Hey there, I’m Jim.
Christians have a lot in common with thru-hikers. If they take their faith seriously, that is. I’ve experimented with different names for this blog, but what would stick in your mind? Short. Simple. Vivid.
In some circles, Christians talk about their walk with the Lord. I’m not sure much reflection goes into it beyond the sentiments in “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” There are parallels in the Bible.
The Bible, in fact, is rife with hikertrash imagery. Jesus spent a lot of time praying in the mountains. One psalm asks “who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?” and answers, “he of clean hands and a pure heart, who has not given his soul to useless things, to what is vain.” St. Paul said
When the Bible speaks of our being in the world but not of it, some might be tempted to think that “not being of the world” means that we shouldn’t pay any attention to the earth. But in the Bible, World≠Earth. Aquinas spoke of temptations from three main sources: The world, the flesh, and the devil. Again, in calling out the world, he isn’t speaking of the natural world. What is the world, then, that we should be concerned about it? Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (Father Z) says it refers to “indifference and opposition to God’s design,” and further “embracing empty, passing values.”
Do you want to know that “the world is?” Read the Sermon on the Mount. And then go do the opposite. That which distracts us from pursuing “the Kingdom” is the world.
It has nothing to do with nature, which God literally loved into existence and called good. In fact, the author of Romans tells us that “creation awaits the revelation of the children of God with eager expectation, because creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord, but by the one who subjected it in the hope that creation itself would be set free from corruption and also attain to the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
News alert: You have a body and you always will (except for a short period of “time” between when you die and rise from the dead, but you won’t experience it that way because when you die, you leave time and enter eternity). Your body thrives in nature and always will. That which is natural to the body will remain forever. So will the God-given gifts taken away after the fall, gifts that are compatible with our human bodies (preternatural gifts) which many theologians belive Adam and Eve possessed, as did Christ after he arose in his glorified body after the Resurrection…
Hey, you clicked over here and started reading… don’t @ me.
What exactly am I doing here, sharing all of these juicy tidbits with complete strangers? In a nutshell, I’m keeping myself accountable to someone. It might as well be you.
What am I holding myself accountable to?
To a worldview. And a faith. And a way of looking at the world from a different perepective: that of a thru-hiker or long distance bikepacker. The Scriptures are shot through with thru-hiker ethos, and the demands that Jesus put on his disciples look suspiciously thru-hikey. Nomadic. Intentional. and just plain exciting. Now that I think about it, the way the Lord turned things upside down in the Sermon on the Mount reeks of provision and trail magic (all these things will be added unto you), a necessary minimalism, readiness to hit the trail at any time, and an ultimate summit that surpasses anything that Katahdin can offer, even on a clear day.
And so, this is my trail journal, whether I’m literally out there on the trail or taking a zero day. Some days it may seem that I’m channeling Alexander Supertramp. Other days Wendell Berry. Or Diogenes or Boetheus. Something deeper than Marcus Aurelius but maybe not as sublime as Aquinas. My guiding thought is that a day isn’t defined by the things that happen within its 24 hours, but rather it is defined by how I respond to what happens.
I believe that God created the heavens and the earth as an act of sheer love. I believe He never stops creating and loving what He creates, and that if we had even an inkling of the countless realities he has made and continues to make, we would explode from sheer awe and worship. I believe that God created each one of us as a unique thought in His mind, from before the creation of the universe He placed us in, and at that moment in time that defined our beginning, He loved us into existence. To be a reflection of His love. To know and love Him with all the strength we can muster, with the full force of our intellect, from the depths of our hearts. Looking out into the world He has placed us in, our family, our community, our society, we are called to love others…not just as much as we love ourselves (to consider all people our “other selves”), but to the extent that Christ has loved us.
In doing these things, we fulfill within ourselves deep fundamental needs. In almost every instance, they are desires for connection. Connection to God. Connection to others. And the big forgotten one, connection to the natural world that God placed us in not as an interloper or an outside influence, but integral to and right in the middle of a garden. A garden in which it was our first parents’ job to tend and to keep. Yes, humanity’s first occupation was gardening.
For my part, I’m spending the next year (and beyond) striving each day to live these beliefs intentionally. Accountable to you. Answerable to honest feedback. And…well, let’s see how it all goes.
I’m getting rid of a lot of possessions, and will be grateful and thankful for what I keep.When I hike, I carry everything I need to survive in my backpack. And there isn’t much in that pack, either. Food. Water. A stove and cooking pot. Extra clothing for cold and wet conditions. A tent or a hammock. A sleeping bag or quilts. A first aid kit. That’s pretty much it.
I need to do a better job of taking care of the things I do have instead of just being grateful for them.
There’s a strain of Catholic thought that says we don’t have the right to hold on to things we don’t use. When I do that, I am depriving others from using them. Of course there is some latitude in that, but I would strive to maximize the benefits such goods could produce if they were maximized. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give everything away, especially if you are a householder. Being a good steward over the things God has blessed you with. If its an extra coat, you just give it away. If its a lawn mower, you might use it to mow an elderly neighbor’s yard. If it is a full-mash, all grain beer brewing kettle, that might be something you want to loan out.
Did I mention that I have a bit of a book problem?