to infer

Since reasoning, or inference, the principal subject of logic, is an operation which usually takes place by means of words, and in complicated cases can take place in no other way: those who have not a thorough insight into both the signification and purpose of words, will be under chances, amounting almost to certainty, of reasoning or inferring incorrectly.
John Stuart Mill

The idea of a God we infer from our experimental dependence on something superior to ourselves in wisdom, power and goodness, which we call God; our senses discover to us the works of God which we call nature, and which is a manifest demonstration of his invisible essence. Thus it is from the works of nature that we deduce the knowledge of a God, and not because we have, or can have any immediate knowledge of, or revelation from him.
Ethan Allen

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Limitation collides with the Limitless
Try as it must, it cannot describe that which is beyond description.
The human mind labors to find the words…
even just one word…
but it fails.

An Entity that is without time, without form, without definition, without words…
Efforts are made to contain, to explain and to chain…
To detect, to dissect as well as inspect
Yet to do so has proven impossible.

Is IT greater than?

Of course IT is…
Without exception…

Yet…

The ego must see, must touch, must measure….
in order to claim, to believe and to state that something is indeed real.

The masses are left to merely inject, project, and to infer…
their own words…
their own thoughts…
their own meanings…
as well as
their own feelings…

Making IT forever less than…
less than IT should ever be…

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
1 Chronicles 29:11

The weight of silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
Mother Teresa

Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.

–St. John of the Cross

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(grave marker, St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

There is nothing more crushing, more suffocating, more humbling, more welcoming…
nay more invigorating than Silence.
It is penetrating, lonely, encompassing, exhilarating and greatly needed.
Silence is soothing, healing, teaching and utterly necessary.

Yet it is feared.

It is avoided and fought with the frantic filling of each and any void with noise…
Loud, raucous and incessant…
Jabbering nervous nonsense…
Anything to stave the penetrating and uncomfortable knowingness of Silence.

For it is more familiar and more knowing than self ever dares on its own

There is a sickening dread and queasy uneasiness because vulnerability is glaringly exposed…
Yet there is truth within it’s vast and sweeping depths…
As truth must be fully purged if one is ever to become pure.
It is required if one is ever to hear the stillness found
in the presence of the The Great I AM

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Habakkuk 2:20

To what extent do we love

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
Saint Augustine

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(image of St Kevin as seen in an ancient Irish codex 9th-10th century)

“It is said that once upon a time St. Kevin was kneeling with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross in Glendalough. . . As Kevin knelt and prayed, a blackbird mistook his outstretched hand for some kind of roost and swooped down upon it, laid a clutch of eggs in it and proceeded to nest in it as if it were the branch of a tree. Then, overcome with pity and constrained by his faith to love all creatures great and small, Kevin stayed immobile for hours and days and nights and weeks, holding out his hand until the eggs hatched and the fledging grew wings, true to life if subversive of common sense, at the intersection of natural process and the glimpsed ideal, at one and the same time a signpost and a reminder. Manifesting that order of poetry where we can at last grow up to that which we stored up as we grew.”

This kindly tale of St Kevin and the blackbird, as told by Seamus Heaney, is a tale of which legends must be made as it goes well beyond our modern comprehension of the probable or even the possible.

That a man, caught up in the rapture of deep prayer, could or would be so very still that a bird would light upon his hand in which to lay her eggs…then out of his sweeping concern, compassion and love for all of God’s creatures, particularly for this blackbird and now for her eggs, knew his task was to remain as still as possible until the eggs hatched and the baby birds could fly away on their own.

Poppycock and fairytales….
Far fetched myth and lore…
A sweet little tale for the naive and gullible…

Yet is that simply the single point we are to glean from this sweet little story…
a tale of unbelievable feats carried out all because of a deep abiding love…
or….
…is there more….
as in much much more…?

Perhaps this tale is but a reminder…
A reminder that we have been offered Love…
A great, vast, forgiving and consuming Love….

