“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” John Muir quotes.
After posting some photos on FB, my friend Marck commented on one of the photos and referred to it as “God’s country”.
Being born and raised in Israel, I was taught that there’s only one God’s country and it’s the Promised Land. Obviously, this made me pause to think about the expression, “God’s Country”.
The dictionary defines it in a way that can apply to everything I was experiencing:
(1) an area or region supposed to be favored by God, especially a naturally beautiful rural area. (2) an isolated rural area. (3) one’s native region.
Driving through the sheer magnificence of the Shasta region and Lassen Volcanic Park, I couldn’t help but feel that I was visiting God’s Country… And this was before we’d even started to hike in Redwoods National Park.
What do I say to the trees?
As an atheist I couldn’t avoid the struggle between not believing, and the awe in the face of this beauty and magnitude. My wonderment was of such a scale I felt a sense of insignificance. On the other hand, doesn’t it seem the Redwoods are here for us to marvel upon and to bask in their glory? They are glorious indeed.
These trees that can reach up to 370 feet, have a 22-foot diameter, and can live 2000 years! So why am I taking my life so seriously?
(Watch it Rachel, you’re beginning to use words associated with god… )
So here’s the dilemma: Can I name any country “God’s country” if it’s not the Promised Land, and/or if I don’t believe in a god, but if I use this expression to convey the sheer awesomeness of nature – do I betray my atheism?
Well, kind of sort of…
I always say the only time I have any spiritual feeling is when I’m in nature, especially looking at birds and fish, since their colors and design make me wonder if there was an artist sketching them. So strolling in the midst of the redwoods and looking at their height and breadth (or shall I say heft?) filled me with awe.
Awe towards what? The god of the Redwoods? The god of nature? The god of Abraham? The answer is: None of the above, but awe I felt.
I don’t believe that if there’s a God it wants us, or expects us to worship him. Nor do I believe that he(?) expects us to pray to him. After all, how is he going to benefit from our prayer, being all-powerful and omniscient? I’m utterly convinced that the prayers, beliefs and worshiping of all faiths are there for our comfort. We live a very short life; there are birds that live as long as we do; and yet the Redwoods live so much longer!
So with that in mind, I’m still struggling with the majestic Redwoods who were here long before me and will hopefully remain (if we don’t destroy the earth), long after me.
As to the presence of god, the best I could come up is there’s some source that emanated this beauty, and it’s clear to me that this beauty is beyond comprehension.
So in the hush of the giants, you may decide to call it God, and I may just keep wondering – and at the same time we’ll both be overwhelmed by this creation.
“To some, beauty seems but an accident of creation: to Muir it was the very smile of God.” John Muir quotes