Sunday, March 30, 2008

Behind the Curtain

I love the stretch of freeway between Salem and Eugene. Most Oregon residents would look at me oddly to hear that, and I understand why -- it's 60 miles of straight, nearly featureless road, only occasionally broken by intersecting highways and a small town or two. At night or on a cloudy day, it doesn't particularly move me, but on days like today, it is magical.

I was on my way back up the freeway from a rambling weekend road trip down the Oregon coast. I drove when I felt like it, pulled over to viewpoints when I felt like it, ate when I felt like it, slept when I felt like it, and was generally responsibility-free for 48 hours. It was delightful, but today it was time to come home, and I had forgotten how amazingly beautiful the quick route back from the southern coast can be, on the right sort of day.

The land glowed gold and green from the early evening sun, glimmering with the rain that danced across the fields from time to time. The land on either side of the road is flat, quilted with the fields that give the Willamette Valley the nickname "Breadbasket of Oregon." But my favorite part of the scenery is the foothills of the mountains, dominating the land on the east and merely hinted at in the evening haze on the east. The mass of mountains in southern Oregon branches out into the coast range and the Cascades just south of Eugene, and their foothills cradle the valley -- some are collections of high, rolling hills, and others are startling eruptions of rock that punctuate otherwise level plains. And when the vast sky is populated with immense drifting clouds in the evening, their shadows roll across the hills and fields, and I can't help but gasp in awe.

Today I saw this, the shadows of the clowds sliding across the hills and hugging the rocks, and just as I breathed a sigh of wonder, I felt an almost audible click in my head. It is the same click I felt when I looked at the clear, cold sky last week and saw nothing behind the stars. It is the same sense of unfair loss I felt at the sight of the waves crashing on the coastal rock formations, their power telling me of nothing but the tides and the currents. I have felt this vague disappointment more than once in the last few months, but this is the first time it stopped me cold with the sudden dismay of a child biting into a chocolate, only to find it hollow.

I have grown up hearing that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork." And I suppose they might, but I am no longer convinced that every raindrop comes directly from his hand, or that he personally makes every grain of wheat grow. I am not sure he is that interested, or that all of these things actually need his personal attention. I am not sure that he watches every sparrow in its flight.

Today I thought of Dorothy, yanking aside the curtain to find that the great and glorious magic of Oz was simply a little man with a clever idea and a good sound system. I feel, sometimes, that I am peeking around the edges of that curtain, and I am not sure what I will find. Maybe not the God I grew up believing in, who makes every tiny thing happen in its course and its season. Maybe he is not so involved, so interested, so loving as I was told.

And I wonder sometimes if I will pull back the curtain, and find that there is nothing there at all.


Little Bald Bastard said...

Just because there's nothing deliberate behind the curtain doesn't mean there's nothing there at all. =)

I feel like a non-directed universe is more awe-inspiring than one that was deliberately smacked together.

Consider your foothills. Beautiful and breathtaking, right? It would certainly take an impressive being to carve them. (Or would it be more built, sandcastle style?)

Now think about how amazing it is that those foothills are there without any direction at all. And that you're alive in the geological epoch between jagged, rugged mountains and erosion's soft, rolling prairie.

Also, that there are computers and blogs and that we're able to have this conversation. All of that happened without anybody pulling the strings. That's the dictionary definition of awesome.

I hope I'm helping, rather than rubbing salt into your discomfort. feel free to tell me to stuff it. =)

Fishbone said...

I support you as you take this journey to find your place in this universe. And you have every right to have doubt. That don't make you a bad person.

I grew up in the Baptist church in Brooklyn, NY. My grandmother took me every Sunday. But as I got older, I began to think for myself. And, for myself, I realized one truth, religion is manmade... faith is from the heart. But at the same time, I won't stop others from beliving in some form of religion, if it feels good to them.

I still believe there is something out there bigger than all of us. What exactly, I don't know. But even if there is nothing on the other side of the curtain, does that give me licence to run amok and create chaos and mayhem? No. Because I believe in being an asset and not a liability to my fellow man. I don't need religion to tell me to be a decent person. I choose to be one on my own...

Improbable Bee said...

LBB, thanks ... this is the kind of thing I need to think about. I feel a bit like the fabled emperor (Empress?), having taken off my philosophical clothes and having to pretend that I am wearing new ones. I need to get dressed again, I just can't figure out what to wear.

Improbable Bee said...

D, nice to see you! I hadn't realized you came from that similar a background to me, even with all the talking we've done. I like your thought about being a decent human being -- thank you for posting here!