And the amazing thing about all of this is that we are actually the object of that Love.
We were actually created out of that Love.
So it should come as no surprise that we are to, in turn, exhibit and convey that same Love
to any and all we encounter along our way…
Because within that Love resides a Power so deep and so strong that it is greater than any power known on Earth…
That should we both acknowledge and honor that Love, there would be no limit to what that Love through our faith and actions could accomplish…

Held within each of our lives is a powerful Love…yet sadly we don’t seem fully aware of the absolute strength of what is possible…

Perhaps it is the likes of St Kevin, as well as the countless other believers throughout the ages whose amazing acts of selflessness, as well as superhuman feats, is what is rooted deep within the abiding and almost naive belief that this very Love is capable of truly the unbelievable….

Backwards and forwards

Nobody gets to live life backward.
Look ahead, that is where your future lies.

Ann Landers

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Gleandalough National Park / County Wicklow / Julie Cook / 2015)

Peering over the top of the rock wall, we stare out over an unfamiliar site.
The who’s, the what’s and the why’s of another day and time.
Names forgotten.
Beginning and ending dates, once so important to those whom the comings and the goings of these particular lives truly mattered, are now nothing more than mere worn numbers.

We live,
we perish,
we mourn,
as the living move forward.

Are we different because of those who now are on the other side of the wall?
Are we better?
Are we worse?
Have we been affected at all?

Their voices may now be silent, yet we hear them whisper…
There are warnings, advice, encouragement and guidance
But only if we stop long enough to listen.

Their’s are regrets, sorrows, as well as lives well lived and loved.
Many, such as those across the wall, are all but long forgotten.
A weathered worn marker, ravaged by time and the elements, once a place
for melancholy recollections, stands now as a lonely sage to an unsuspecting future.

We can look and wonder…
We can imagine what may have been,
as we wonder what might yet be…

The way was paved.
For good or for bad.
There were mistakes…grave and regrettable.
Yet there were also moments of greatness and wonder.

Are we better?
Would they be amazed or would they knowingly shake their heads in disbelief?
Do they know what we don’t…
that we too have a date with destiny…
Yet with but two choices remaining…?

We must choose to yield a stone cold will
or
Either we choose to set that will to stone…
just like many of those on the other side of the rock wall…

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Romans 6:13

Glendalough, boardwalks and getting lost in Ireland

“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord:
His going forth is prepared as the morning”

Hosea 6:3

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(a stand of beautiful ash trees, Glendalough in the Wicklow National Park / County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Walk up to the monastery, take a little look around then head left past the church, going on up to the trail head…take the first right…this will lead you to the boardwalk.
The boardwalk will take you to the upper lake where you’ll be greeted with quite the view—it’ll be about a 20 minute easy walk up then 20 minutes back…”

“Will you be coming with us?”

“No, no, I’ll be right here waiting on you when you get back…
Now off you go…”

Meandering through the tiny pig trails which crisscross through the overgrown knee high grass and brambles, all of which offer any casual observer a sense that a fuzzy patchwork blanket had recently been spread across the land, a seemingly long forgotten cemetery sits frozen in time. This once sacred site, littered with ancient and not so ancient graves, beckon to both pilgrim and tourist to come lose oneself in the mystery of time.

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(graves litter the ground of St Kevin’s monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

Stones worn by rain and time now stand as lonely sentinels to what once was. Many are in disrepair, dangerously listing to either left or right and terribly skewed off balance.
Despite the overcast skies, the honey bees busily buzz around the flowering and ripening blackberries reminding all that life indeed continues even amongst the departed.

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(rippening blackberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

After wandering through the long lost stone remnants of the 6th century celtic monastery founded by St Cóemgen or better known to the Anglican speaker as St. Kevin, we made our way to the trail head which, after a short jaunt by the lower lake, would take us gently upward for a spectacular view of the two lakes for which Glendalough is so named.

Walking past the lower lake we are greeted by the serene sight of deer grazing on the opposite side of the lake…and something even more amazing…
a joyous and peaceful silence.
Blessed beautiful peaceful silence.
No planes, no cars, no motorcycles—just the wind rustling through the leaves and the sounds of birds chattering overhead.

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(a group of fallow deer grazing / Glendalough / Julie Cook /2015)

Continuing on our way we come upon a fork in the trail. Stopping at a sign which points right for a 1.6 km hike upward along the lower lake or straight for a 1.4 km hike upward through a lush canopied forest…we ponder our choice.

Rationalizing our limited time and desire to see as much as possible, we opt for the best of both worlds…it made perfect sense, or so it seemed–we’d take the path leading into the forest, straight up for the journey upward and hit the boardwalk tail for the decent downward.

