Tuesday 5 July 2011

Establishment and Prophecy

Statue of Peter Waldo.
Image from Wiki Commons.
The year is 1179.  The place is Rome.  It is the Third Lateran Council, and a small group of men stand before Pope Alexander III.  One of them is named Peter Waldo.  They are known as Waldenses or Poor Men of Lyon.  They have come to Rome to ask permission to preach, after the Archbishop of Lyon had forbidden.  The answer was no, they could only preach with the permission of the bishops.  They ignored this decision and preached anyway.  One thing they denied in their preaching was the authority of the church.

Painting of St. Francis of
Assisi.  Image from Wiki Commons.
The year is 1209.  The place is Rome.  Twelve men stand before Pope Innocent III.  One of them is Francis of Assisi and the other eleven are his disciples.  They have come to Rome to ask permission to preach and to found a new order.  Innocent gave his blessing and the Poor Franciscans were formed.  Francis would found two more orders and was declared a saint after his death.  One of his main messages was against the gathering of wealth by the Church and by clergy.  He said that to follow Jesus is to give up all you have and give it to the poor.

Jan Hus at the Stake.
Image from Wiki Commons.
The year is 1414.  The place is Constance, Germany.  It is the Council of Constance, and John Hus, after being promised safe conduct by the Pope and Emperor, is arrested and put to death.  His message was that the Church needed to be reformed and return to the scriptures.

Throughout history, there have been reformers, wanting to change the established order.  Sometimes the order has listened and changed.  Sometimes they have tried to crush the dissenting voice.  But either way, change has come, sometimes immediately, sometimes centuries later.  You can find this pattern in every place and time on earth.  It is the natural order of things.  Change occurs, then settles into the norm and stops changing, then prophecy or reform or dissent come and stir things up, then things settle again.  And the cycle continues.  Most of my ideas on this came from the book A History of Medieval Christianity - Prophecy and Order by Jeffrey Russell.

These two Twins are one way to view history.  Establishment and Prophecy.  Order and Chaos.  Orthodoxy and Heresy.  A constant dance between the two.  Establishment breeds prophecy, prophecy changes establishment and brings a new establishment.  The reformers of one generation are the establishment of the next.

In Taoism, the established order is Yin.  Yin is settled, still, static, passive.  It only acts if Yang acts on it.  Change, revolution, is Yang.  Yang is dynamic, moving, active.  There can be no change without Yang, but there can be no stability without Yin.

~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday 3 July 2011

Spirits of Place, Magic of Place

Lake Marie in the Snowys near
Laramie.  The area around 10,000 feet
I was referring to.  Image from PlanetWare.
In the mountains at 10,000 feet, all alone, crystal lakes, aspen and pine groves, bare rock peaks, thin air, simple white and yellow flowers (the higher in elevation you go, the closer flowers come to only being white, but even at 12000 feet, you can find a few white flowers), a few deer in the distance, on the edge of the clearing. No humans for miles. The wind in my hair. So peaceful, I feel at one with the wind, floating, flying, light as a feather, relaxed. A place of old spirits that don't really notice humans.

An aspen grove.  Image
from Chomper's Chatter.
In an aspen grove, nothing but green leaves and white bark. I can't see more than five feet in all directions. The ground is soft and mossy under my feet. The air smells like new life. I can't feel a breeze, but the can hear the wind playing in the leaves and branches above me, I can feel their pleasure to dance in the wind that is my heartblood. I put my hand on a tree trunk and she welcomes me and I feel the life of the whole grove, hundreds of trees, from newly spouted saplings to ancient trunks soaring 50 feet above me. I come upon a little stream at the center, crystal clear water over black soil and grey rocks. A slight babble as the water slowly meanders between the trees. I've forgot about humans, forgot about everything but the life around me. Many spirits, one spirit, and me in its heart.

A rain forest in Oregon very
similar to the one I was remembering.
Image from 123RF.
In a dense forest in Oregon, the canape soars two hundred feet above my head. It is dark as twilight down here at their roots. The underbrush rise above my head, with smaller trees that love the shade rising above these bushes, reaching for the douglas fir above. Ferns and other plants are at my feet as I walk silently around them. I lean over and pick sweet clover and eat the leaves, so energizing, so strong, so unique. I can't hear or feel the wind. The air is so still. Birds sing above me. The air is so moist you can taste it. My skin shouts for joy as it drinks deep. I can't see far through the underbrush, but the soaring pillars and the vault high above bring to mind a cathedral in England, with the same awe and sense of huge space. But in the cathedrals in England, you feel man reaching for God; here, all you feel is God, nothing reaching, just presence. There are more spirits than you can count, all playing, all interacting, but slow, timeless, for there is no time here.

