Knowing ourselves—"as in a glass"

This past autumn a friend and I went on a camping trip in the pristine Sylvania Wilderness Area on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The wilderness, maintained by the United States Forest Service, covers nearly twenty thousand acres of virgin timber and crystal-clear lakes. Centuries-old trees—huge hemlocks, maples, yellow birch, cedar, spruce, and pine—dominate the woodlands between the lakes. With the vivid colors of fall painting the leaves in shades of red, yellow, and orange, it was a special place just to spend some quiet time and gather one's thoughts. ...

One morning, as I crawled out of the sleeping bag and was looking across West Bear Lake from our campsite, I had an interesting realization. I was suddenly aware that I hadn't once seen my own face since we left "civilization" four days earlier. I didn't have a mirror and hadn't needed one.

I thought of how common it is, though, in everyday life to look at our faces several times each day—as we get dressed, comb our hair, wash up, brush our teeth, and so on. Yet in this remote wilderness setting, I was captivated by the natural beauty around me—the lakes, the sky, the trees, the wildlife. Although I was still washing up and brushing my teeth, my physical appearance had definitely been of less significance to me out in the woods, away from society!

Staying alert to moral blind spots
December 13, 1993

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