The final letter in our series, we find the pilgrimage complete and both the seeker and discipler thrilled.
Dear Bear Necessities,
I am thrilled to hear of your success and that you have finally made it back home. And yes I would agree with you, there does seem to be a link between aesthetics and ontology. Realizing that we are creations of the most high God leads us to realize our ‘beauty.’ He has placed us above the creatures of the earth and even the earth herself. We, being bent creatures, are sought after by our creator, a relationship, though not needed by Him, is sought by Him and is achieved through our Lord Jesus Christ. The mighty world in which you saw on your pilgrimage may point to Christ, it may be glorious and magnificent, but we are the only creation that a relationship is sought by God. I am reminded of what Spurgeon once said, and it would be quite appropriate to state it here, “Pause here, devout reader, and see if thou canst without ecstatic amazement, contemplate the infinite condescension of the Son of God in thus exalting thy wretchedness into blessed union with His glory. Thou art so mean that in remembrance of thy mortality, thou mayest say to corruption, “Thou art my father,” and to the worm, “Thou art my sister”; and yet in Christ thou art so honored that thou canst say to the Almighty, “Abba, Father,” and to the Incarnate God, “Thou art my brother and my husband.””
Christ condescended to save US! That, friend, is more glorious than anything you may have seen on your journey. It is through communion with and salvation through Christ that we are able to, like other creations, point to and glorify the artist.
I am ecstatic to hear that this is what you have realized. That you friend are a son of the most high God, the same God that numbered the stars and placed them in their place, the same God that built the mountains in which you climbed for six months. From here, I am not sure there is much more I can say, so I will leave you with this
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
I look forward to hearing more about your pilgrimage over a pint and bowl of fine Virginian Pipe Tobacco.
Until then, with much love,
Dear Bear Necessities,
Yes I agree, your pilgrimage could in fact be considered a ‘aesthetic experience.’ But like I mentioned in my previous letter, you must be careful to remember that it is not the beauty itself you should attend to, it is that which the beauty points to that deserves your attention. It is only then that the beauty will mean anything. Without a wholly Other, that created this beauty, the object holding said beauty would be worthless. Furthermore, I am convinced that without the existence of a wholly Other, the idea of beauty would make no sense at all. In order for us to label something as beautiful, we must refer to something that transcends us, it would mean nothing if we are simply referring to how an object makes us feel. Beauty, friend, is not in the eye of the beholder, it is in the object beheld. Simply stating an subjective observation would mean nothing to the object in which we are talking about. If we are indeed talking about the object, and not our feelings that are manifested by it, then we are talking about a value it holds, a value that is given to it by its Creator, during its creation by a wholly Other. Now, there is indeed a subjective way in which we experience the objective, this is where Kant’s idea of the sublime comes in. The sublime is that in which illicits a reaction from us, it is our subjective experience.
By the time you receive this, you will be arriving near the 100 mile wilderness. I indeed hope this reaches you in time. This area is the longest portion of the Appalachian Trail with no civilization, hence the name. This will be one of the hardest parts of your pilgrimage, not only because of the distance but because of how close it is to the end. You must push through friend. Take courage, you have prepared for this. It is here that solitude will be at its height. It is here that you are least likely to run into your fellow hikers. This portion will, if you have not already, draw you closer to your creator than ever before.
P.S. Look out for moose.
Dear Bear Necessities,
You are approaching the final and hardest leg of your journey. This is when most pilgrims drop out and give up. I pray you will not be one of these unfortunate many. I think Nietzsche got it wrong. It is not the end that will justify the means, I believe the end will, however, justify the pain it took to get you there. Drawing a metaphorical line to your pilgrimage to life is not so hard in this sense, although, that may have been the point of pilgrimages in the first place. Life here on earth is in no way simple or easy. Christ never said following Him would be easy, but he did say the end will be worth it when we have ‘shuffled off this mortal coil.’ But it is not the dreams that must give us pause, it is everlasting communion with Christ. Oh to be there now, to live with the Almighty, that must give us pause. “ For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”
Dear Bear Necessities,
I am happy to hear the trail is rough. I know this may sound off to you, but a pilgrimage worth doing is always going to be rough. You’re journey is going to try your patience. It is going to wear you down to as low as you have ever been but when you are finished you will be higher than you have ever been before. But take heart my friend, you are almost there. You must remember to not allow this desire to be finished distract you from the ultimate purpose of this pilgrimage. Like I mentioned in my previous letter, you must slow down to smell the coffee. Do not allow the trail to become a means to an end otherwise you will not reach the end. Do not be fooled friend, Maine is not your goal. Through this pilgrimage I pray you will find who you are, more importantly, who you are in Christ.
Furthermore my friend, I am both saddened and pleased to hear that your trail mates have left. Solitude on the trail is hard, but I think in the end you will find as you sojourn alone with Christ and his creation that this state will help you realize who you are in Christ. Ultimately, I think, community is about a group of flawed people coming together as a flawed and broken group to commune with God. For without this community, we are left with a Kantian god, an unknowable wholly other. Community-less, or rather churchless, Christianity is, indeed, an illusion. This communio sanctorum should be the start for understanding. It is only through this communio sanctorum that we are able to embody fides quaerens intellectum. However, you must not allow community to define you, this is where time alone will teach. Friends and family, because of our broken nature, will let us down, and if our identity is found in this community, we will find that our lives will come tumbling down with them. This is why I believe time alone with God is so important, it reminds us that our identity should be placed solely in Christ. Being alone is difficult and trying but it is an opportunity for so much healing, identity-shaping and self-awareness. Because sometimes the only time we are forced to look inward is when there is nothing distracting us outwardly.
Your humble servant,
Dear Bear Necessities,
I was very excited to read your description of the last summit you arrived at. It sounds absolutely gorgeous. I wanted to first address your question. I do not believe attributing deistic qualities of nature would be the right way to approach your pilgrimage. What you are suggesting, friend, is pantheism. This would suggest that everything around us composes an all-encompassing god, or rather that Nature is equivalent with god. It is held by pantheism that god is ‘diffused’ or ‘concealed’ in Nature and is therefor a monistic, omni-relevant characteristic of this World. This is an easy idea to slip into while on the trail. Not only are you surrounded by a nature that is both magnificent, beautiful, and terrifying, but it seems the natural direction of the human condition to fall in to pantheism. However, you mustn’t go the way of Thoreau and mistake nature for what it points to. We mustn’t allow the creature to replace the creator. When we do not separate the two, god becomes an abstract idea, or a transcending spirituality. If we allow for this the only conclusion left to make is, that which we call ‘evil’ and ‘good,’ hold no merit as ‘god’ is present and encompasses both. If a god encompasses that which is evil, is this god worthy to be worshiped? May it never be! Just like the notes on a scale could not themselves create concrete music, an abstract ‘god’ could not create non-abstract entities. The trees around you are indeed, concrete entities, are they not? They are apart of the reality in which you experience, but they are distinct from yourself. Because of this we must assume that they are separate from ourselves and concrete, thus the existence of a concrete creator is needed. Alas, I have once again found the rabbit trail. You have not written to me for a written lecture on epistemology and ontology. However, I do hope this has answered your question.
I would suggest to you to spend some time away from your new companions in the mornings, maybe before packing up and heading out. Spend some time meditating on God, His Word, and His creation around you.