Natural beauty for the city-dweller
The Psalms are full of injunctions to praise God for various things, and one of these is the natural world. Many of us find a deep connection to spiritual things when gazing at, say, the stars, the sea, or the mountains… As a popular song has it, “When through the woods and forest glades I wander/And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees/ When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur/ And see the stars, and feel the gentle breeze/ Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee/How great Thou art…”
The trouble is that most of us don’t spend much time wandering through forest glades, especially in winter.
We live in cities and suburbs, we travel by car or bus through urban landscapes to offices or schools or wherever, we come home on dark winter nights, and sit in front of a TV or computer. Even the stars are frequently difficult to see, obscured by cloud or city lights. Where is the natural world that helps us to appreciate God? Christian books on spirituality and connecting with your soul have an annoying tendency to tell anecdotes of the author’s deep experiences when walking in the countryside or viewing a lake. Some of us only have a park.
Parks are still good, especially on this side of Nottingham. But what else can we find?
I would like to make a plug for the moon.
Unlike the stars, the moon is often visible at night, even in the city. It is visible all over the world. I am not scientifically knowledgeable, but I understand that a full moon in Britain is also full everywhere else, ie the phases of the moon are universal, although of course the moon is not visible everywhere at the same time. Thus viewing and appreciating a full or crescent moon connects us to people far away.
The moon changes through the month, many of its shapes being in themselves unusual (in nature) and beautiful. When surrounded by or seen through cloud, the rainbow effects are stunning. Or clouds can be blown past, alternately hiding and revealing it.
The landmarks on the moon, clearly visible from earth (and isn’t that an amazing thought?) have given rise to legend and story throughout history, right up to the Man in the Moon on the John Lewis ad, and the Dreamworks logo. The thought of walking on its strange surface and experiencing its different gravity still has its fascination, even now that Neil Armstrong and others have done it.
It is available all through the year, all round the world, its changes providing one of the most ancient patterns of life, reflected in many ways in many cultures – from werewolves to jumping cows.
Scientifically speaking, it has helped make this world habitable. Theologically speaking, it is a gift to humanity, an oddity in the sky to entertain us (and give light to those without technology). Like the stars, it has stretched our imaginations… and it does so still.
Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Blogger