Consider the hummingbird

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In his essay, Joyas Volardores, Brian Doyle begins with a very close look at a hummingbird, a creature whose heart makes up a good bit of its tiny body. They are remarkable creatures. We, too, are creatures whose hearts makes up a good bit of us, and Doyle ends his essay with a look at how our hearts, no matter how we protect ourselves and wall them off, are imminently fragile, with facades that can be shattered in an instant.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

Today, consider the hummingbird. Let it fill us with wonder and appreciation for all of creation, but especially our own hearts, and let it remind us of how tender and fragile each of is really, truth be told.

 

Creating sacred space.

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If you were to design a sacred space, what would it look like? Would it have four walls and a roof, or would it be open to the elements–more like an amphitheater? Would your design welcome strangers or be more intimate and walled to shelter those already within the circle?

The notion of building a place for God to come and commune with his people, and them with each other, is as old as the world itself. And, for this test or how to design a sacred space, there are probably no wrong answers. But consider this solution:

In this delightful TED talk, architect Saimek Hariri focused on luminosity, the movement of light across the space as day progressed, and the glow emitted by the temple to the outside world. He says,

You know, you aspire for beauty, for sensuousness, for atmosphere, the emotional response. That’s the realm of the ineffable and the immeasurable. And that’s what you live for: a chance to try.

Hariri’s task was challenging, and his answer novel:

And the brief was deceptively simple and unique in the annals of religion: a circular room, nine sides, nine entrances, nine paths, allowing you to come to the temple from all directions, nine symbolizing completeness, perfection. No pulpit, no sermons, as there are no clergy in the Bahá’í faith. And in a world which is putting up walls, the design needed to express in form the very opposite. It had to be open, welcoming to people of all faiths, walks of life, backgrounds, or no faith at all; a new form of sacred spacewith no pattern or models to draw from. It was like designing one of the first churches for Christianity or one of the first mosques for Islam.

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How do we as created beings hope to craft a building that sufficiently honors the creator? Any such attempt is but a feeble effort to manifest our gratitude and awe at the miracle of creation all around us because, in our core, we remember that we meet our creator wherever we go, wherever we are, and wherever we will ever be.