A no brainer.

As we began our upward journey, we soon noticed that the terrain was changing. No longer was the walking trail smooth–it was now narrowing and littered with meandering roots and stones. Stumbling a bit and tripping over the roots, we pressed onward.

“I’m not dressed for this. . .” one in our party grouses.

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(the beginning of an upward journey / Julie Cook / 2015)

Up and up we wander, suddenly realizing that we’re very much alone, as in the other hikers and tourists seem to be now long gone or have mysteriously disappeared. It’s just the three of us and a vast forest reaching ever upward.

Hummm….

“Isn’t it odd that nobody else is around…?”

“What time is it?”

“Well past the 20 minutes it was suppose to take us to the top”

Now huffing and puffing it appears as if the trail has begun to switchback rather sharply indicating we were heading up quite the mountain trail… oddly we had noticed a sign a bit of a ways back pointing to what must be an abandoned mine…
“Lead mine this way”

“Where’s the lake???” we simultaneously ask

“Where’s the view??

“What’s a lead mine?”

“Where they mine lead, duh”

“Way up here?!”

HUMMMMMM…

“I wish I’d brought my bottle of water.”

“It’s well past 20 minutes.”

“Reckon we ought to keep going?”

“He’s going to kill us if we don’t find the lake!”

“Who cares, I’m tired and I don’t have on the right kind of shoes for this.”

“Is that rain I feel?”

“I need to go to the bathroom”

“I think you can pick a tree for that”

“Did anyone bring a Kleenex?”

“I just thought this was a quick little stop to see a lake!”

Ya’ll stay here and I’ll go on up to the next turn to see if there’s any sort of clearing, lake or view. I’ll holler for ya’ll to come on up if I see something, otherwise I’ll come back and we’ll just go back down the way we came.

“Deal” the other two offer in unison as the relief of a brief respite is lost on no one.

Heading up the now very narrow tail, all I can see is switchback after switchback with trees still looming overhead. Certainly nowhere near the top and with nary a view in sight.

Part of me longed to keep going, straight to the top, proper shoes or not, as I’ve lived long enough to know of the sorts of rewards that await those who persevere upward…
yet my two traveling companions were having none of it and were more than ready to head downward…after all this was just our first day on this amazing journey and we’d certainly not built up any sort of traveling stamina just quite yet…and anyway, lunchtime seemed to be calling.

Slowly we began our decent while little by little the trail opened up.
Tiny waterfalls trickled down the hills as lush vegetation greeted us each step of the way

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(Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Irish clover / Julie Cook / 2015)

Catching a view of the lower lake only added an exclamation point to the moniker “the Emerald Isle, as a delightful peace descended over three weary souls…

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(Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

Finally back down to the part of the trail that thankfully looked familiar, we glance the now infamous boardwalk to our left.

“Guess we should have just taken the boardwalk in the first place huh?”

” Oh I don’t know…I think what we’ve seen has been pretty darn great!”

“And doesn’t the air just feel so good? So much cooler and better than home…!”

Finally catching a familiar glimpse of St Kevin’s tower, we breathe a gentle sigh of relief as we can rest knowing the safety of the parking area and our van is happily close at hand.

“I guess we need to confess we missed the boardwalk and the lake…”

“Reckon he’s going to be worried, it’s been like what, two hours since we left…?”

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(the remains of St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Oh I don’t know, maybe that’s the point…just to let go and to lose ourselves…”

Lose ourselves or not, I’ve still got to go to the bathroom!…”

And thus began a marvelous adventure…or perhaps more aptly put, a marvelous misadventure of a lifetime….

…Time and nature have both joined together, allowing all who traverse this area a rare gift—one does not have to ponder long as to why St. Kevin chose this particular place in which to seekout God—anyone stopping long enough, to simply bask in the peace while listening to the engulfing silence, will actually hear the whispers of a Creator’s magnificent joy. . .

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(the grounds of St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

***Glendalough, meaning “the valley of the two lakes” is a beautifully serene area nestled within the Wiclow Mountains National Park, County Wiclow, Ireland. Only about 1 to 2 hours south of Dublin.
Glendalough was home to a once thriving celtic monastic community founded by St Kevin in the 6th century.