Thursday, May 14, 2009

wind (incomplete thought)

I leave my window open at night. I like waking to a symphony of bird songs, the breeze in the tree branches, and the trickle-harmony of our creek. This morning I was awakened several times in the early hours by the wind's roar. I wish there was a better descriptive word for it because it wasn't really a ROAR (which makes me think of angry lions sharing there feelings at an ear-drum-shattering decibel,) but it definitely was much, much more than a simple breeze. The trees in our backyard were bent over and the branches whipped about in quite the violent manner. I was surprised that it kept waking me up, since I usually sleep incredibly hard and have been known to sleep blissfully through the loudest of noises.

The fact is, though, that wind is one of my top favorite things in the whole wide world, if not THE favorite. I find it incredibly exhilarating to be engulfed by its juxtaposition of supportive solace and menacing threat. Wind is one of the reasons why I love to hike. Usually hiking takes you UP, and usually as ones altitude increases, so does the forcefulness of the wind. While other disturbances that disrupt my sleep might have caused annoyance, every time I was awakened by the wind I would smile, turn over, and let it lull (maybe that's too gentle of a word) me back to sleep.

The wind outside my window is still quite strong and I've been enjoying its exuberance as I read my Bible. I expect a good deal of clean-up will be required when it dies down: branches to be collected and leaves to be raked. But in this moment, I will revel in its beauty, in its strength, and in its danger.

The wind has brought about some thoughts as well. They are still incomplete, so feel free to comment with your opinion.

It seems to me that wind would have no sound if it were not for the physical objects through and around which the wind passes. It is the leaves and the branches on the trees that combine with the wind to create the wind's magnificent clamor; it is the rocks and the crags over which the wind blows that creates its melancholy howl. It is our ears that provide the opening over which the wind passes which then results in the winds noise in our ears. If these physical objects were absent, would wind then be rendered silent?

To simplify the concept, let's look at a glass bottle. When one blows across the opening, a musical note is produced. In this example, there are three components:
1. The force (the mouth)
2. The wind (air movement)
3. The physical object (the bottle)
Take the bottle away, and all that is left is the force and the movement of air, which can be felt but not heard.*

What spiritual applications can be drawn from this concept? Is it sacrilegious to say that the Holy Spirit (wind) would not be heard by others if it were not for humans/us (physical beings) who are willing to let Him move in and through us? Might nature itself be a type of "physical being" that demonstrates the Holy Spirit to those who have not had the opportunity to know humans who are filled with the manifestation of God's love?

*What about feeling the wind versus hearing the wind? I suppose that feeling might involve the same principle that hearing did. If one cannot hear the wind without a physical object present to create resistance and therefore produce sound, maybe one cannot also feel the wind without a physical object (hand, face, etc) to do the feeling.

Or maybe that is a slightly different concept because it seems to correlate with the age-old question of whether sound exists if there exists no ears or recording device to hear it. This question is demonstrated in the well-known scenario that used to get me so frustrated: if a tree falls down in a forest where there are no animals, insects, or any living creature to hear it, does it still make a sound? In our case, does the movement of wind exist if there is nothing to feel it? It seems that this is a separate quandary that, while intriguing, will get us off topic. So back to my question about feeling.

Might it be possible to feel the wind without physical objects present (trees, rocks, etc) but impossible to hear the wind without these same physical objects present? How then does this apply to spiritual things?

12 comments:

Lee Ryan said...

Awesome post!!

Little Christen said...

I really like that notion. I'll have to give it some more thought. However, as for the question whether or not a falling tree would make a sound if there weren't anyone there to hear it, I'm pretty certain it still would. And that's rather important spiritually as well. Before the world was created, God was. He spoke the world into existence when no one was there to witness it. God is so much more above us than we can imagine, but as Ellen White tells us, God gave the responsibility to humans to reach other humans for the kingdom, rather than angels. God will use us to make Himself heard, but without us, He still would exist and could still be heard in other ways. Wow...now my mind is getting tired. Hope that isn't terribly confusing. :) Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts!

The View from Great Island said...

I like your question. Yes, I think we would feel wind even if no other physical objects were present, but exactly what we would hear is hard to imagine. I think it would probably be similar to the sound we hear when wind blows past our ears when riding a bike down a hill. Without physical objects, the wind would have far less turbulence.

The spiritual connection is what really intrigues me, however. The Holy Spirit is a wind that can be seen, heard, and felt. Circumstance and the Holy Spirit may determine whether auditory, visual, or emotional cues predominate, but our own spiritual state will as well.

