Standing in awe of heaven . . .
My last post dealt with what I see as one of the most deeply problematic aspects of formal religion — particularly Christianity in its orthodox, doctrinal forms. In a nutshell, it mostly just drives me nuts. What a relief it was then, yesterday, to spend some goodly time with a good and old friend from my college days who has found a home within a Quaker community. To be able to talk at length about the divine and the sacred without getting bogged down in belief and doctrines is such a rare and wonderful thing. As is our want we did all that talking whilst walking over to Grantchester by the river in the spring sun. And then, today, Susanna and I, taking advantage of the continuing fine weather, went over to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden to spend sometime together ourselves in conversation amidst the glories of spring. (All the photos here are from this visit except the last two which are of Emmanuel College where Susanna arranges the chapel flowers during term time. As always just click on a photo to enlarge it.)
Both these splendid events served to remind me, as Howard Wettstein (in his Significance of Religious Experience) is very keen to point out, that the concept of ‘belief’ or a ‘believer’ is entirely absent from the Hebrew Bible. Instead of a believer we find there the idea of y’re shamayim, that is to say someone who stands in awe of heaven.
Well, in the presence of such natural beauty my friend, and my wife and I, for sure, found ourselves repeatedly standing in "awe of heaven"— with no doctrines and no belief in play, just awe and gratitude.