In process theology the idea of "juxtaposition" plays an especially important role. Experience is enriched when we can take different things and see them - no, feel them - together in experience, retaining their differences. In some ways the greater their differences, the greater their togetherness, if we can see the connections. So it is with Nita Gilger in the reflection below, and so it is with God. Even the Life in which the entire universe unfolds, even God, is enriched by juxtapositions or, as Whitehead speaks of them, contrasts: past and present, ancient and recent, inner and outer, seen and heard. God, too, is in process, bringing many into one, again and again, in a spirit of widening circles and love. God is, as Nita puts it, Divinity in Motion.
- Jay McDaniel
Juxtaposition—Finding the Gifts and Connectedness of All
By Nita Gilger
Why is Salisbury Cathedral in England so famous?
The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Salisbury has the tallest spire in Britain (404 feet); it houses the best preserved of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta (1215); and it has the oldest working clock in Europe (1386). This great cathedral holds so much history and hope. What a delight to have worshiped there.
When our study group visited the great Salisbury Cathedral a few years ago, I was amazed at this Early English Gothic Cathedral for so many reasons. It is far more than a tourist attraction. It is an active Anglican church and a hub in the community. Completed in 1258, it still stands with beauty and history galore.
Now travel with me to Colorado to Mesa Verde and the ruins of a sacred place built by the Puebloan People also more than 700 years ago. There are so many stunning archeological treasures there. The overlooks are amazing with panoramic canyon views. There are currently more than 4,700 archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings and mesa top sites of pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers and farming structures with more to be uncovered. There are kivas and petroglyph paintings that can also be viewed and experienced. I am incredibly drawn to the Indigenous people of the great Southwest.
It may seem strange that I juxtapose these two structures which are vastly different from one another. But to my mind, it seems that placing these two treasures side by side is a comparison and contrast worth thinking about. Both pictures point us to humanity's quest for meaning, survival, beauty, and something greater than themselves--Divinity in motion, as it were. We know more about the Salisbury Cathedral than Mesa Verde because documents and structures are still in place and modern-day English folks still worship there. But oh, if the walls could talk, the cathedral stories would be vast and intriguing. Mesa Verde holds more questions and mystery for me. Why did they all leave? Was it drought? War? What we do know is that it was built about 1200 and 1275--the same as the Salisbury Cathedral. Each Puebloan family built its own kiva and room suite. The site grew to include 150 rooms and twenty-three kivas. Is one place more beautiful or fascinating than the other? Not to me. Are the peoples connected to each place of equal value, both giving amazing gifts to the world? For me, the answer is a resounding 'yes'!!!!
In both places there is this quest for community, worship, family gatherings, meaning, purpose, and care for one another. In both places there is a longing for life and looking for a unifying force greater than oneself connecting all. Is one place more special than the other? Is one place more loved by God? Not to my mind. Moral development and an open, loving philosophy of life and cultures requires us to see beauty and value in all peoples--even those who appear very different from ourselves. It is in seeking and seeing that beauty that we can actually refine and grow our own souls. Such openness and quests for understanding provide pathways for us to become more beautiful ourselves.
Rainer Maria Rilke spoke to something of this notion in the Book of Hours:
I live my life in widening circles That reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one But I give myself to it. I circle around God, around the Primordial tower. I've been circling for thousands of years And I still don't know: am I a falcon, A storm, or a great song?
Life is full of juxtapositions, paradoxes, and contrasts. My question is what can I learn? How can I see beauty and value in all peoples for all time in all cultures? What gifts do they bring? In my way of thinking, life is not linear so much as it is circular or spiral-like. God is bigger than the various boxes all civilizations have tried to build. God cannot be contained and should never be limited. It behooves us to take care to try not to define God in our own image.
Prayer: God of mystery, beauty, and love, thank you for civilizations near and far, recent and ancient. Inspire me to live in widening circles of life and breathe in all that you would hope for me to weave into the spiritual well-being of my life. Help us to love one another as you have loved us. Amen.