A pool and tree in the canyon
oasis I was talking about, Nacapule
Canyon.  Image from BestDay.com.
In the hills in Mexico, in the middle of the desert. We walk up the narrow canyon and turn a corner and it comes to life. Not the brambles and cacti of the land below, but bright greens and blues, like the feather of a peacock. The palms tower above us, but are dwarfed by the rock above.  After the dryness of the desert, the moisture is suffocating in this desert heat, but I revel in it. The spirits here are quiet, sleepy, waiting. We are intruders, but they aren't concerned. Humans come, humans go, but the spirits remain.

The glacier just below the Lower Saddle
in the Tetons, where I slept the
night before attempting the summit
of the Grand.  Image from
jcross' personal site on MIT's server.
On the great rock saddle that connects the Grand Teton to the Middle Teton, way up here at probably 11000 feet. There is no plant or animal life up here, just the rocks and the humans camped here. I look out one way across Jackson Hole,. way below me, like I'm on the edge of a canyon. It seems so remote, so far away. I walk a hundred yards and look out the other side, toward Idaho, and it is just as remote. On my left and right, the mountains, so severe, so massive, rise above me. There is nothing here but rock and wind. The night before was dark as pitch, but the sun now is so bright. The thin air is so clear. I breathe heavy, but I'm not out of breath. I feast on the clear clean air. I raise my hands and become one with the wind. It's chilly way up here, even though its July, and the night before was frigid. It had been warmer when at the end of the day, in the last stretch before the saddle as we hiked through the glacier that is now below us on the Jackson Hole side. Soon, we will head on up the Grand Teton. Up here, all is ancient. No tree feels as ancient as these rocks below us and above us. The spirits here are unconcerned by our presence.  We are gnats that they could flatten easily, but why bother? We're not that important.

A canal with swans in Salisbury.
All our pictures of that trip aren't
digital, but this looks a lot like
it, but wider.  Image from Trip Advisor.
Sitting by a canal in Salisbury, England. The man made banks rich with bright green grass, rolling down to the crystal water in which the ducks and swans play. To the south, an old wooden water wheel on the side of an old wooden mill, so rustic, like something off a post card, but it's not famous enough for post cards here. The groomed trees rise above us in a perfect row, spaced so the leaves almost touched. This small city has existed far longer that the United States has, let alone towns in Wyoming, and it has had people here for much longer. There is no separating nature from man here, for man has been here way to long to do that. But the beauty is breathtaking, the balance of human and nature. I am at peace and relaxed.  We sit here for a while before we head to the cathedral. This spot, not on any tourist map, and unknown to even many residents, has captivated us for now. The spirits here are playful, more active than a forest or a mountain.  They are at harmony with us, not from indifference or not noticing us, but because humans are such a part of their world. The spirits laugh in the wind and play in the swiftly flowing water, glad for life, glad for this place to play.

Time Square in New York City.
Image from the midweek post.
I stand in the middle of New York City, in Time Square, cars fill the
streets, bumper to bumper, all rushing to their destination. The buildings
tower above me, the sun reflecting of their windows. Everywhere is movement and sound. My pulse raises, matching the flow of humanity. My heart beats the rhythms, in my mind I see the ever changing patterns dancing across the map in my head. There's no nature here, but there is life, a fast paced, roaring, torrent of life, pulling at me, filling me. I vibrate with it.  The spirits here rush about and revel in the energy. They've known humanity for so long, they are humanity, the spirits of humanity, of technology, of progress. The movement, the stress, the rush, the flow of humanity is worship to them and I feel them in my bones as strongly as the spirits of the mountains or the forest. The life of this place, so different than that of the wilderness, is still its Twin, the balance of the life of the wilderness. There is magic here, but a different magic, a roaring magic and moves fast and ever changes.

Where do you find magic?

~Muninn's Kiss

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