Sunday, December 16, 2007

notes from sunday school

A few weeks ago I found myself drawing diagrams in my notebook during Sunday school. It was right after Thanksgiving, and the teacher had opened the lesson by inviting a handful of volunteers to share something that they were grateful for. It was a lovely day, and the first thing that came to mind was that I was grateful for sunshine and blue skies. I did not raise my hand to share this, because immediately my mind began following the intricate paths that every once in a while lead it to something fruitful. It went like this: I started thinking about why I am grateful for sunshine and blue skies. First came the obvious: sunshine means light and warmth, which not only allow us to see and keep us from freezing, but also help plants to grow. The sun is the ultimate life preserver, as far as our physical world goes. Blue skies are a little more difficult, since there is nothing inherent in them that keeps us alive. I do, however, find some sort of inarticulable inspiration in their color and depth. Additionally, I am one of those people whose emotions happen to be rather closely tied to atmospheric conditions. Several rainy days or long periods of cloud cover can get me pretty low. This is why I must not move somewhere like Seattle or Ithaca. On the other hand, when I am feeling a little off, sometimes a bright, blue, sunshiny day is enough to put a smile on my face.

Soon I was looking for more specific reasons as to why I find something so simple as a sunny day so wonderful. Where does this joy, that seems to be encapsulated in a sun-brightened, endless blue sky, come from? It occurred to me that, ultimately, it must come from God, since He created the sky and the sun. My mind then journeyed back to Cusco, where I sat in class one morning in June of this year and, when asked something about the difference between traditional Andean polytheism and Judeo-Christian monotheism, I replied that, in a way, I did not find them all that different. Indigenous beliefs in the Andean region hold natural elements like the sun (inti), the moon (quilla), and the mountains (apus) to be gods. In a strict monothestic view, worship of a mountain, for instance, would be considered idolatry. Without going so far as addressing prayers to Mother Earth (Pachamama), however, I believe that we can and ought to recognize the mark of divinity in the mountains, the forests, the stars, in the earth and the sky themselves. When I gaze at the snowcapped Wasatch mountains while I wait at the bus stop, I see God, because those mountains are a product of His creative power. I tried to express this to my teacher, but I had not sufficient time to adequately articulate the thoughts that were forming just then. Although I think that she got the gist of it, I was still unsatisfied with my incomplete explanation.

Months later, in a Sunday school classroom in Provo, it somehow became clear how I might illustrate what I had been trying to say: why immanence makes sense to me. So this is what I drew in my notebook:

As I was thinking more on this topic, this Book of Mormon scripture was recalled to my mind:
But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30:44, emphasis added)
I remember teaching this section in gospel doctrine class during the summer after my freshman year at BYU, and while preparing for the lesson I had scribbled in my notes "organic chemistry denotes that there is a God." Which reminds me of a time earlier this year when that same notebook where I drew those diagrams you see above, was witness to some musings of mine about organic chemistry and syntax trees. Maybe another day I'll post that one.

1 comment:

Tres Jolie Julie said...

Your diagram reminded me of the blog Usually less weighty than yours (which I like) it is still great fun and may yet inspire you toward more diagramming.