In the dark recesses of earth’s history, evidence of primitive man’s obsequious approach to the terror of the unknown is found in the cave paintings and burial sites our distant ancestors left behind. Early homo sapiens appealed to the unknown to grant them the things they needed to survive – plenty of game, crops, and good weather – whatever would make their lives more bearable.
As time passed, the faith of civilizations became increasingly sophisticated as people became more sedentary and were able to devote time to the development of mythology and tradition. After eons, the many gods began to coalesce into a single, monotheistic, all-encompassing Creator referred to by many names – Yahweh, Jehovah, God, Allah and others.
Regardless of what faith a person practices, the objective is the same. Faith is an attempt by man to understand himself and his relationship to the universe and eternity. All of the world’s major religions share this eternal quest. Each set of beliefs admonishes its followers to strive to be worthy and to endeavor to adhere to the highest of human ideals.
People experience God from the perspective of their instruction and life experience. Being raised to adhere to a set of laws governing social behavior makes it more likely a child will grow to adulthood without straying too far from his upbringing. Parents tend to treat their children the way they perceive the Creator treats them which solidifies the belief system of the child.
Many faiths require their followers to take an oath of commitment as an adult regardless of whether or not the individual was born into the faith. This is because it is important for these religions to know that those who profess to be believers have made that commitment as sentient adults rather than being permitted to float along on the periphery of belief based on the random circumstance of birth.
There are those who have decided that science and belief in the Creator cannot coexist. On the other hand, there are scientists who believe the mysteries of the universe are testimony to the omnipotence of the eternal. Others feel that true followers must forgo their individuality and depend on the Creator for the definition and direction of their lives. However, some choose to present themselves to the Creator as stalwart individuals who stand strong before the eternal. They take the Creator’s gift of life and offer it in service.
Edna St. Vincent Millay is such a person. In her poem, Renascence, she describes her emotions as she stands spiritually naked before her God. The title of the poem means renaissance or rebirth. This poem speaks of the eternal and an intense response to the power of the unknown. It is amazing to learn that it was written when she was only 19.
I have found refuge in these words over the years but am especially enamored with the last lines I have shared. They keep me company and remind me I am not alone in my quest for some measure of understanding of the universe.
Renascence (the last lines)
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, —
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.
Melodie Langford works as an online instructor for The College City. She writes poetry in her spare time and enjoys reading the poetry of others. She likes the classics best.