog back on track.
What a great reason we had to get off track, too! Our journey to the Galapagos late last March was, according to all, the best and most amazing trip of our lives. Where spirituality is the abstraction of wonder, glorious nature is its celebration. Spirituality, being interior, may be more portable and more communicable, but Nature is a cathedral that never leaves you once you make any proper pilgrimage to Her.
I still tried to be Little Miss Didactic Mom on our trip, of course. I had a biography of Charles Darwin with me along with the famous play “Inherit The Wind.” I had fantasies of the kids all discussing the religious ramifications of evolution and putting on famous scenes from the court room of the historic Scopes Trial. However, I was no match for swimming with a penguin. On our last night, the kids staged a talent show packed with pop songs and impressive dancing instead. Books were just so second string.
Nevertheless, I attempted to read out snippets and bits over breakfast, and two otherwise minor details seemed to touch everyone. First was how generally poor and drifting a student Charles Darwin was his entire youth. After years of running away from boarding school and then basically failing out of medical school in a year, he crammed his way through several entrance exams and headed off to Cambridge to prepare for, yes, the ministry. Still, he struggled generally, at one point even writing to a friend at home, “I stick fast in the mud at the bottom [of my math class] and there I shall remain.”
It was just being in mud, being out in the world and observing it wondrously, that lit young Darwin up. He started skipping his classes again, instead exploring nearby creeks every day with the famous botanist John Stevens Henslow. Darwin simply and passionately loved the world around him and wanted nothing more than to honor it by studying it carefully and, ultimately, understanding it. As we all talked about this, the kids clearly were touched to hear that following one’s own inspired path, even if it wasn’t the prescribed path, could lead to such monumental contributions.
Later, I got a big laugh as I repeated my favorite quote from “Inherit the Wind.” When the girlfriend of the young teacher who had dared to teach evolution is put on the stand and forced to testify against him, the famous prosecutor insinuates that the accused had declared that God didn’t create Man, but rather that Man had created God.
“Bert didn’t say that! He was just joking. What he said was: ‘God created Man in His own image – and Man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.’”
This definitely loosened all of the kids up. We had a brief but powerful discussion about how much spirituality is our recognition of, and attempt to honor, all that is beyond us and how much it can be a projection of our own needs and presumptions. Then, we all headed out for a day of splashing with smiling sea lions, floating alongside giant sea turtles and seeing nothing but blue horizons all around. All of us were utterly filled up by beauty and complexity just beyond our complete understanding, but completely within our native sense of what is, and should be, sacred. No book, however influential, can ever be any match for such a direct experience of wonder.
No wonder nature was the first thing humans worshipped.