I consider myself an avid traveler and I instill in my students that same love of travel. I confess I have difficulty voicing that feeling of awe into words. How can you verbalize the impact of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Taj Mahal in Agra or the Pyramids in Giza. Eric Weiner gave me a voice in his NYTimes article this past Sunday, March 11, 2012 entitled “Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer.”
This fascinating article focuses on what he calls “thin places.” The term was used by ancient pagan Celts and Christians to describe mesmerizing places. These are “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine or the transcendent…” He reiterates that “thin places” cannot be easily described and that they do not necessarily have to be sacred or fun or relaxing ones.
One senses being at a thin place. For me it means losing my bearings and somehow transcending to another sphere. It is precisely what he calls “disorientation” because it shakes you up and makes the experience so overwhelmingly beautiful and magical. After coming into contact with my own “thin places” my life has been altered forever.
My own fascination with the article has prompted my sharing it with my class. Mr. Weiner emphasizes that a thin place can be found anywhere, in an airport, in a bookstore…anywhere you feel that you are floating or suspended from the impact.
May the literary texts we analyze this semester -somehow, even if for a fleeting moment- transform my narrow and cozy classroom in Carman into a thin place. Let the magical reality of a standing still voyage while in a classroom in the Bronx become one of those transcendent moments for my students.