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I took a train ride through some mountains today, and it was such a wonderful experience to be able to totally focus on the majesty of the mountains and all the trees that covered them (instead of having to concentrate on driving).  Whether it's admiring the beauties of nature, contemplating the infinite implications of the stars, or just marvelling at the miracle of life, thought, and our human existence, I cannot see how any human being could be indifferent to what all this means, nor can I see how we cannot burst forth at least occasionally with some kind of praise for life and all that it means.

I'm not talking about religious beliefs or even talk about a God.  Let it be some magical "force" if you like, but whatever it is, doesn't it deserve the occasional thank-you, even if our thanks is just a deluded attempt to communicate with a Force that made us and then left us entirely to our own devices?

One of the saddest observations I can make about the human world these days is just the extraordinary effort that so many of us go to to avoid even thinking about the miracle of the universe.  I have seen in religious music especially, an attempt to express praise, and yet in so many of the churches where I have heard the music sung, there seems to be something missing.  More effort seems to go into getting the notes and words right than actually pouring our spirits into the experience and expression of praise that must have motivated the composers when they first wrote those songs.

Singing songs of praise should flow naturally from the many little glimpses of awesomeness that we observe in the world around us.  Even such little pleasures as the crunch of a fresh apple or the warmth of the sun on our faces on a cold day can draw us closer to this force and make us thankful to be alive.  Such songs as John Denver's "Sunshine on my Shoulder" express what I'm talking about here.  No mention of God, yet a deep expression of praise, and thankfulness for being alive.

I have used the word "Force" instead of "God" because I think the awesomeness is there with or without theology.  Quakers and most New Agers talk about the universe itself as though it were God.  Sounds a bit dumb in some ways, because it's obviously the existence of all this stuff that makes our rational minds reach out to ask where it all came from; nevertheless, even if you draw the line at the universe itself (with no thought of how it got here), there should be some awe, some reverence for an unnamed Source, even if we just see at as an amazing intelligence in the tiniest pieces of atoms themselves.

As I get older, I also recognise more and more that I won't be able to experience all of this thing we call life forever.  I am just a passing actor on the stage, which is all the more reason for me to be grateful while I am here.  I have known atheists who still live lives of high ideals.  I think this is consistent with my own conviction that the "Creator" (for that is more my image of the Force) wants us to do something loving and helpful during our few years of existence.  After we're dead, it may not matter at all whether people think well of us, and yet something in the hearts of all people (religious and non-religious alike) recognises this desire to do good as part of the bigger picture, perhaps even more necessary than life itself.

Lately I have been thinking more of this awe about eternity and an infinite universe as being the kind of "faith" that Jesus (and the Apostles) were talking about… the kind of faith that "saves" us.  I still believe that Jesus himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that his teachings hold the answers to all of our questions.  But I have been singularly unsuccessful in getting others to recognise that (i.e. to recognise it in the same way that I do, at least).  But something in my spirit reaches out to anyone else out there who feels that same awe about the Force that brought all of us into existence.  It doesn't have to lead to agreement on other things, as long as we can recognise that there are people in this world who want to live lives of thankfulness.

I believe that this is also what the reasoning is (if one can accept that there is a reason) behind the whole universe, i.e. that we might all respond with lives of thankfulness.

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