Day 12 – True North

Sean’s Journal: KOA at Erie, Pennsylvania. What a fun campground. I didn’t want to leave this morning. Shady tent site. Nice showers and swimming pool. As I prepared breakfast, I said good morning to the busy family in the next campsite. They appeared to be mom, dad, a teenage son, and a 20-something daughter. As I loaded my plate with pancakes and sausage links, they invited me to bring my food and come share their picnic table. I was very appreciative. They are headed east to Albany, New York, where they live, so they helped to fill me in on the sight-seeing options that lie ahead. The young woman was eager to engage me in conversation as she posed a surprisingly deep question. She asked, “Do you believe we should rely on technology or God to save the world?” She went on, “My techie brother here believes that God is a myth and that everything he needs to get through life is in the apps on his mobile phone. Since you’re headed to a religious site in Palmyra, what do you think?” Wow! What a question. 

The Profound Question: This was my simple and spontaneous answer to the young woman’s profound question: “I wonder who inspired those who created the apps? Perhaps it was the same great intelligence behind the winged-flight of birds and the colors of wildflowers and the sublime power of an elephant. As awesome as a mobile phone is, it would not be ‘mobile’ or work at all if it didn’t have a lithium battery. I wonder who stored all the lithium under the altiplano of Bolivia and helped humans to discover it. Personally, I choose to just wonder in awe at the world and everything in it.” Finally, the mom spoke up and said, “Sean, I’m glad we met you. We don’t have a clear answer to my daughter’s question, but you have given us a new perspective that will be helpful as we travel on together.” I thanked them and returned to my campsite to get ready to hit the road.          

I stopped briefly at Presque Isle State Park with a beach on Lake Erie. I had to at least see the big lake. This area has a very colorful history going back to the War of 1812, and way back if you include the history of Native Americans. One thing I’m discovering is that there are beautiful lakes, woodlands, and campgrounds clear across our great country. Watching the kids playing on the beach was fun.

Niagara Falls Coming Up. As I continue my journey, I realize that I’m getting farther along faster than I thought I would. I either need to slow down and stay at some spots longer or accept that I am accomplishing what I set out to do rather efficiently. The people, wherever I meet them, are more important than the tourist attractions. Instead of describing Niagara Falls and Palmyra in detail, I’m going to rely on you, Vince, to post a photo of the falls and perhaps a link to the websites for both the falls and Palmyra, so our readers can go there and soak up the details as they wish. After Palmyra, I’ll drive through beautiful countryside on my way to Albany where I plan to spend the night. I’ll have time to reflect on the “technology vs. faith in God” question.

Although not the biggest or highest waterfalls in the world, the Niagara Falls are one of the most famous! Please note the double-deck tour boat with tourists in orange life vests.

Niagara Falls. The falls are spectacular. There is an amazing human buzz all around these, so meet the international tourists, especially. Here is the link. In the menu, first click on “Niagara Falls State Park,” then click on “Amazing Niagara Facts” and “History.” Enjoy and learn: https://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/.    

Palmyra, New York. This is a religious site of great importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (formerly known by the nickname “Mormons.”). Those of all faiths recognize spiritually-gifted leaders and prophets. Christians rely heavily on the words of many prophets as found in the Holy Bible. Latter-day Saints believe in the Bible. After all, the New Testament is the closest thing we have to a biography of Jesus Christ. What makes the Latter-day Saints unique is that we simply believe in continuing revelation directly from God. In Palmyra, the latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith, was an instrument of God to restore many precious truths to the earth and to expand upon these as further guidance for God’s children in these modern times. Here is an initial link to LDS sites in New York: https://history.lds.org/article/historic-sites/new-york?lang=eng.

The Question. I think that most humans probably consider whether there is a “true north” for life, a source of wisdom greater than our own with guiding principles to help us feel safe and satisfied as we travel along. I learned in Scouting how potentially life-threatening it can be to travel through the Utah wilderness without a compass. While the high-tech capabilities of GPS are powerful, these may sometimes be less reliable than to use an old-fashioned compass that does clearly point to true north. I believe there is a greater true north that is meant to guide and comfort humankind. It is the knowledge that we are each more than a collection of protoplasm with a brain. We are spiritual beings. As William Wordsworth wrote, we came “trailing clouds of glory…from God, who is our home”—our true north.

Vince’s Response: Sean, I don’t have much to add. You have communicated deeply significant things in your heartfelt journal entry. Let me say, “Amen.” BTW: What is the meaning of “Amen?” I heard the story of one little girl kneeling beside her grandfather as she said her prayers. When she finished, she looked up and asked, “Grandpa, why do we say amen?” With his spiritual insight and some high-tech wisdom, he answered, “My dear, I’ve helped you write an email on the computer. You remember that, when it’s done, we hit “send” using a special button on the keyboard. When we say a prayer to God, saying “amen” is like hitting the “send” button so that it goes on its way to Heaven.”

Bookends: (1) Camping out is a great opportunity to meet cool people, and to check out their high-tech camping gear. (2) The Niagara Falls are a heavenly wonder right there in New York. (3) Life is better and more successful with a compass. (4) We thank God for the lithium stored up for our mobile phones.