Ansel Adams Wilderness Part 4
No planes, no boats, no semis, no Fed Ex trucks, garbage trucks, diesel trucks, air conditioners, construction vehicles, busy highways, generators, motorcycles or helicopters this morning. Nothing today. But the wind. The distant howl of a coyote. My breathing. But I breathe carefully, slowly, as not to disturb this rare, pure alpine silence.
We live in a noisy world. It’s no wonder we are cursed with the plague of incessant thought. But even the muddiest of waters clear when still. Silence is becoming a rare commodity these days as our world becomes increasingly polluted with noise. So much that when we finally escape to a place of pure clean silence, it hits us like a freight train. The same way the hysterical noise of the city hits me like a freight train when I return from a wilderness trip. But we become used to it. We develop selective hearing. Narrow our attention spans. Or tune out completely with headphones, iPhones, laptops, video games, and television. Why wouldn’t we? How else to escape? What’s the alternative? Ultimate insanity?
So we tune out. We turn on our device. And turn off the world. And in doing so, we tune out the beauty and perfection of this miracle we were born into. We do this without even realizing it. Then one day we feel that something is missing if our life but we can’t put our finger on it. We have everything society tells us we should have, but still we feel unfulfilled.
If we are lucky, one day we experience a moment of clarity. Possibly on a beach in Hawaii, on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or high up in the John Muir Wilderness. We realize that we’ve been sleepwalking through our life. “My God, where have I been?” , we say to ourselves. And in that moment, perhaps if only for a second, we see that everything, absolutely everything, is beautiful.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (PS 46:10)
In that moment, we know that everything IS God. The mountains, the deserts, the oceans, the rolling plains, and even the cities all covered up in asphalt and concrete, all of them God. But we have forgotten.
Through all of the noise, how could we possibly hear what the Earth is so patiently trying to teach us? Now something as natural and pristine as wilderness has become our most precious commodity. The one true church. A place we can always come back to.
In the words of John Muir, “Going to the wilderness is going home.”
For many, just knowing that wilderness exists is enough to set the mind at peace. Just knowing that it is still possible to hop in the car, drive 2 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours, whatever it takes, escaping into a land that is still pure and free. Free to all who seek to rekindle that empty space inside themselves and bask in the presence of holiness. Heaven on Earth. God. Source. Christ. Buddha. Allah. Whatever name we choose to use for that which cannot be described. The place where we all come from. And will always return. We realize that the only constant is change. There is life. Then there is no life. Then there is life again. Over and over and over again.
I urge you, do not bring your world into the wilderness. Leave your world behind. And go alone. If you must bring a companion then set the intention beforehand that you are going to church. It is all too easy to fill the wilderness silence with chit-chat. If you must talk, keep the conversation in the present tense. Speak only of the experiences you are currently having. Not about what you did last week or intend to do when you return home. Would you talk about those things in a church? Or would you listen to the sermon. But here the sermon is not delivered by any man or woman. It is delivered by the rocks themselves, by the air you breathe, and by the plants, the clouds, and the sky. Conveying a wisdom so deep and pure that it permeates your very soul, using no words.
Free at last from the incessant noise of our busy world, this ancient wisdom can finally be heard. It resonates so deeply within us that tears fill our eyes from the love and beauty contained within. And so we walk. Slowly down the trail. Hand in hand with our everlasting souls. A reunion with our childlike essence. Clean and pure. Thoughts drop from our minds like glass marbles, shattering as they hit the ground. In their place, true love. This love is all there is. It’s everywhere. In everything. In everyone. We have always been this pure love. Always. It cannot be lost. It can never die. Only obscured. It may hide in the back corner of our being for years, but it never goes away.
Now that our marbles of thought have been shattered, there is nothing left to do but bask in this pure love. This heaven on Earth that is happening right here. Right now. So we breathe it all in. The mountains. The sky. The clean air. Breathing them in until we become them and they become us. All feelings of separateness dissolve and we become pure life force energy.
Soon we find ourselves laughing at the absurdity of the notion that we were just a human body and nothing else. Realizing now that our body could crumble to dust and we would still remain as this love. This life force energy behind everything living and everything non-living. For we would still be this dust, nourishing the trees and plants, blooming into fields of wildflowers in the spring. We would flow with the creeks and the rivers, down through the valley, and into the lakes. Evaporating from the lakes and into the sky, we would become the clouds. Raining down upon thirsty plants below, we would flow again down the river into town, filling the wells, nourishing a thirsty child at a soccer game on a hot summer day. And we go on, and on, and on, and on. . .