I disagree with Christen about the falling tree, and therefore agree with the idea that we wouldn't see the Holy Spirit moving without humanity to move on. Of course, the tree would still generate sound waves and the Holy Spirit would still move, but not for you and I. Whether or not it is ultimately true that any given thing X happens matters not at all unless we experience its impact. This truth is no excuse for self-centered apathy, however. Indeed, it ought to sober us into seeking out those vital truths we have not personally experienced yet.

Bivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
barry said...

I posted the comment by Great Island by mistake. I thought about not saying anything, but since it's a potentially controversial comment, I'd better take responsibility for it.

Caitlin said...

When I was small I spent hours in the woods, I felt so at peace and at home... I knew all the trees as if they were friends.
Ever since, I have known the wind as a musician and yet a conductor as well. I always imagined that the wind was the unseen being that played upon the insturments of the wood. As if the trees were the strings to some exquisite insturment. And every tree had a different tone, according to the limberness of its branches, and dryness of its leaves.
A rustic orchestra - but it was the first and most beautiful I´ve heard.

Christy Joy said...

I think you and Christen do agree fundamentally, but you draw different conclusions. It seems as if you both say that sound would still occur and therefore the HS would still move but she concludes that without humans He could still be heard in other ways and you conclude that without humans (us in particular) it wouldn't matter if he was moving in other ways because we wouldn't be privy to it.

That thought really jumped out at me: what is the point of something if we don't personally connect with it?

I would just like to clarify the fact that my analogy about the tree falling in a forest does not line up with my question about feeling wind. Maybe I shouldn't have even mentioned it because it doesn't apply to my original question, though it has created some interesting discussion. Here's why I don't feel it applies: Hearing the wind requires a physical object to be present outside of one's self in order to create resistance for the wind, whether that physical object be a tree or the cartilage around our ear that creates an opening. I am not referring to the inner ear and its auditory function, only the outer physical structure. Feeling wind, however, requires no such external physical object to be present because touch, at its core, is completely different from sound. The analogies don't line up because the "tree in the forest" story is referring to the actual process of "hearing" something whereas I was referring to what creates that noise in the first place - the external physical object.

Barry, in reading your comment, I realized that I completely forgot about sight. In retrospect, it seems to correlate closely with sound. Physical objects must be present in order to see that wind is present.

But why doesn't touch correlate the same? Maybe because wind comes from a force that we cannot pinpoint or determine.

Aaah, have I confused you as much as I've confused myself? I love writing things out, it clarifies things so nicely. Or, in this case, confuses. lol.

Christy Joy said...

That's a beautiful word picture, Caitlin. I can't wait until you come back. We'll have to take a walk and attend a concert by God's incredible Rustic Orchestra.

barry said...

Confusing and interesting. Everything comes down to definitions in any philosophical quest.
What do you mean, for instance, by "external"? If the outer ear is external, then can I cut it off (theoretically, of course!) and still hear something? If we take this reasoning to be more than a quibble (which it probably is) then hearing and feeling cannot be different on the basis of whether one requires external objects
Here's another problem: however we feel or hear wind, its force depends on the momentum of air molecules--physical objects. Thus, from a practical or scientific point of view, wind cannot be conceptually separated from physical objects.

However, these two quibbles are not even worth the space they take up. I'm more interested in your distinction between what makes a sound and the process of hearing. You see, I think these shouldn't be separated. They're intimately connected. How can we know something makes a sound unless we hear it? Well, math equations (abstractions) predicted empirical observations in the electromagnetic spectrum (reality), so based on prior experiences like this one, we can be reasonably confidant that a logically derived abstraction is valid, whether or not we observe or experience it ourselves. But seriously, isn't validity a literally nonsensical concept unless it has relevence, application, and connection to my experience, your experience, or the world's experience? Indeed, had not scientists believed this, students in advanced math classes might still be glorying in the beauty of Maxwell's equations without having a clue that these abstractions were vibrantly, intimately, and fundamentally connected to the real life they experienced every day.

Man, I can't seem to stop today. I just realized a connection between my argument and ornithology classification battles. In ornithology, there are two kinds of classifiers: lumpers and splitters. Lumpers see one species were splitters see ten. Lumpers see connections and similarities, and look for overarching principals. Splitters are the observers, and notice minute details, focusing on distinctions. I'm a philosophical lumper. Maybe you're a splitter.

Christy Joy said...

hmmm... lumpers and splitters... interesting. Maybe I am a splitter, though I never would have thought that I would be more detail-oriented than big picture-focused.

