The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Smallman reminds us that God is now unveiled to us in Jesus. When we look at Jesus, we see the glory of God. I'd go farther. When we look at the world, the back streets, strip malls, wooded lots, rivers, shorelines --- all those places we walk and ride through, which we live in --- through Jesus we now see their glory, a glory veiled to those who do not know the Father of Creation. Sure, when Stilgoe catalogs his observations, he's looking at the same things we are, but what I notice in reading his book is that he has no context within which to place his observations, cannot see through them to their glory. Without Christ, we cannot see the "dearest freshness deep down things," to use Hopkins' phrase.
Sure, it's a fractured glory. We see that "all is seared with trade," that the big-box stores squat heavy on the landscape, that all "wears man's smudge," that urban decay is evident, that what once was "modern" is now simply old. But for all this, Hopkins says "nature is never spent." There's hope for the restoration of all things, substantially here, but in whole in a new heavens and a new earth.
[The "40 Days On the Edge" posts are my ruminations in light of Stephen Smallman's devotional entitled "Forty Days On the Mountain," read in conjunction with Harvard Landscape History Professor John Stilgore's "Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places." Both books may be ordered by clicking on them where they are listed in the sidebar under "Current Reading."]