by Lynn Adams
On September 11, 2008, I am in New York City (Brooklyn, technically), occupying Grumpy's Coffee House, corner of Meserole and Diamond. I have been hearing, then listening, for at least 20 minutes to a recording: two chords whose outer voices never change, a synthesized reverberating organ tone, slowly undulating back and forth. Feeling myself wrought up with pathos, poignancy, and a pressure presaging poetic utterance -- I wonder if this great OhhhhhMmmmmm of a track evoked my heart-state, or Nine-Eleven did, or Philip Yancey.
I am reading Yancey's "Soul Survivor," (Doubleday, 2001), a collection of essays on religious thinkers who helped Yancey salvage his faith from a bad religious childhood. The opening essay on Martin Luther King Jr. and Yancey's moral awakening kept me near tears. Now I am reading about how G. K. Chesterton helped him begin to retrieve the generosity and love of God.
My thoughts shift to the tragedy seven years ago and the worldwide tragedies that followed. I remember my fear when TV showed fireballs melting two skyscrapers. My daughter, who had just arrived at college in lower Manhattan, was witnessing the shattering event up close. How far was the World Trade Center from NYU? On my map the dots were less than an inch apart.
I write a paragraph on the maturing that has continued in my daughter since that time. I turn my head sideways to squint at it, and conclude I'm a mom in rose-tinted glasses. Oh, well. Parents, aunts and uncles, I ask you, can anything beat the thrill of seeing your child emerge as a reasonably healthy young adult?
Two pages back, I opened my journal to copy in a quotation I liked, and went happily off on the tangent you have just read. I'll be delighted if there is some tie-back between the quote and what I have just written.
Yancey, Soul Survivor, p. 46
Albert Einstein once articulated the most important question of all: "Is the universe a friendly place?" ...
Loren Eiseley tells of an event he calls the most significant learning experience of his long life. Caught on a beach in a sudden rainstorm, he sought shelter under a huge piece of driftwood where he found a tiny fox kitten, maybe ten weeks old, which as yet had no fear of humans. Within a few minutes it had engaged Eiseley in a playful game of tug-of-war, with Eiseley holding one end of a chicken bone in his mouth and the baby fox pulling on the other end. The lesson he learned, said Eiseley, is that at the core of the universe, the face of God wears a smile.
Sages say we are made in GOD's image and that could either be very good or very bad news. On an anniversary of hatred and calculated violence, in a moment aware of mother love, I ask myself Einstein's question.
I'm going to try this assertion and see if it works. The heart-states of pathos, poignancy, eloquence of experience, being maternal, and being playful: these are some of the signs in the human image of God that, in spite of everything, on the whole, point to an answer. Yes. The universe is a friendly place.
Lynn Adams is a longtime member of St. Paul's.
**editor's note** We are about to begin our fall Foundations Course at St. Paul's, and the topic is Picturing God: Exploring Images of the Holy One. Keep an eye here for more reflections on the various images of God we discover through our conversations together, and if you are connected to St. Paul's and have something to contribute to the blog in this theme, feel free to send it to me for consideration by clicking here. -Alissa.