The following is a poem I first encountered some 15 years ago, a photocopy of a newspaper clipping taped to the wall of a library. Over the years it has popped into mind from time to time but I have never been able to find it – until now, in the age of digital scanning and text recognition.
The author is Richard Wightman who evidently wrote several times for Success Magazine in the early 1900’s (you can find more of his writings via the Library of Congress). Wightman was an interesting fellow. In 1913 he was married to Patricia Margaret Street by a Unitarian pastor, Rev. Loren MacDonald. Wightman was a Christian, though both his writings and his choice of a Unitarian pastor show him to be somewhat progressive, especially for his time. He was also attracted to the profound more than the frivolous. For instance, Richard and Patricia were married at the grave site of Ralph Waldo Emerson, their ceremony held in Sleepy Hollow cemetery as a show of their mutual appreciation for the poet.
Below is one of Wightman’s writings, the poem I first saw 15 years ago. I found a copy in the April 9, 1910 edition of The Deseret News, a Utah newspaper. It was originally printed in Success Magazine.
To lift, athirst, the brimming Glass of life and drain it, dregs and all, with smack of smiling lip and slap of knee;
To bend above the Stream of Trade and wrest from it my gold, clean-handed, zestfully, as one who takes equivalents – not more – for what he gives;
To hear, attent, the silent cry of those who lack, dividing food and faggots and the couraged word;
To look well to my sowing, knowing sure that each small seed, by law Immutable, begets its kind – and multiplied at that;
To shrine my Woman high and touch her flesh with prayer as well as passion;
To find within the eyes of children that fine light which guides the man to simpler ways again and nestles him within the arms of this old earth’s vast motherhood;
To search for peace within the lily-bell or ‘neath the verdant moss by forest ways, and, searching, find a fuller mere than e’er was dreamed or guessed;
To hail my friend with frankness-palm to palm and eye to eye, with merge of heart and hope until we twain are one and gianted for battle.
To think things out in my own way and blast a doctrine, when it bars my path, with reverent ruthlessness.
To take my God wherever I may find him – in the meetinghouse or in the meadow, or where the liners cleave the crests and fling their foam afar
To know that Jesus lived for me to show me how to live, and died for me to show me how to die, should they assail my truth as they did his;
To hold that love is lawful, all of it, or else it be not love, but something less;
That, sirs, seems good to me and right and fair, and by the grace of each day’s sun, and verve of starry nights, I face my years with glee as one who dies not, but lives always.
By Richard Wightman
The Book of Wonder
13.8 billion years ago, something happened. The universe emerged from a realm of mystery. It seems that every day scientists push back the veil a little bit farther, but many mysteries remain about our origin. Roll the clock forward, march downward through the years, centuries, millennia, eons and watch wonder after wonder unfold before your eyes. This universe is a marvel. There is so much to see, so much to explore, so much to learn, and so much joy to be had throughout the process of discovery.
There is more to this world than what you come into contact with day after day. On just our own planet today there are countless varieties of plants and animals – not to mention all those that have gone on before. There are peoples and nations, languages and cultures, beliefs and practices. There are religions, philosophies, ethical systems. There are trinkets and treasures, gadgets and gizmos. So much to see.
A Bit About Me
The Book of Wonder is a place to explore these marvels. I am Charles Henry. I spent a good portion of my life involved in church work – either preparing to be a pastor, or working in a variety of positions at a variety of churches. I spent the last several years serving as pastor in different Southern Baptist churches. All that changed when I came to two conclusions:
- First, there is no God.
- Second, the universe is a far more incredible place than I had ever dared imagine.
After spending so many years engaged in church work, and having shifted now to a technology field, I want to devote as much time as I can expanding my knowledge of the universe and sharing this wonder with others. There is so much to learn that even a layman staying on a lay level cannot keep up with even a fraction of what is out there. The Book of Wonder is a journal of my attempt.
From time to time friends may join me on here, but on the whole any content is my fault. I am a learner, not an expert, and I may make mistakes in my observations. One of my goals for this site is that it will help me learn, both because writing is often the best form of thinking, and because of the influence of those who might drop by to correct mistakes I make.
While many topics will be raised on this site, the biggest areas will be science, religion, and politics.
Scientists are superheroes. The universe is a fascinating and deadly place. Scientists are those who help us learn more and explore farther while giving us the tools we need to survive. If we are to continue as a species, we must provide resources for scientific advance. We must also nurture curiosity, sowing the seeds of fascination so that young people will grow up with a hunger to know more and see farther.
My personal goal is to advance to reasonable competence in multiple scientific disciplines. My main fascination is physics with a particular love of astrophysics. But I also want to expand my knowledge in biology, chemistry, geology, anthropology,… Every bit of knowledge is an occasion for excitement.
For better or worse, religion is what I know best. I come from a fiercely convictional, confessional conservative Christian background. My degrees are in biblical studies and I spent a great deal of time reading, writing, and preaching about biblical matters. I know my Bible, theology, and apologetics and will spend a bit of time through this blog sharing what led me to see it all as fiction. As I hope will be made clear, I do not despise Christianity. I understand it, I understand the hold it has on people, I understand the mechanisms in place to keep people from turning aside, and I hope more people will come to see that there is a better way.
At the same time, I don’t believe we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Abandoning Christianity requires rethinking everything but it does not require rejecting everything once believed. In my posts I will talk about many of my beliefs that have changed, but also some that have not.
A quick word of appreciation for The Clergy Project. This is an organization which provides support for pastors who no longer believe. In the midst of my struggle over belief, when I finally came to the conclusion that I no longer believed in God, I had a community to turn to. If you are in a ministry role and looking for support – both through friendships and through career advice – The Clergy Project is a great place to look.
This will likely be the least active area of the site but is included because of its importance. Like it or not, societies often stand or fall on the actions of their politicians. Significant scientific advance requires the support of governing bodies, and while I support the promotion of religious freedom, we also need to ensure that politicians do not use office to promote their personal religious beliefs. We live in an awkward age. Many Christians believe they are increasingly opposed if not outright persecuted in America today even as many politicians seem to be hastening to put forth pro-Christianity agendas. I do not want to see any individual – whether an illegal immigrant, a private citizen, or a public official – restricted from practicing his or her faith, I also do not want those faith beliefs advocated on the level of policy. In addition to these matters, I may from time to time blog about ways my shift away from God have altered my politics.
I hope you enjoy the blog. Jump into the comments. Introduce yourself. Learn much, teach much, and most of all, be in wonder at the marvels of the universe.