And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. (Gen. 2:19)
God’s peculiar pleasure in man is such that He bestows upon us a participation in his creative speech (logos). Our speech not only identifies, but reaches out toward and even establishes relationships. Radically, this is partly the meaning of history–a stage upon which relationships, not previously in existence, can come to be.
We are such that any truly creative act is ultimately a form of recognition. When we know, we come to know something already known or intended by God, not least of all our delight in coming to know!* But what is it that we come to know? For one thing, our very delight, a participation in God’s own beatitude, is a sign that we are deeply loved. But we can say more about learning.
To interact, to risk, to explore is ultimately to discover, however partially, the hidden name of a thing. We uncover and realize those beings and relations which were prepared for us since before the beginning of time. What else is a name but a logos (a ratio or relationship)? But the discovery and forging of ratio with creatures (as creatures) can only partly account for our delight.
Heraclitus tells us that “nature loves to hide.” Hidden in this aphorism is the meaning of nature and the meaning of her hiding. The very structure of being in nature bears the structure of otherness; Nature bespeaks the power and glory of One who is her source, who is definitively other than her.
How can Heraclitus claim that nature hides? Isn’t she the very being whose reality lies in plain sight?
But is not the tree hidden in the seed? The child within the mother? Is not life even hidden in death: cellular, agricultural, seasonal? The butterfly is in the cocoon; the bird in the tree, the fragrance in a flower. Crickets hide in bushes, snakes under their rocks, bears in their dens. The movement of the planets are hidden in time. Warmth is hidden by the cold, and light by the darkness. A father’s wisdom may lay hidden to his son; the son’s future to the father.
In this conception, nature not only displays a form of chastity, of the coy, the secretive, and discreet, she simultaneously initiates a form of hide-and-seek. In her is an invitation to play. We are enticed to discover and re-discover she whose being lies before us. Even more significantly, to discover nature is to discover the nature of nature.
In this game of hide-and-seek we are compelled to discover that which is in plain sight, but also that which remains hidden to sight. Nature is both behind the scenes and before us on every side. But there is another sense in which she hides. She hides because her innermost nature, her existence as nature is to display that which she is not. Her very being in its growth and decay, its stability and change is an expression something other than her. She hides and yet reveals her cause and her source.
It is not just her ways or her works which are hidden. Nature stirs in us a yearning and longing for the Personal which she cannot herself meet. Thus the study of creation becomes simultaneously a rediscovery of something more than nature, something which nature reaches out toward and images, and yet never can be.
What nature loves to hide most of all is that she does not end in herself. Every name we attempt to give her fails to fully grasp the true fundamental relationship within her, surrounding her, and before her. For every relationship she expresses and embodies is sustained and comprehended by something beyond her. Every name and recognition falls short of that prehistoric Ratio or word which she most discreetly and yet most definitively declares. It is at this dislocation that education reaches its end (or should we call this the beginning?). Because in our educative short-fall, in our failure to comprehend the true whole, if we are yet still and faithful in our longing, we may find that we have somehow silently touched open or been touched by something more deeply hidden and yet more present than nature herself.
*“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. ”
― Eric Liddell