In these parts, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross arrived today with a chilly, chilly morning.
Fittingly so: For the contemplative sons and daughters of the Church, the year has two poles, like the globe. Easter means the beginning of the bright days when we touch the mysteries of heaven. September 14 means the beginning of pre-Lent, when we shoulder our crosses and march with Christian confidence towards the dark door of death, through which our Captain passed on Good Friday…
…President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington on February 23, 1861. (In those days, we inaugurated our presidents on March 4.) Congressman Sherrard Clemens, of Virginia, laid eyes on Lincoln and wrote to a friend, “Abe looks like a cross between a sandhill crane and an Andalusian jackass.”
For the better part of my life, whenever I have caught a glimpse of myself before my morning shave, I have wondered, What epithet would most lyrically describe this specimen of humanity that I see before me? That mystery has now been solved.
…I am sorry that I have not had the leisure to write about some recent adventures I have had on the Appalachian Trail. One of them involved a bona fide, long-house-dwelling, tomahawk-toting Mohawk–a latter-day St. John the Baptist who lives solely on the meanest of trail rations, water filtered through a sock, and preternatural zeal for the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps time will permit me to discourse more about him at some later opportunity.
For now, I would simply like to communicate an Annie-Dillard-esque experience I had while descending Fullhart Knob this afternoon.
First, consider all the creatures that lie within striking distance of a hiker at any given moment. Then retain for consideration only those that might like to take a bite of human flesh.
It occurred to me that, if all those creatures acted together in a concerted attack, I would never make it to the bottom of the hill. The worms and insects immediately beneath me in the dirt would spring upon my legs; the squirrels would maul me about the arms and shoulders; the hawks and vultures, and all other assorted nearby fowl, would peck me about the head. If I were beset in this manner, I would be done for, even before the nearest black bear arrived to gore me.
But this did not happen. All these creatures could have had all they wanted to eat for at least a fortnight; they could have had two weeks off from their usual chickenscratch efforts at survival. But they did not take the opportunity, and I made it home fine.
Now, what did this potential army of the forest lack? Not the physical wherewithal for victory, to be sure. I would have been more or less defenseless against them. I could have flailed and batted and run, but, in the end, they would have had the better of me.
No, what they lacked was: the creative intellectual capacity to conceive of the attack (which I, alone among them, could imagine), the deliberative capacity to enact a decision, and the capacity to communicate the idea among themselves.
Intellect, will, communication skills.
I bring this up solely to illustrate the following. If someone asks, Why is there something, rather than nothing? (And who doesn’t ask that?) If someone asks this question, answers like The Great Turtle or The Big Bang simply will not do. The only real answer is: The Person. The impenetrably grand Person, of whom we human persons–with our intellects, and our wills, and our communication skills–offer only a pale reflection.
We Christians cannot, of course, prove that this Person has an equally impenetrably grand Father and Spirit, which He revealed by speaking through prophets and then becoming man Himself. But we can say: the only reasonable answer to Why is there something rather than nothing? is: God.
1. The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton. One of the most wonderful books I have ever read.
2. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Read the book instead of seeing the movie! The movie stinks. The book has occasional bad words, but they hardly distract you from one of the most delightful tales ever told about through-hikers who never quite made it.