Let’s Wing It | April 23, 2023 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake
One of my favorite literary passages comes from the pen of Loren Eiseley, anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and literary genius whose lived experience in the natural world yields profound insights into the human journey. I sermonized on this passage several years ago and it will not let me go until I share it with you.
This crow lives near my house, and though I have never injured him, he takes good care to stay up in the very highest trees and, in general, to avoid humanity. His world begins at about the limit of my eyesight.
On the particular morning when this episode occurred, the whole countryside was buried in one of the thickest fogs in years. The ceiling was absolutely zero. All planes were grounded, and even a pedestrian could hardly see his outstretched hand before him.
I was groping across a field in the general direction of the railroad station, following a dimly outlined path. Suddenly out of the fog, at about the level of my eyes, and so closely that I flinched, there flashed a pair of immense black wings and a huge beak. The whole bird rushed over my head with a frantic cawing outcry of such hideous terror as I have never heard in a crow’s voice before and never expect to hear again. He was lost and startled, I thought, as I recovered my poise. He ought not to have flown out in this fog. He’d knock his silly brains out. All afternoon that great awkward cry rang in my head. Merely being lost in a fog seemed scarcely to account for it—especially in a tough, intelligent old bandit such as I knew that particular crow to be. I even looked once in the mirror to see what it might be about me that had so revolted him that he had cried out in protest to the very stones. Finally, as I worked my way homeward along the path, the solution came to me. It should have been clear before. The borders of our worlds had shifted. It was the fog that had done it. That crow, and I knew him well, never under normal circumstances flew low near men. He had been lost all right, but it was more than that. He had thought he was high up, and when he encountered me looming gigantically through the fog, he had perceived a ghastly and, to the crow mind, unnatural sight. He had seen a man walking on air, desecrating the very heart of the crow kingdom, a harbinger of the most profound evil a crow mind could conceive of—air-walking men. The encounter, he must have thought, had taken place a hundred feet over the roofs. He caws now when he sees me leaving for the station in the morning, and I fancy that in that note I catch the uncertainty of a mind that has come to know things are not always what they seem. He has seen a marvel in his heights of air and is no longer as other crows. He has experienced the human world from an unlikely perspective. He and I share a viewpoint in common: our worlds have interpenetrated, and we both have faith in the miraculous.
Not nearly as profound but illustrative still has been my experience while visiting Bryan (Caston) at his penthouse apartment. While in the living room on my first visit, I was unnerved when I saw large black birds flying at the same height as mine. Only the structure of the apartment separated the birds and me from direct encounters. For that, I give thanks to the building. For the birds and I to be on the level was eerie. Was I, subconsciously, resenting this leveling of status and the tidiness of separation of our environments and worlds? Had I invaded the territory of the birds causing confusion. But who was confused? The birds were at ease in flight. Only I carried the baggage of confusion.
Our worlds had interpenetrated! What do I learn from that?
I remember the scripture from the gospel of Mark where Jesus on land saw his disciples struggling with rowing the boat and decided to go to them walking on the water. When he came to them in the early morning hours they screamed because they thought he was a ghost. Jesus told them to take courage, and not to be afraid. Then he got in the boat with them, and the winds died down, leaving the disciples completely amazed and utterly confused.
The interpenetration of worlds causes or should cause utter amazement. Too often it causes fear and confusion.
The “fear not” from Jesus to his boat people echoes the “fear not” from the angel announcing his birth.
Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Fear not, instead Behold! The angel was an emissary from the interpenetration of two worlds that awakened the consciousness of the shepherds. Behold means to stand at attention, to gaze upon, to grasp, to discern, to seize the moment, to wake up.
Moses saw a bush ablaze but not burning up. What was the meaning of this unconventional occurrence that alighted his path? There was an interpenetration of his world and this bizarre bush. Investigating this phenomenon, he walked closer causing Yahweh to give him a red light. Do not come any closer and take off those dirty sandals for the place on which you stand is holy ground.
This pronouncement of the interpenetration as sacred summoned his accountability and responsibility to speak to those who suffered, and who cried out because of their mistreatment. No excuses were accepted. You don’t have to have the eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr., just lean on me and lead my people out of oppression, questing freedom.
Fellowship Church owes much gratitude to the interpenetration of worlds.
Near the end of their Pilgrim of Friendship to Burma, Ceylon, and India in 1935-36 — where they had audiences with both Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, great Hindu poet, Dr. Thurman and Mrs. Sue Bailey Thurman, his soulmate, spent a day in Khyber Pass where they looked into Afghanistan and realized that it was a gateway or conduit for the movement of ideas and concepts to different parts of the world. This mystical vision of a religious practicum capable of cutting across all socially imposed barriers with a carryover into the common life, a fellowship that would alter the behavior patterns of those involved anchored their lives. “It became imperative now to find out if experiences of spiritual unity among people could be more compelling than the experiences which divide them.”
Subsequently, they became committed to creating such a phenomenon, Fellowship Church.
What are we to learn from the interpenetration of worlds? We can learn about relationships and need re-examining. We can find callings that resource new visions that emerge in understanding the holy ground where we live, the burning bushes all around, the caravan of ideas and concepts before us, the trusting of creation to walk bridges that have not yet been created, to celebrate the different worlds that can come into our precious, evolving lives.
Recently, I reflected on my college life and being assigned my first-year roommates, one Jewish, the other a white Anglo-Saxton Protestant, and having my little world penetrated by their worlds. The mistake is to define our little bundled, siloed lives as set, complete, and inevitable, rather than beholding the banquet of experiences that make us human and children of awe.
Fear not! Behold! Life is opening new journeys for us and these words affirm that the newness is real, the journey is a journey of the soul that must be taken. We can inspire each other if we just keep those words in our hearts when we greet each other: Fear not. Behold, something is breaking for you and it’s not just for you. Realities of great joy are coming to, through, and for you that shall be for all the people, including you.
Nightfall…was a presence. The nights in Florida, as I grew up, seemed to have certain dominant characteristics. They were not dark; they were black. When there was no moon, the stars hung like lanterns, so close I felt that one could reach up and pluck them from the heavens. The night had its own language…. At such times I could hear the night think, and feel the night feel. This comforted me…I felt embraced, enveloped, held secure. In some fantastic way, the night belongs to me.
- Howard Thurman