Friday, August 31, 2012

Here's the Church. Where's the Steeple?

When I stepped into the cathedral of Notre Dame I felt small and insignificant. The immense walls dwarf any sense of self. The grand echoes that amplify every movement made me instinctively get still.

These attributes of the huge cathedral are not there by accident. They are there to exact an emotion of reverence and calmness in anyone who enters. The church and church designers may be the first experts in human psychology.

I'm confident that the builders knew that ANY person (atheist, agnostic, or devoutly religious) who walks into a place like Notre Dame would feel humbled and insignificant. Anyone that enters a place like that would feel an instant reflex to be still and quiet. (side note: to me singer/songwriter performances in small listening rooms have the same effect. I'd say most people feel this subconsciously. See this post ( for my description). There is a subconscious reaction that happens in these situations. No one can fight it.

Well today I walk out of the hotel room and I am in a cathedral of a different kind.

Today I am staring at the Rocky Mountains. This sight had a similar but more profound effect on me than Notre Dame did. When I look at these mountains I also feel small and insignificant and I feel a calmness and stillness fall over me but it's different. It may be my Native American heritage but the feeling I have in the presence of these mountains is more powerful than any feeling I will ever have from being in the presence of man made things (no matter how huge the man made structures are or how perfectly designed and aimed at my psychology they are). Nature wins.

The difference is the emotion I feel when looking at these mountains. The feeling is natural and uplifting. The Cathedral of Notre Dame made me feel small and insignificant, but in a contrived, man made way. It is a beautiful structure that had a powerful effect on me. I highly recommend seeing it. You will not regret it.

But as powerful and beautiful as it is , it still didn't do for me what these mountains are doing right now. it simply can't.

The cathedral is aimed at making us feel small , insignificant , and in need of something to complete us. The mountain makes us feel small , insignificant , and part of nature.

It's a subtle difference. In both scenarios I felt small and insignificant, but in one this was intended (by some men) to make me feel incomplete, broken or in need of assistance, where as in the other scenario this simply makes me appreciate my place in the universe.

Looking at mountains like the ones I am currently looking at makes me appreciate my breathing. I am an organism. I am not a god. I am simply a part of the whole. But that doesn't make me broken or incomplete. It actually makes me feel powerful and important. I am one little thread in this huge expansive fabric. But I'm on the team. We are all on the team.

And it is from this nice natural place that I feel at peace and I feel like I should help other people (because they too are part of the whole) and I should be more conscious of the enviornment (because it is part of the whole). And just as I am insignificant compared to the mountain, there are microbes and tiny organisms that are insignificant in size compared to me. However these things are also part of the whole. Therefore in my current scenario, the smallness and insignificance I feel isn't a negative thing, it makes me more conscious of how I act with regards to the tiny organisms in the air, water and soil around me.

And I don't want you thinking I smoked a bag of Colorado "medicinal" marijuana or got so caught up in the Colorado Native American culture that I let my heritage talk me into eating peyote. I'm not spacing out into hippiedom. I just love nature and I feel its power gives me more incentive to live right than any building can.

Feeling a connection with nature makes me more aware of life. It makes me focused on treating other people, plants and animals more properly. The world wasn't built for me alone. I am part of the whole.

Now I will stop rambling, go to church (meaning: climb the mountain).

I'm going to a spot with lots of wildlife.
I hope to SEE a bear. Although I'd prefer that I not become his lunch.

I like being part of nature but not quite to that extent.

Have a great day, people.

Go outside.

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