My work takes me to Antarctica. Not the postcard-beautiful Antarctica where cathedral-shaped icebergs of purest white drift in a ocean of indescribably deep blue that Jacques Cousteau filmed and I hypnotically watched sitting in front of my family’s television set forty years ago. Nor is it the Antarctica that modern tourists see, full of penguins and seals and historical sites preserving the hardships faced by early explorers. Instead, the Antarctica I experience is a bleak, frigid, desolate unending tapestry of white on white, an empty sameness in every direction.
Many, probably most, people would not seek such surroundings, but for me I find these moments of absolute solitude central to my desire to contemplate the purpose of my life—soulful questions such as “who am I?” and “how should I relate to the rest of the universe that surrounds me”? Civilization is far removed from all of my senses. Even the magnificent and intricate complexity of nature is absent. My solitude does not give me a feeling of aloneness, nor of fear. Rather, I feel very much at peace–a part of the natural world which has been reduced to a few basic elements: snow, air and often a steady wind. Elements of nature—parts of God—His Creation. And Me.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to commune with God in this special way, in this unusual place, so far from distractions. I do not know if this is similar to the inner tranquility aspired to by those who meditate. I have never been very successful at meditation. Trying to deny my senses of sight, of sound, and of smell to avoid distractions is difficult for me. In the vast emptiness of Antarctica I can open my eyes wide, breath deeply and leave my ears uncovered to take in the richness of nature around me and expand my awareness–for all that is around me is of God’s making. It is God’s holy nature that embraces me.
What I take away from each blessed, frigid communion with God, Mother Nature, Creator of All around me is – love. I do not feel drawn to confess actions which I regret, nor driven to make a list of what I must do when I return from this place. They usually come later when I return. What I feel over and over in these moments of solitude is God’s love for me–a quiet, undeniable embrace of kindness and grace that is God’s gift to me. It is this reassuring message that accompanies me on my return to the too-hectic, too-chaotic routines of my life.
I feel no more special than any other person who lives or who has ever lived. God loves me because I am one of his children. My unique means to commune with my spiritual soul does not make me special but I recognize it as a unique gift and I treasure that uniqueness. He loves each and every one of us and all creation around us with the same measure of unbounded, unfathomably deep love. His love and His grace envelope me like a warm blanket of infinite comfort. With it, the Antarctic cold cannot chill me; with it I can feel God’s love for all that is; with it I can live my life more joyfully.
This I believe.
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