Thursday, December 28, 2006

My TREE experience: Desiring God, part 1

When I was single and living in Richmond, Virginia, I was
riding in the back seat of a friend's car one day as we
drove around the area known as "The Fan"... This area is
so named because the streets "fan out" in a westerly
direction, all beginning from the campus of Virginia
Commonwealth University (VCU), particularly from a small
park in the center of the campus...

As we drove West on one of those streets, I turned and
looked back toward that park, and I saw a very stunning
and beautiful sight: The late afternoon sun seemed to be
shining directly on a very large oak tree in the center of
the park, and the Fall colors of the tree were absolutely
brilliant in that light... Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, and
a number of variants, together with the thick, dark Bark
of the tree, contrasted against the pastel Blue of the sky
beyond the branches...

The view was so breathtaking that I couldn't help letting
out a small "Wow", whereupon the other guys, thinking I was
referring to some college girl, began asking what I had seen...

Now, if I had gotten back to the park at that moment and rushed
up to the tree, snatching off some of its colorful leaves and
rubbing them in my face, or running my hands over the rough
bark, I would, of course, failed in my attempt to immerse
myself in WHATEVER it was that impacted me by the sight of
that glorious tree in the height of the Fall season...

So it seems clear, then, that the Tree itself was only a
"carrier" of the WHATEVER it was that struck me; we can
assign the word "Beauty" to it and act as if that is the
end of the discussion; but it is the DESIRE itself, very
real and very poignant at that moment, that raises
an interesting question: A "desire" for... What? ...

Have you ever had a Desire for something -- it could be anything,
it doesn't matter -- that was so deep and so strong that it
caused you a kind of "pain" in the wanting? You can probably
identify the Object of that desire: A woman, a promotion, a
baby, a prize, the completion of a philanthropic effort...

But what do we do with the Desires we (some of us, sometimes)
feel when we cannot necessarily identify WHAT it is that we
desired?? What was it that I felt, what was it that I desired,
when I was awed by the "Beauty" of that Tree? After all,
"Beauty" is a human word used to describe something we perceive
in the physical world, and yet, when we are free to (more or
less) "consume" that thing, we find we've missed whatever it is
(or was) of which the Physical was just a "medium" for...

Anybody who has read Lewis will recognize the concept immediately,
this Desire for we-know-not-what... Human Beings throughout all
of history have experienced just these sorts of desires, and
we have written poems and songs about them, done Art as a kind
of homage to them, and celebrated them in every conceivable way.


While not a logically air-tight "argument" for God's existence,
we have to wonder about the nature and origin of these desires,
and very few of us would deny their existence; we feel compelled
to EXPLAIN them, or, to explain them AWAY...