existentialist cafe

life is sacred

Tag: awe

The moral sense of nature

It is remarkable how much we let our technologies run the game for us. Two in particular–money and the clock–we let run rampant, to the point that they have actually changed the way we understand reality and our place in reality. Money has dehumanized our labor, and the clock has detached us from the natural rhythm of the seasons and the day. How did we let that happen? How does it happen that the tools we use to interact more easily with the world around us come to define reality for us? What is time without the clock? I think many of us take it for granted that time is a thing that ticks on, uniformly and infinitely. We have no moral sense of time – the fitting season, the right time. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for gathering, and a time for scattering.”

In fact I would even suggest that “reason” is yet another tool that has come to define reality for us in a distorted way. Reason is a tool that we use to conceptualize the world in order to think about it. But somehow we come to believe that our concepts of the world are actually the world.

It is almost enough to make me a Marxist, but it is deeper than history, and so history can not save us. Somehow we must learn to recover the awe of the world as it is in itself, not as it is defined by our tools and technologies.


First snow

The first snow fell this week in Philadelphia. I wondered what Basho might have said about it – he wrote many beautiful haiku about the first snow.

New Year’s first snow–ah–
just barely enough to tilt
the daffodil

The new year’s first snow–
how lucky to remain alone
at my hermitage

First snow
on the half-finished bridge

I did not have any verses to write about the snow, but it was beautiful and brought to mind that awe is still a viable response to the world. Despite many snowfalls, snow is still quite reliable in its ability to transfix me. This, even though I have also come to dread it. My changing attitude towards snow is quite possibly the signal of my transformation to adulthood. Enough of that, though! It is a vestige of childhood delight that greets the blazing white blanket as I step outdoors. No matter that evening will bring biting cold, and cars will bring dirt and slush. I thought I was wise when I grew out of my wide-eyed childhood wonder, but this was really the beginning of my foolishness. Now I must make effort to recover that wonder. The snow helps.