Friday, January 21, 2011

Immortal, Invisible . . .

Permanence and impermanence have been on my mind today, and, in fact, for several days.  When we look through the wall of windows at the back of our house we see a HUGE oak tree, perhaps two hundred years old.  Our house is situated so that the eye is drawn to this magnificent tree.  What a genius the architect who sited the house was!  The changes that we see each year in this tree are so amazing.  There are, of course, the seasonal changes--the greening up in the spring, the cooling shade it creates in the summer, the golden color and abundant acorns (not to mention tons of leaves in which the yard becomes buried) of the fall, and the stark beauty of the leafless tree in the winter.  Over a period of years, there are other more subtle changes as the structure of the tree becomes larger, so that periodically we have to call on the arborist and his crew to thin out the limbs so that light can pass through to the lower limbs and cut them back so that our roof is not threatened.

Yet, even given its long life, this tree is not permanent.  One day it will fall or have to be felled.  Eventually disease will attack it, or it will be irreparably damaged by wind or ice.  One hopes it will never be cut in the name of "progress."  Whatever brings it down, come down it will.

All around us and in us, nature is made up of myriad cycles, cycles within cycles, everything changes.  Some change is regular and predictable, other changes seem random, but given the logic of nature, there is probably a pattern in these seemingly random changes that we cannot discern.  In the Dalai Lama's book, Becoming Enlightened, he writes about escaping the cyclic pattern of existence.  It is this very cyclic nature of life that gives me comfort.  The faith that there is one permanent, never-altered being that has set all of these complex cycles in motion causes me take heart in the nature of change and relish the experience of witnessing and living the changes that are a part of our existence in this life.

These lines from the hymn that begins with the words that are the title of this post express what is in my heart today:

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
. . . We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

May we all appreciate the magic of the patterns of nature and the permanence of nature's God.

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