When I travelled a great deal for work, one of the first things I would do upon settling into the hotel room was to turn on the television.
Media theorists linked the act to the ancient tribal practice of gathering around the campfire. Even though I was in foreign territory the flickering blue light provided something of home. The circle of light kept away the growling predators of loneliness, fear and isolation.
(There was also something about the Alpha waves emitted from the screen soothing a part of the brain but I like the campfire metaphor better.)
Over the last decade, I have noticed a shift. Now one of the top 5 things I do upon entering a hotel room is to check to see if I can login to the wireless network. Once logged in I breathe a small sigh of relief and then proceed to log on my other devices.
I am connected although in a much different way than the emotional connection of the campfire analogy. The WIFI connection feels more interactive and personal. I check for messages from my wife, the family, friends and then for work. Some part of me is up and running even as I lie down to test the bed.
I am plugged into my network.
In Parksville, BC, overlooking the amazing Rathtrevor Beach, we feel connected in another way.
For my wife, this is THE place where she feels “right,” peaceful, at one with herself and creation.
For me, it is Maui.
I remember making small talk with a shopgirl in Maui. She sold everything to move to Maui and now works in a shop on the beach for much less money than she made “back home.”
“It’s expensive,” she said, “but it is where I belong.”
What is this sense of connection about? Where does it come from?
Maybe part of it sprouts from a sense of beauty and wonder. Isn’t this wonderful? To look across the strait at the Coastal Mountains, to feel the sea breeze and, at low tide, to appreciate the vastness of the beach. Some awe!
Is part of the mystical connection of such places that something in them lets us slow down and see, hear and feel?
My wife says, “I don’t feel I can go fast here.” A miracle freshly hatched.
Part of the signs of such connected places is they seem to facilitate relaxation. The normal expectations of life are not present - the house cannot be cleaned, the garden weeded, the family made happy or work completed. So breathe, bring the shoulders down from the attic.
Still, I wonder, what makes these places special, different from other holiday locations? The spirit fits, the body relaxes and …?
In the Psalms, a phrase like “my soul finds rest in God” appears. The connotation usually carries some blend of awe, belonging, gratitude, peace, “fit.”
A relic I carry from my childhood and early theological education is the Greek anthropology that describes our being using such words as body, soul and spirit. I have always imagined the soul to be that spiritual connection we have with God. We can clog the pipeline with all kinds of thoughts and deeds but when it runs clean we are really plugged in!
We can clog the spiritual connection we have with God but when it runs clean we are really plugged in!
I am in the midst of wondering whether these places - like Rathtrevor for my wife, Maui for me - should indeed be called sacred places. Maybe the Celtics would name them thin places; if so, maybe that is a better designation, locations where the veil between the dimensions is thinner than normal and so we are able to access the Really Real.
Thin places - where the veil separating heaven and earth becomes transparent, where the Really Real becomes visible.
Or perhaps a more focused description might be Sabbath place. In the Jewish and Christian tradition, we have become accustomed to associating the Sabbath with time. I wonder if what I feel might more accurately fit within this framework.
Or am attributing more to these times and places than they should carry?
That said, I remain curious.
Which places provoke similar feelings for you and how do you think of them?