Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Afternoon in Raccoon State Park

On Saturday, I did something daring, something I have never done before in my life; I organized a hike and a picnic for a large group of people, including some teenagers. It is hard to explain why this small job seemed so intimidating and gave me so much anxiety. I find it difficult to undertake new tasks. I also wanted the teens to have a beautiful experience. In the end, though, the only beauty we get to experience is what we ourselves see.

First, it was very difficult for us to find the head of the trail we had chosen. On the map, it seemed so clear and simple! But we spent almost 45 minutes driving the perimeter of the park, never finding the roads that had been indicated on the map. It turned out that the "roads" were really just paths, never intended for automobiles!
These pictures were taken by Sophie, my oldest daughter. The teens did most of the hike in silence, and arrived at the small lake full of smiles. The woods in Pennsylvania are very lush at this time of year, but with all the rain that we've had all spring, they were especially so.

The creeks that we passed reminded me of the creek that runs along the back of my parents' property. As a kid, I spent so many hours playing in the water, imagining myself the protagonist in great adventures.

We ate our picnic on the beach (I hadn't forgotten anything!), but then the minute we opened our songbooks, the rain began!

We can give all sorts of things to others. But to give something that we didn't know we had in the first place is a gift, first of all, to ourselves.

To spend an afternoon dwarfed under the green canopy, accompanied by the song of water and the footsteps of companions ahead and behind us on the path, must be one of life's greatest pleasures.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."