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Who Sees The Mountain?
A kinda sorta not really reflection on my Alaskan cruise.
POV 1: From the vantage point of a slow-moving cruise ship, you look out and admire the distant, snow-capped mountains. You feel so close to them, right there along the shoreline. Water glistens below. Clouds float overhead. And you stand, enchanted.
POV 2: Beneath your hands you feel the rough, jagged stone wall. Your body clings to the mountain edge. Your breath gets caught in the cool air, drifts up and over the stony outcropping. The mountain’s face is there beneath your eyes—and the view beyond is incredible.
POV 3: You press your nose to the airplane window, gazing down through clouds and sky at the mountain range directly below you. You’ve seen this sight before, but the view from up high, from gliding over towering mountain passes, never gets old.
POV 4: In the darkness of your office, your hand hovers over your mouse as your eyes take in the colors of the photograph displayed on your screen. The snow-capped mountain. The gently flowing water. The wispy clouds in the sky. The composition of the shot is near perfect; you wish you had taken the photo yourself. But you are content to edit it, to fine tune it. It feels like you’re really there.
Which of these people saw the mountain? All of them? In the same way? None of them?
Tomorrow the snow might melt. The clouds might move. Rocks and stone and debris may tumble down from the mountain’s great height. The water might grow choppy. New animals might climb to the heights while others descend.
Different eyes see different things. Look for different things. Expect different things.
The mountain is new. No one has seen this mountain in this moment. Yet, who returns to look once more? We cross the encounter off our list and look for something new and novel.
A temptation that haunts us all.
So, too, it is with us, I think. The very depths of ourselves. Who really sees us in our totality? Do we really see ourselves?
We would never be content with a friend who said, “I’ve seen you once. What more is there to know?”
Each moment brings change. And we become new, remade, an updated version of the person we’ve always been. Each moment. Every moment.
Because we are still that same person. But forever changed and changing.
Might we say the same thing about God? There is always something more to see, to know, to encounter. What we bring of ourselves—our experiences, expectations, hopes and disappointments—shapes that encounter. A God that is so far beyond our understanding yet intimately immersed in each and every aspect of our world.
That mountain stands against the sky, solitary, unchanging. We see it and we shrug. Until we see it from a million and more different perspectives, how in its sameness it is always changing. How in its solitude it is home to an infinite number of possibilities.
Why would we ever leave? Because there not only an infinite number of possibilities on that mountain; there are an infinite number of mountains to see.
Unrelated, but we saw “The Little Mermaid” this past weekend and loved it. I jotted down some spiritual thoughts on the film for my “Now Discern This” series from the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. Check it out here.