Most often I write humorous articles because maintaining a sense of humor throughout life creates the critical difference between living a fuller, hopeful life or an empty one. Today, I write about something more mysterious than humorous.
I intend to write about how to immerse ourselves into authentic, mysterious experiences of a kind where one can see beauty in this harsh-but-spiritual region of North America – an area most of us know as The Four Corners. I find this region a multidimensional, hard-to-define collage Mother Nature chiseled by using high desert climates, extreme temperatures, erosive winds and duststorms hurtling across dry, barren land. What I find so mysteriously and hauntingly beautiful about this rugged landscape begins by triggering my childhood memories.
When I was a child growing up in the luscious, rain-filled, fecund farmlands of Missouri, I dealt with weeklong rainstorms, murderous weekslong summer humidity and lethal ice storms. Power outages abounded. With too much wind and rain, power lines go down. Heavy ice triggered automobile accidents. During these icestorms, no one goes anywhere except for emergencies. So, to find “un-electronic” forms of entertainment day after day after day, I went outside. Only by going outside might I avoid the frustration of using those new-fangled “television sets,” which failed to entertain very well without electricity. With all “electronic” phone lines disappearing into deep snow drifts, without a landline (remember, no cellphones in those days), I marched outside to find out what my friends found to do for fun. I went outside to either run around in major rainstorms during the summer or to form the most powerful, heavy snowballs during winter to hurl at some unsuspecting target. Without electricity, I was required to get soaked in a summer rain or to battle friends in snowball fights. Although transistor radios were coming into vogue, so that I could listen to Harry Caray and Jack Buck broadcast Cardinal Baseball games during hot, muggy summer nights, I usually went outside to find life, adventure and mystery.
I confess, I usually enjoy writing, pondering, introspection and quiet time at home, using my cellphone, laptop or renting movies to play on my television these days instead of hiking, camping and cycling. Yet, there are days here when God’s high desert interrupts my techno-fun, and I find myself reminded of when I was a child, and the only thing to do to find life requires me to go outside to be engulfed by creation’s beauty and mystery even if that beauty comes to me after going no farther than my backyard.
I often say that, when technology works, guiding us to helpful or beautiful areas across the globe via websites, then it’s great. Wonderful. Take me there. Yet, when technology fails because of high winds, heavy rain, ice packs, stinging duststorms or blistering heat, time for a fallback strategy: To discover haunting beauty offline, I go outside into this rugged terrain, high-speed winds and searing heat of the high desert, like I did as a child in the extreme weather conditions of the Midwest.
Not everyone might agree with me. Acquaintances might tell me, “If your computer crashes, reboot it right away. You don’t know what you’ll miss.” I might tell them sometimes, “Ah, I’ll reboot later, because now I’m a child again, wandering in a world filled with mysterious forces of nature that teach me about a full life in this moment. Right now, I feel called to immerse myself into the rudimentary and primordial where all life began. Frankly, technology can wait.”
By re-emerging into the elemental and primordial, physical air, solar radiance, freezing cold, rain, snow or cooling shade, life as it began and life as it continues enters our being and our soul through our skin, making a clear statement about us being alive. Contending with creation’s forces helps us realize how creation fashioned us in real time and space inalterable by anything artificial. And as we regain childhood memories of incredible climatic and weather events, each of us rediscovers overwhelming experiences teaching us about our genuine frailty, authentic fear, deep confusion about the meaning of life and a spirituality that frees us from make-believe. The Four Corner’s wind, heat and dust can liberate us from the artificial by taking us down mysterious and often breathtaking paths through life like when we lived the child’s life.
So when your next power outage strikes, your computer crashes or your cellphone refuses to power up, take heart. All is not lost. Let yourself wander back into God’s truest mysteries, using anything close at hand and available to you to become alive with your mind, skin and five senses along with your deepest sense called “The Sixth Sense,” which picks up data on an intuitive level, making many of life’s occurrences deep and rewarding. Even if your truck breaks down, you now can experience life authentically as you journey to mysterious and beautiful destinations unknown.
Enjoy life’s beauty with authentic God Gear.
Tom Towns is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Cortez.