Sunday, February 28, 2016

Blowin’ in the Wind: Roaming the Milky Way with John Adams

("Blowin’ in the Wind" is a regular feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me or give me joy. I trust they’ll do the same for you.)

I’ve not referenced a movie before among my “Blowin’ in the Wind” essays, but I recently watched with Gail the highly acclaimed HBO miniseries, John Adams, featuring Paul Giamatti doing a nice job in the lead and Laura Linney a compellingly acted Abigail. It chronicles some of the interesting history of post-revolutionary War America, especially, what it took to complete the grand experiment of the first presidential succession. The series is quite long, so don’t expect to bag it in a single evening; but pick it up at your local library and spend several nights with some popcorn in front of the TV before warm spring evenings entice you outdoors.

Even though it’s probably fictional, there’s a lovely scene near the end of the series that grabbed my attention, and that I thought I’d enjoy sharing with you. Adams, late in life, long after his presidency and long back on his Massachusetts farm, walks slowly down a lane among his fields talking with his son Thomas. He is about 90 years of age by this time, his wife and two of his children have preceded him in death, and their conversation turns reflective. Sunset is past, dusk is deepening, and Thomas bids him turn and begin the walk home, as it is getting late.

Adams stops abruptly, thinks, and says to Thomas, “Come here…” His son stops and turns, and Adams says to him quietly, “I have seen a queen of France with eighteen million livres of diamonds on her person. But I declare that all the charms of her face and figure, added to all the glitter of her jewels, did not impress me as much… as that little shrub,” and he points to a small wildflower. (If my memory serves, it was a nondescript white yarrow.) “Now, your mother always said that I never delighted enough in the mundane, but now I find if I look
at even the smallest things, my imagination begins to 
roam the Milky Way.”                                                                     

…Your mother always said I never delighted
enough in the mundane, but now I find if I
look at even the smallest things, my imagination
begins to roam the Milky Way…

He pauses, then says very softly, “Rejoice evermore! Rejoice evermore!” His son looks at him like he’s losing touch, and Adams says with a smile, “Well, it’s a phrase from St. Paul, you fool! Rejoice evermore!” And then he shouts loudly with a jump in his step, “Rejoice evermore!” Laughing, he continues, “Oh, I wish that had always been in my heart and on my tongue. You know, I am filled almost with an irresistible impulse to fall on my knees in adoration right here,” and he gets weak-kneed and falls into his son’s arms chuckling.

As Thomas holds him up, Adams finally says, “If only my knees would bend like they used to!” He kisses his son on the cheek, and they continue.

That simple scene affected me strongly, a good example of what often happens to the Christian naturalist caught up to spontaneous praise by the most unpretentious of things. The beauty, mystery and singularity of creation is astounding.

So pay attention. Look for beauty everywhere. You might just also find yourself when you least expect it to be roaming the Milky Way.

~~ Rejoice evermore (1 Thessalonians 5:16),
RGM, February 28, 2016

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