The sun at high noon, the stars in dark space,
the light of the moon on each upturned face,
the high clouds, the rain clouds, the lark-song on high:
we gaze up in wonder above to the sky.
The green grassy blade, the grasshopper’s sound,
the creatures of shade that live in the ground,
the dark soil, the moist soil, where plants spring to birth:
we look down at wonder below in the earth.
The glad joys that heal the tears in our eyes,
the longings we feel, the light of surprise,
our night dreams, our day dreams, our thoughts ranging wide:
we live with a whole world of wonder inside.
Let’s get the melody stuff right out of the way – Tom Benjamin, whom I have had the pleasure of making music with, is a terrific hymn writer, and this tune is great. It’s got all of the qualities you want in a tune, including a well-matched lyric.
I suspect if I were in a different mindset, I’d be singing this hymn’s praises. We really actually don’t have too many hymns that praise nature and its meaning/effect on us. But right now – just weeks before the votes are cast in the most contentious American election possibly ever – singing praises to nature doesn’t cut it for me. I need something right now to help me make sense of deep questions of worth. I need something to get in deep and make it all okay.
Of course, I realize that this is why we have hundreds of hymns and are free to choose those we need to work with a particular setting. And my doing this rather artificially structured tour means I will sing hymns that are not connected to what is actually called for.
And yet… as I typed those words, I wonder. Is it so random, really, that I am singing hymns about nature and the celebration of our interdependent web, that when people are behaving at their worst I am singing praises to the earth and all its inhabitants at their best? I don’t disagree with my earlier feeling that some of these hymns are a little fluffy and light on the theology… and maybe that is exactly the point. Maybe the point is that we have to remember there is more to life than the conflict that is arising or the particular events of a moment. There is more to life – and it is there for us to see, all around us, beyond us, within us.
There it is, then.