It was raining. My 9-year old granddaughter said, “Hey PopPop, let’s dance in the rain.” I responded with, “No, Parker. We’ll get soaking wet.” She responded, “Please, PopPop.” In my 79 year old wisdom, I said, “No, Parker. You’ll catch your death of cold.”
We went into the garage, pulled up a couple of chairs and watched the rain. She got up and put her hand under a stream of water coming off the roof. “I love the rain” she said wistfully. “Look at the raindrops on the driveway. It looks like little diamonds”
I suddenly felt like the grumpy old man I had been trying so hard to avoid. Why couldn’t I dance in the rain?
I said, “Parker, the next time it rains, I’ll dance in the rain with you,” thinking that I could somehow extract myself from the embarrassment of denying her the pleasure of dancing in the rain.
A few months later, she was staying with us, and it rained. She said, “PopPop, remember when you promised me that you would dance in the rain with me?” I smiled reluctantly, and said, “Yes.”
We danced in the rain, and it was joyful. We chased each other, playing tag in the rain, dancing, laughing, and feeling this connection with each other that bridged the generations. We got soaking wet. We didn’t catch cold.
Have we insulated ourself from nature so much that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to dance in the rain? Statistics show that rainfall will reduce voter turnout, the most precious gift we have in our culture. God forbid that we should get wet or get outside of our technologically produced 72 degree bubble. Nature is not our enemy. It may the only way we can find connection to God, whatever you perceive God to be.
Robert Pirsig introduced me to the joy of nature in 1975 when his landmark book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was published. When I read this passage in the first chapter of the book, I knew this is what I had to do.
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.
Since then, I’ve logged over 150,000 miles on a motorcycle in the rain, cold, intense heat, even snow. Fortunately, I’ve never touched that concrete whizzing by under my feet.It’s been wonderful. I feel alive on a motorcycle. Maybe I connect with God more on a motorcycle than in a church.
In a recent Atlantic article, [This is No Way to Be Human], by Alan Lightman, he refers to research by social psychologists Stephan Mayer and Cindy McPherson Frantz, at Oberlin College, who developed something called the “connectedness to nature scale” (CNS), a set of statements that could be used to determine a person’s degree of affinity for nature. After answering “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “neutral,” “agree,” or “strongly agree” to each statement, each participant would have an overall score computed. Some of the statements of the CNS test are:
- I often feel a sense of oneness with the natural world around me.
- I think of the natural world as a community to which I belong.
- When I think of my life, I imagine myself to be part of a larger cyclical process of living.
- I feel as though I belong to the Earth as equally as it belongs to me.
- I feel that all inhabitants of Earth, human and nonhuman, share a common “life force.”
What’s your CNS score? After my recent experience at MEA with Father Richard Rohr, I think I score higher on this scale than I would have scored before. I didn’t think much about God or talk much about God before meeting Father Richard and reading his books. I’ll be forever grateful to Chip Conley for making this meeting possible.
If you’re looking for God, open your door, go outside and dance in the rain with a child. You’ll find him/her in every drop of rain, the spontaneous smile and laughter of a child, and maybe in yourself.
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