I do agree with you about the necessary element of personal relevance in order for validity to matter. And therefore, I see your point about how hearing the sound would be just as important as what creates the sound. I agree that they are intimately connected, but that does not take away the fact that my analogies were misaligned in the first place :)

My thoughts about wind, the sound process, and the Holy Spirit seemed to have stopped because I can't seem to get any farther than what has already been discussed. I'm sure I'm missing an obvious pathway somewhere that leads into a sunny meadow. However, you're comments about validity and personal experience have sparked some additional musings.

In a statistical test, it must be determined whether it is both reliable and valid. Reliability referring to the consistency of the tests measurements and validity referring to whether the test truly measures what you think it's measuring. Something might be completely reliable; it's accurate and trustworthy. But if it is not valid, it means nothing. The calculations may all be correct, but if it doesn't apply to what you want it to apply to, then it's useless. Therefore, validity is paramount to personal experience. It is what makes something applicable. (lol, I don't think I actually added anything new to the discussion... I just restated what you said earlier. oh well)

I must say, though, this discussion has taken an interesting turn that puts it right at the door of my Shipwrecked post. Validity and personal experience was its central message. That's what I want. I want - to truly and personally experience LIFE. Wind, culture, people, humanity, grace, GOD.

Of course, everyone is experiencing some sort of life every day. But, one, what kind of life are they experiencing? And two, are they aware of it? Are they connecting with it, breathing it in, and really living it? Or are they just existing with no thought to its significance? I dread that I might somehow slip into that same abyss. Sometimes I start to loose my grip on life and its realities and I start to live in autopilot. The older I get, the more scared I become that my life is passing me by.

I was talking to Luther this past semester and he told me that is one of the reasons he's taking off next year. Not just to go as an SM but because he feels that if he doesn't go now, he's going to forget his dreams. If he doesn't uproot himself now, he won't have the strength later.

I'm feeling the need to be uprooted.

barry said...

Christy, here are some lessons I've learned.
1. Experience cannot be grasped, because the more we seek it, the less we will notice it
My college days were crammed full of experience. I lived the equivalent of several active lives simultaneously, but I never paused to enjoy the experience. I was so busy experiencing everything, I forgot to actually EXPERIENCE anything.

2. Uprooting can be a healthy thing, but no matter how dramatic, it will never produce a fuller experience of Life or God.
I've sought out many challenges precisely for their uprooting power--running for SA president when I was so shy eating at the cafe took an act of will, randomly running a marathon one sabbath morning without ANY training (or water for the first 16 miles), my Fulbright grant, and the list could go on and on. No matter what crazy thing I do, however, the meaningful depth of my experience remains unchanged.

3. Before searching for an experience, search for a purpose.
All my life, I've imagined and sometimes even known intellectually what the Christian experience ought to be like. I've sought the Christian experience in every aspect of my life, from relationships to academics, to personal spirituality and overcoming sin. However, I've spent precious little time thinking about the Christian purpose.

To be honest, I haven't fully found my Christian purpose. However, I have found its source: submitting to God one day at a time. By doing this, I can begin to live (hopefully show) my purpose. Only as I live out my purpose will I be able to honestly and authentically know and believe that because Christ lives in me, I seek not to live my own life to the full, but His life to the infinite fullest.

Christy Joy said...

Wow, those are some awesome lessons. I'm amazed that you were able write them out so succinctly. Is this something you've given a lot of thought to or did that wisdom just flow out spontaneously?

@ lesson 2: I suppose uprooting might not change the depth of experience, but it may help one be more appreciative of the things that really matter in life. Although, I do believe that God can help us get to that point in the normal, mundane, and ordinary.

@ lesson 3: Mmmmmm... Christian purpose... When dealing with purpose, I always get confused about whether we're talking about generalizations or specifics. Because I think there are general purposes that all Christians have, whether they fulfill them or not. But then there are individual purposes - God's niche for each specific person. His plan for them based on their talents, personality, scope of influence, etc. Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but it seems to me that our specific purpose is only discovered one day at a time. Oh wait, that's what you said in your conclusion paragraph. Either we think the same or I got that idea from you. lol, probably the latter.

What hits home the most, however, is your last sentence: "I seek not to live my own life to the full, but His life to the infinite fullest." Aaah, I love beautifully crafted sentences. That one was book worthy. But that's besides the point. It hits home because I see how it would be really easy for me to get caught up in "living my life to the full" and let that distract me from my true goal: living my life for God. Each day. Every day. Each hour, minute, and second. Only in submitting to God's will at every step and every decision can I truly be fulfilled. And then I will look back and realize that I have also truly experienced. (Reminds me of the past semester.) Aaaah, so freeing. Thanks for reminding me, Barry :)

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