I walked the neighborhood this morning, enjoying the change in colors that seems especially beautiful this fall. Amidst all the rest there are a handful of burning bushes – brilliant in deep reds that stun despite the morning grey – burning bushes both literal and metaphorical.
Then, as I began to turn towards home, I turned a corner and saw it: a treetop of incandescent red amidst the vibrant yellows they had been, against a relief of green that had yet to turn. And the words of the Psalmist leapt to mind: Ma gadlu ma’asecha Adonai, m’od am’ku mach’sh’votecha – How wondrous are your works, Adonai, how subtle are your designs. (Ps. 92)
The World Is For Me
At times like this it helps to have the words of another – words provided by, in this case, Tradition – when one’s own fail. The words inspired in me a feeling of grandeur, one that lifted me. They reminded me of a Source of being far beyond myself, which humbled me. And they renewed my appreciation for the diversity and complexity of all of creation, which awed me.
And they reminded me to be grateful that the world had been constructed in such a way that I could enjoy such beauty, such pleasure, this morning, unmerited.
Or Is It?
And then, at the very next instant, I was reminded that none of this exists . . . for me. My being born is an accident; my living is contingent. My happening upon these scenes of grace and beauty could just as well have not happened. The very next words of the Psalm:
A brute cannot know,
a fool cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass,
though all evildoers blossom,
it is only that they may be destroyed forever.
But You are exalted, O Adonai, for all time.
I am foolish to think that the world was created for me, or even with me in mind. I am, as Abraham acknowledged before God, afar va’eifar – but dust and ashes in the face of infinite time and space.
The beauty of the reds and yellows and greens touch me but they were not created for me. I may enjoy them but I must not let them lull me into thinking that I am essential to this world.
The World For Me . . . And Not For Me
And so, this morning provided two lessons in grace. One, the grace to acknowledge the subtle and wondrous beauty of the world around me. And, two, the grace to accept that the world was not created for me, and that it – and God – will endure far beyond my brief time in it.