Spiritual Explorer: Once More To The Skies
After the rain comes again the sun
The clouds depart, skittering to and fro
Far from each other to reveal again
A pale blue sky taking its first breaths.
The sun rays unbridled spill to the floor
I pocket them in pieces,
And call them hope.
I chose a window seat on the plane, despite it costing slightly more than an aisle. The view from thousands of miles above Earth rarely fails to impress me, and it was easily worth the extra few bills. I don’t understand people who complain about the hassles of air travel, as if it isn’t still somewhat of a modern miracle we’ve the ability to cross such large expanses of the globe with relative ease. That a flightless creature can devise a method to depart from the constraints of gravity is truly an impressive thing to me still every time I am afforded the chance.
When I read stories of travelers throughout history, and the extraordinary difficulty they faced to explore the ancient world, I marvel at the bravery and tenacity they displayed. This is not to say that it is with complete ease one explores our current world, but it has changed in form, and one can if they so choose go much further in a lifetime. Boarding my flight out of Sri Lanka, however, did not feel like exploration. After the most recent and tragic circumstances of the last week, I felt like I needed to escape.
Destiny unknowable; destination Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I began writing this series in extremely different circumstances, but going through these same motions, walking through security checkpoints, immigration, waiting, waiting, staring at windows, and watching people pass. The first flight of this leg of my travels took me from Bucharest, Romania to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and my words were tinged with the excitement of possibility.
I wanted to discover the ways in which exploration of the world, God’s creation, could become a spiritual exercise for me, and in sharing this experience hopefully motivate others to attempt the same. They say the world is ever shrinking to the appetite of man: we have traversed now much of it and indeed even beyond our planet into the far reaches of galaxies. It is not true, however: the world is in size still relatively the same; it is us who have grown in capability and creation.
To see huge swathes of relatively untouched land in the national parks of southern Sri Lanka to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the tallest twin towers the Petronas in Kuala Lumpur in the space of some months is evidence irrefutable of the human capacity for incredible feats. We have at our hands created tragedy and triumph both, but are we not God’s creation still? The work of our hands and hearts if it is purposed in alignment with God’s will is touched by the divine and to the glory of the Lord.
I wrote to a friend in Buenas Aires recently who has always inspired me in our talks, and she asked me to tell her of something beautiful I had seen lately. For such reasons have I always admired her. I admit is has been perhaps one of the most difficult periods of travel for me recently in the wake of my friend’s death, in part due to a letter she wrote prior to her passing. In it, she spoke of many things that troubled her, but ever-present in my mind lately is a paragraph in which she laments the human hands overshadowing the natural world. She compares that which we have created, and built upon this world, to a scar, haphazard and jagged, stretching angrily across the earth without cease.
Her words have haunted me. Streaking through burnt portions of jungle in rural Malaysia where deforestation has nearly depleted its forests, to the concrete jungle Kuala Lumpur, its back streets and alleys to the glittering designer malls and towers, what hath we wrought upon this Earth? I doubt now that I am alone in the ease with which I can find fault and flaw in my surroundings, and I even strive to do so in an effort to be an agent of improvement but to fixate solely on difficulty without paying heed to the beauty of this Earth that does truly exist is dangerous.
It is an imperative that the beauty we seek to sustain our healthy emotional, spiritual, and psychological lives is sought in the minor and the miraculous which surrounds us constantly. I have seen a decently fair portion of this Earth, and I will see much more. I have seen ancient ruins, modern marvels, the tallest, great wealth and extreme poverty. I realize that this is not an opportunity that everyone does have, and I am truly grateful for what I have been able to see, digest, and experience. What beauty I see may always be fleeting and fragile, but I do hope it will survive, for I know that it must.
A band plays in the subway in New York with all of the energy and excitement one would bring to Carnegie Hall, a child laughs while his mother sings to him on a train near Istanbul, the snarled roots of a tree near the park in Colombo, the sound of the surf in Panama, Balchik at sundown, a 3 am sun over Tallinn in June, the view from an abandoned hotel overlooking the Baltic Sea in Sopot, being saved by strangers who became friends in Aix-de-Provence, dancing with someone you’ve for so long felt loved by and loved in return in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
At the moment of my landing in KL, gathering my bearings, my tattered passport is handed back to me with only a couple of pages left in it, and I see Malaysia from the ground for the first time from the carport balcony of the massive mall adjacent the airport. A sense that anything could happen, as is always true, settles over my countenance, and I shock my still sleepy limbs into preparedness. I have soared, a flightless creature somehow manages to take to the sky. Too close to the sun? Perhaps, but I will dwell on it not and plant my feet firmly in the ever shifting sands of this Earth, grind my heels and carry on.