January 29, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 5

Rev. Rich Lang

To bring humanity back into alignment, we could all benefit from a walk on the wild side

by: Rev. Rich Lang

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There are times when I don’t know what to do.

The various responsibilities of my job often overwhelm me. At other times I find myself in damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations. And almost daily just being a dad, a husband, a pastor and a citizen creates dilemmas that befuddle me, and they create the kind of static in which I can no longer hear my own inner counsel in the midst of the constant noise of city living. It’s at times such as these that I like to go and listen to the water, or listen to the trees or lace on some hiking shoes and walk a trail somewhere that leads to beauty and calm. 

Here in Cascadia we are very blessed to have so many options of finding the calm. It’s important. We’ve been raised on a lie that has trained us to think that the animal world, the world of earth and sea, of mountain and valley, the world of breeze and storm, is other than us. We’ve been trained to think of ourselves as other than the earthlings we are. We’ve been trained to think that being human somehow makes us different and better and more important than all of the rest of creation.

Every once in a while we realize this. Perhaps we go for a walk on the Burke-Gilman Trail and realize afterwards how refreshing the walk has been to our spirit. What we fail to realize is that the walk is necessary for our spirit: Even the tamed nature stroll that the Burke-Gilman provides is as necessary to our life as drinking water and breathing air. We belong to the earth — our habitat — because it is the source of life that sustains us. We forget that connecting to the soil is the energy that animates our life.

One of the practices of many spiritual traditions is to remove oneself from the daily grind and take off on a pilgrimage to a holy site. But I think all sites are holy, and we here in Cascadia have a marvelous opportunity to develop an earthling way of life that can assist our journey as city dwellers.

I wonder what it would be like for Seattle faith communities to set up pilgrimage hikes here in our midst, making use of trails like Burke-Gilman, beaches like Seward Park and Golden Gardens, wonderful expanses like Discovery Park, all of them treated as holy, each of them understood as containing nourishment for our spirit, healing salves for our soul.

What would it mean for each of us to set apart a day a week, or a day a month and dedicate it to pilgrimage, a journey to cleanse our minds, to calm our nerves, to simply listen to those with whom we are related? What would it be like for us to reclaim our true identity as earthlings?

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