Monday, November 5, 2012

New Perspectives

 God's creations

   I went to Riverbanks zoo this past weekend, a place where I always feel overwhelmed by God and reminded of how little I know of the world around me. No matter how many times I go to the zoo, I always see something new and amazing - usually mind boggling as well. This time I didn’t even have to get there. En route I heard an NPR report with science writer Sy Montgomery on octopuses. She describes plunging her hands into 57 degree water to have Athena’s eight arms boil up, twisting and slippery, to entwine with hers. She describes how Athena latches on with hundreds of her “sensitive, dexterous suckers” that can taste and feel. Each arm has more than two hundred of them. 
   I realize at this point that this is a science writer who takes her job a bit more seriously than I do. I just don’t see me plunging my arms into the waiting arms of an Athena. She goes on to explain how even if the fascinating creature grows to 100 pounds and stretches eight feet long, it can still squeeze its boneless body through an opening the size of an orange and how the common octopus has about 130 million neurons in its brain, compared to a human with 100 billion. Then she really blows my mind. Three-fifths of an octopus’ neurons are not in the brain but in its arms.
Wow, really? Who could dream that up and what does that mean about where consciousness resides? I just can’t wrap my mind around that.
But then again, I’m not an octopus.


     “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” 
 Jawaharal Nehru
     To echo DB in a post a few weeks ago, I love to travel! Whether it’s a trip across the U.S. to a state I’ve never explored or even a short hop to the mountains, I’m always up for a trip.  Travel gets me out of the rut of my life and opens my eyes to look at life with a fresh new perspective. And I do love an adventure.  This week begins a real adventure and a true packing challenge. 
     Through some happy circumstances, Don and I find ourselves off on an adventure to South Africa.  We’re going for a wedding but also seeing the sights in Cape Town, and going camping and on safari near the big game preserves.  It’s the beginning of summer there and the weather is variable.  What to pack?  I usually dither about packing for a week and then throw a bunch of clothes in the suitcase at the last minute.  For this trip, I’m trying to be practical, organized and efficient. I hate dragging a lot of baggage with me. I’m packing light - can I do two weeks (plus a wedding!) with just a backpack and a carryon?   
     I find myself more and more often choosing less as more. I don’t want my all my stuff to get in the way of the real art of seeing the world. 
    (I’ll also be blogging about the trip at if you want to read more and see pictures from our adventure.) 


On All Saints Day, I spent some time remembering the saints who have touched my life. One of the ways I did this was by listening to a favorite sermon by my friend and seminary professor, Dan Goodman. It is titled "I Am Writing Blindly," and as a writer, it's not surprising that this is the one I remember most. Dr. Goodman was fascinated by the written final words of various people throughout history, from a sailor on a Russian nuclear submarine to the apostle Paul. He wondered, why do we write? He decided, "Every sentence, in its own way, is a search for God. Every period at the end of a sentence is another admission of failure, another frustration. So what do we do? We start another sentence, always searching, always seeking. But God, ever the ironist, always seems to reside in the next sentence." In his brief time on earth, Dr. Goodman taught me much about writing, about God, about life. He is now at the place where all the periods and question marks have become exclamation points. As for me, I keep writing blindly, groping for the next word, the next sentence, believing God is just that near.


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