The Oasis - July 19, 2023

Author: Rev. Dan Hollis
July 19, 2023

     The last several days we’ve seen the air quality in southern Maine drop in and out of the “unhealthy” range. Well, not “seen” so much as “heard about it.” Other places in North America have had haze, unusual sky colorations, and perhaps even Mainers have noticed some rather incredible sunsets recently (that is when it’s not raining!). But much of what we’ve been dealing with here has been invisible: particulates from wildfires in Canada carried on the breeze to our neck of the woods. Science communicator Hank Green described recently how volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzine are so tiny and light that even over long distances, long after the heavier particles of burning wood have drifted down to the ground, they can easily make their way into the lungs of people like us. So you might not smell burning wood, but when the weather station tells you the air quality is “poor” or “unhealthy” on a given day, we should absolutely be limiting our time outside and our physical exercise. Just like God or air, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
     We can see the leaves move and we can feel it on our faces and we can hear it whistling around outside the house, but we can’t see the wind itself. Air is invisible. We can’t see love either. We can see its effects, and if we’re open to it we can feel it warm our hearts… but there are plenty of people who don’t believe it exists. Or who don’t believe they deserve it. Or don’t know how to give it. Or don’t think they’ll ever know what it feels like. But it’s real.
     So is evil. We can look in someone’s eyes and have no idea of the evil they’re capable of until we see the effects of their actions.
     There are things we can do about fine particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide: pay attention to air quality forecasts and stay informed, limit time outdoors and physical activity or even wear a mask when necessary. And, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from the evil in the world just as much as the wildfire smoke in the air.
     And we as people of faith know that wildfire smoke, evil, and even life-giving oxygen aren’t the only things in the air. A life of faith is all about engaging with things that you can’t look directly at. A life of faith is about building a relationship with something that isn’t visible to the naked eye, but lives just there at the edges of your vision. A life of faith is about making meaning out of what feels inexplicable. The inexplicably beautiful and the inexplicably disastrous.
     A life of faith is about dealing with the worst, yet believing in the best.

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