Gregory IX was a Catholic Pope from the 19th of March, 1227 until his death in 1241. He is most famous for issuing the Decretales , and instituting the Papal Inquisition which was a mechanism used to severely punish people accused of heresy. What is not so well know about this man is his hatred of cats. He associated them with devil worship, and at his order, cats throughout Europe were exterminated in massive numbers during his Papal Reign. This decline in the feline population satisfied Gregory IX, but it had a far greater impact than the Inquisition ever would.
The removal of cats led to an explosion of rats across the continent of Europe. Over the next 100 years, hundreds of millions of rats flourished in every corner of every European city. These however, were infected with different kinds of diseases. Worse yet, they were carrying disease infected lice, and the lice infect millions upon millions of people. The most devastating of these diseases was the Bubonic Plague which reached a climax from 1338 to 1340, just 100 years after Pope Gregory IX cat extermination order. In total, this plague killed an estimated 75 to 100 million people across Europe, and it all happened because of one man and the power of one idea.
One decision or idea, be it good or bad, is all it takes to bring about a massive change that will in time impact everything. When I consider all the above it makes me wonder about other ideas that have been presented which seem so good. The causes are right, and the concepts seem to agree with the current brand of thinking. Yet, I wonder if in retrospect, we will look back in shock and disbelief 100 years from now, and recognize how they were an ignorant, blundering catalyst that actually ended up impacting our lives in unthinkable ways.
Did Thomas Edison have any idea how the light bulb would transform the entire world by turning night in to day. Did Henry Ford realize that the automobile would change society into a mobile frenzy, and disrupt the way life had been for the last 5000 years? Did the Wright Brothers, inventors of the airplane, recognize what they set in motion the day they took off from Kitty Hawk? Israel, who gave us the microchip, the cell phone and quantum data streaming, introduced the things that connected us as never before. They give us the world in the palm of our hand, yet with all this power, are we really better off? Are these things a blessing, or are they a “Pandora’s Box” that we may wish one day we had never opened?
What ideas and decisions will you be making in 2016 that might not change the world but they may change your world, and those around you. The ripple that comes from your stone in the pond might have a chain reaction that reaches far beyond what you can imagine. Perhaps it’s time to slow down and rethink things before they go too far. The best way I know of to do this is to find a quiet place where the distractions are gone, and life gets focused and simple once again.
There are days when I need to seek out and enjoy the simple things of life. I have to step away from the constant intrusion of my smart phone, the glare of my tablet, and the roar of the television and car engines. I need to be set free from the man made prison of concrete and glass, tile and brick. To feel connected to what is really important in life, I have to walk in the deep woods and breathe in the earthy, pine scented air. I have to climb over glacial boulders and fish an ancient trout stream that is miles from the nearest road. I must go kayaking on a glassy, cold mountain pond and drink in the beauty, the solitude and the raw power that is a natural part of who we really are. It is this pure simplicity that calms my mind, restores my soul and reconnects the scattered pieces of life.
This is where if feel God. I can sense His presence, comprehend His goodness, and it brings me to a place of great and abiding peace. The strife of life fades away, the noise of other things vying for my attention is silenced when I finally hear His still small voice. It comes as a whispered breeze passes through a white pine. It drifts up from the water’s edge with each little wave that laps the shore. It echoes across the water as a loon cries in melancholy notes. It flashes in the brilliant orange rays of a setting sun. Here, in this place of peaceful solitude, everything makes sense.
When I am resting in the sunlight of a brisk winter day, soaking my tired feet in a cool mountain stream or drinking in the clean filtered air of the Adirondack’s … the honest truth is…I really don’t care! In the place of peace and rest, where God and nature sing together the song of creation, the things of man just fade into the distance and life is good. That moment of peace and inner rest with God makes life more than bearable. In fact it recharges my internal battery and lets me see things from God’s perspective. I have to admit, from there things begin to look pretty good!
If you are weary and in need of refreshing, let me encourage you to do something radical in 2016. Turn off the cell phone, the tablet and the laptop. Get away from the TV and people and drive out of town. Find a quiet place in the outdoors to connect with yourself and with God. Here is where you will find rest and peace. Go listen to His voice in a quiet breeze, in a sunrise or sunset, on a stream or a hillside that is off the beaten path. Press into a place you have never been before and sit down to enjoy the beauty and sounds that are all around you. Reconnect with the roots of who you are and you will also reconnect with the God who loves you. In this place, the power of one idea is bound to be a good one, so there really is no better place on earth we can be!