Standing beneath a millennia-old, 300 foot old-growth redwood in a windstorm is a humbling experience. Ten feet wide at eye level, the eye traces the deep grooves of soft gray bark skyward into the thick green canopy. On windy winter days like this, this tree and every other one surrounding me, bends and creaks and moans as a 30 mile-an-hour breeze effortlessly pushes their highest branches to and fro.
Watching this treetop ballet, you realize how fucking small we really are. It’s in moments like this you witness the power of the earth, of time, of forces we can never dream to match, much less completely comprehend. Even the redwoods, stalwart and timeless champions of terrestrial evolution we wish them to be, seem small and fleeting in relation to earth and space and time.
Perhaps my brain is overly taxed from participating in a global climate change workshop on Thursday, trying to come to terms with the eternal processes of atmosphere and global ocean currents. Add in my current read, Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World, in which massive continental plates and millions of years are tossed about casually within the story. My mind has been pushing those kind of big pictures around for a few days now.
A realization (or is it a revelation? an epiphany?) comes to me as I wander beneath the swirling redwood boughs on a blustery morning. The god we have created, in all his various and variant forms across cultures and continents to explain away our existence, our purpose, our actions, and our thoughts, if he exists, is too small for this world. The one that initiates the global winds and ceaseless ocean tides, cannot be concerned for niggling bipeds scattered over less than a third of this planet, which is itself nothing but a dust particle in the creation that is the universe, much less giving a whit about Super Bowl victories, who falls in love with who, the strongest Republican candidate, what you wear to church on Sunday morning, or how many virgins await you on the other side of that hand grenade pull.
We seek god, but we are myopic. We don’t see beyond ourselves. Listen to the winter wind in the redwood forest. Consider the endless roll of waves against a slender beach. It is there we glimpse, and only glimpse, forever.
A rational humanist searches for meaning on a breezy Friday while avoiding the meaningless minutia of his workday.