Terra Philosphica can be divided into the supernatural and the natural. The Greeks drew the first metaphysical maps. Plato was a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy, looking for the essence of things behind the shadows of the cave. Aristotle was a pie-on-the-plate kind of guy, focusing on the world of everyday experience.
Ever since my dad told me there was no Santa, I’ve been a naturalist .The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, ghosts, fairies and vampires were collateral damage to the Santa bomb. Thereafter, despite eight years of Catholic education, God, original sin, divine Jesus, miracles, heaven and hell, all seemed unlikely, if not preposterous.
I became a Rational Man. Science and data ruled. If enough really smart people said it was so, then it was.
So coffee and eggs were bad for you, then they were good. Mammograms were good, but then sometimes they were bad. Trump had no chance, but then he got elected. Pluto was a planet, then it wasn’t. Bill Cosby was America’s dad until he was a monster. Maybe scientism is just a form of theism. Oh there’s a natural world, but nobody really knows anything for sure. The smartest people in the world at one time thought the earth was the center of the universe, and an eclipse was the lunar snack of celestial dragon.
So the supernatural doesn’t exist, and the natural is unknowable. So where is the sweet spot? Transcendence is at the edge of the boundary between the natural and the supernatural.
That’s the place where it all makes sense, where we catch a glimpse of a better future. It happens for everyone somewhere, sometime. The church on Sunday. Working in the garden. The wedge to 5 feet. Helping someone. The sea. The desert. The dusk. The dawn.
For me it’s walking into a room and watching the light come up in the eyes of my grandchildren because Papa has come to visit. Or when the Eagles take it up another notch at the end of Already Gone as I finish my morning run. Or when I looked down at the Grand Canyon, or up in Wyoming to see the Grand Tetons explode out of the earth. Or just sitting out on my back porch in my little house in south Oak Park looking at Marsha’s beautiful garden framed against a clear blue sky writing the first draft of this column while drinking a gin and tonic.
Maybe the transcendent is the promise of the supernatural. Maybe it is the raison d’etre of the natural world. Who knows? Who cares? Just be there.