The Mountaintop

30 01 2013

I just this morning read a section from Transfiguration-A meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World by John Dear, who is a priest and anti-war activist.  (Good name for a peace worker, eh?)  He shares about hiking in Mount Rainier National Park, and his “mountaintop experience” there.  “The beauty of the surrounding woods, the bright blue sky overhead, the colorful wildflowers, and the panoramic mountaintop view cast their spell upon me.  Standing straight ahead of me, like a silent, benevolent giant, was the majestic, snow-capped Mount Rainier, reaching 14,408 feet high and covering almost one hundred square miles.  The imposing snow-covered mountain filled me with awe and wonder…without my knowing it, the mountain was pointing me to the God who had created me and revealed that this Creator God was good.”


Dear continues to go into detail about how the experience influenced his thoughts and feelings.  Life itself and all of creation are good.  He felt the goodness within himself as part of the goodness of God.  The tensions and pains inside settled, “like silt sinking slowly to the bottom of a lake, leaving clear blue water.”


“I knew as never before the presence of peace, the peace of God, even the God of peace.


I thought to myself, “He is experiencing what I have been seeing and writing about—how this creation all around us speaks of its creator.  With a capital C.  Dear credits the time in the mountains with giving him new life, power and energy to take the next steps in his life journey, and enabling him to take up his mission—the activism, writing and peace work for which he is widely known.   


Realizing he is not the first person to be uplifted in a powerful way by a mountaintop experience, he goes on to mention several Biblical leaders who met God and were strengthened for mission on a mountaintop, notably Moses and Elijah.  Forwarding in time, Gandhi, Merton, Howard Thurman had their mountaintops.  This being January, we have the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. on our minds:  “We’ve got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop.  I just want to do God’s will and He’s allowed me to go up the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land.  I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land.” 


Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, after ascending Machu Picchu wrote he discovered “the old and unremembered human heart”; and suddenly felt compassion for the human race and dedicated the rest of his life to the poor and oppressed—his life purpose.


The mountain, or river, flower, canyon, creature great or small, when thoughtfully considered, affects the observer, often profoundly. 


[I’m thinking to myself:  Can I say this?  Should I ask someone quite different from me if they have had a similar experience?  Are all but the most oblivious affected by taking in the natural created world?  Well, I am!  Moses, Elijah, King and Gandhi were.  I want to write about this to you…]


John Dear says, and I would agree, “Every one of us needs a mountain where we can climb above the struggles of the world…” I notice he says above, not away from.  This mountaintop need not be a literal physical climb with a view.  I doubt Dr. King was hiking prior to that speech.  But whatever his experience, whether prayer, meditation, or time outdoors, he equated his powerful inspiration with the mountaintop.  Being among nature helps.  Why?  How?   


Jim Croegaert asks in his song, “Why do we hunger for beauty?” 


When an artist shares their work with us, something is intended, whether a message, an inspiration, an element of themselves, a gift.  Observing a canvas or a sculpture, one can have any reaction from “I don’t get it” to “Wow!  That’s amazing!”  With the created universe, it makes sense that we could experience transforming things.  Peace, inspiration, power, abundance, grandeur, perspective, insight, clarity of thought, new ideas. 


When I went to the north woods this winter, I was envisioning playing in the snow, sledding, skiing, going for lonImageg walks.  There was a bit of snow, but other than that, the weather did not cooperate.  I and my companions sat inside for the better part of 5 days, reading, relaxing, eating and sleeping.  It was lovely enough, yet not much of the being out in nature that I’d looked forward to.  However, there are lots of windows in this cabin, and a forest of birch and pine surrounding.  Somehow, just taking in the view of that beauty gave me peace.  It seemed as if my eyes were soaking in what the rest of my body at that moment could not.  Even as I close my eyes and remember the view, I pause, take a deep breath, and smile. 


This is the power, the gift of which I write.  This creation, to see, hear, experience, feel, smell, learn about, breathe in, ingest and inhabit offers a peace beyond understanding and insights to try and comprehend.  And so much more.  Enough to write a blog about!







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