Spirit Quest - Touch the face of God


Spirit Quest
Touch the Face of God and walk softly on our land
20 January 2011
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F Skoutajan
True North Perspective
“Up, up the long delirious burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace,
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
........  put out my hand and touched the face of God.”
High Flight, a poem written by John Gillespie Magee (1941), part of which I quoted above, was an American pilot and poet.  It was a very popular wartime poem which I had to learn and recirte when I was in grade 6.  That was not a problem for me for I loved planes and flying although I had never been aloft. I was also endowed with a vivid imagination and could visualize  being in an aircraft and sending it  “through footless halls of air.”
Although my family was not religious, God-talk was not common in my home, the thought of putting my hand out  to touch the face of God spoke powerfully to me.
When Uri Gagarin returned from man’s first venture into space, April 12, 1961, Nikita Kruschev is reported to have asked him whether he saw God out there. The astronaut replied in the negative. 
Was there no God to be seen, or did Gagarin not have the vision or tactile sense that Magee wrote about, “to touch the face of God.”
The late Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, would undoubtedly agree with Gagarin and his boss that there was nothing out there to see, either malignant or great. 
It is questionable whether in fact the conversation between the two Russians had actually taken place but it sounded good before the Soviet assembly. However Gagarin did pen the following:
“Orbiting the earth in the spaceship I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it.”
Unfortunately we have largely ignored his plea. Since that occasion humanity has used space as a junk yard from which from time to time pieces plummet to earth posing danger to earthlings and to the satellites zooming arount our planet..
Men and women have travelled far from where Gagarin had been. Since 1961 we have explored the far reaches of our solar system, personally or by unmanned craft. We have landed a man on the moon and sent space probes hurtling outward beyond Mars.  We have peered through powerful telescopes almost to the beginning of time.
In the days of Gagarin the universe encompassed all that there is, the solar system and all galaxies. Today cosmologists have expanded their vision and strongly suggest that there may well be many universes.
Brian Greene a writer and cosmologist who has the knack of making concepts like string theory and branes comprehensible to the layman, almost to me, has written about a Multiverse in The Hidden  Reality, an infinite number of them. That term “ infinite” is truly mind boggling.
So I come back down to earth and Gagarin’s pleas “to preserve and increase the beauty,” of the “face of God.”
Unfortunately humankind has not been kind to the environment. For many, the environment means a resource to be used, exploited is the proper word. In our search for diamonds and gold and other precious metals as well as fuels we have left moonscapes and mountains of toxic tailings, as well as homeless and sick people. 
Wade Davis published a wonderful coffee table book  The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikene, Skeena and Nass. in which he describes the rugged crags and glaciers, raging rivers and deep canyons in the very heart of British Columbia. He argues passionately against mining in the area as well as the building of a pipeline that would carry crude from Alberta to the Pacific. that would leave an ugly scar  across a pristine wilderness that doesn’t even belong to us. 
Our government who ought to be defending this land waxes vicious  against environmental organizations that would dare counter the avarice of corporations. Environmental protection organizations have been denounced as “radicals” funded from south of the border. They want their message to be muted while the oil companies “invest” and despoil the most beautiful area in the world. “Radical” is a good word, for it means “going to the roots” and the root of our living space is the very face of God.
My plea is that Canadians take seriously the arguments of those who warn against the devastation of the environment.  Many in our government who still don’t believe in global warming take a cold attutude toward our wild places. But  listen to our First Nations people: Haisla  Chief Sammy Robinson speaking at the opening of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Enquiry in Kitimat as he pleaded, “Walk softly on our land.”
I want very much that we put out our hands and caress with love the face of the Creator. The Spirit beckons us to do so!
SQ  20/01/12