Thursday, February 12, 2015
Maui 3 / Haleakala / Volcanoes / God and gods
The first major excursion was to the top of the great volcano Haleakala that forms the south east portion of the island. Our grown children were with us, and you can see them here hiking ahead of us on the sliding sands trail-- It was not my first volcano. When we were young, Martin and I had a trip up the active mount Etna on Sicily. The other year, we reached to near the top of several volcanoes on the west coast of the United States, Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams. It was a stunning trip that our relations in Vancouver, surprisingly had never taken, though they lived so near.
A volcano is terribly impressive. On the way up, in the car, I thought about how tall 10,000 feet are when rising right from sea level. The Greeks have a Mount Olympus, which is about the same height, on which they thought the gods lived. The Japanese have Mount Fuji, which I have seen from the Shinkansen. The Japanese still worship at outdoor shrines.
A volcano seems a living thing: it could break out again, it may have active side vents, it may have a little steady lava flow here and there. On its slopes are often verdant forests or fields for grazing, or dazzling glaciers. It is a monstrously impressive beast. Definitely very huge for one thing.
On the south east side of Haleakala lies Hana. We took the famous road to Hana, with its 52 one-lane bridges and breath-taking sights of ocean, waterfalls, forests and cars coming around the bend, all in turn or at the same time. We loved Hana. We enjoyed hiking to the waterfall. We enjoyed the Piilani. You can see it below. A great garden was arranged around the ruins with plaques explaining about various plants and crops. My husband found it all very instructive. I thought it stunningly beautiful.
While on the Hana side of the mountain, I thought about a simile, how God could be like a volcano. We live and breathe on it, plant our food on it, are nurtured and elevated by it, while mostly unaware of its power. It could break out. Or it could peacefully supply us with all necessities and lovely vistas. It is entirely beyond our control. We can't placate it. We can't bribe it. It could throw us into the ocean with barely any notice. But presently, we snooze on it, enjoying its breath-taking life.
In the Bible we don't have much about volcanoes, as there are none in the region of Israel. We have Mount Sinai and we have Mount Zion, which represent Law and Gospel, respectively. Truly, it is a more advanced way to contemplate mountains, than to think that the gods sits on them or that the mountain itself should be worshiped. Still the volcano can serve as a kind of symbol, I thought that day.
I said to my son-in-law that I would bet there was human sacrifice on top of those steps. I am guessing. It would not be surprising. The Bible, too, would have done away with that. God always provided a substitute, as apparently, sacrifice has to be.