In what she later called “the most transporting pleasure of my life on the farm,” Isak Dinesen went flying across the unspoiled plains of Africa with her friend Denys Finch-Hatton. In the film version of Out of Africa, the character playing Denys first invited her by saying, “I want to show you the world as God sees it.” Indeed, the next few minutes of cinematography come close to presenting exactly that. As the frail Moth airplane soars beyond the escarpment that marks the beginning of the Rift Valley in Kenya, the ground falls abruptly away and the zoom lens captures a glimpse of Eden in the grasslands just below.
Great herds of zebras scatter at the sound of the motor, each group wheeling in unison, as if a single mind controlled the bits of modern art dashing across the plain. Huge giraffes—they seemed so gangly and awkward when standing still—gallop away with exquisite gracefulness. Bounding gazelles, outrunning the larger animals, fill in the edges of the scene.
The world as God sees it—does that phrase merely express some foamy romantic notion, or does it contain truth? The Bible gives intriguing hints. Proverbs tells of the act of Creation when Wisdom “was the craftsman at his [God’s] side … filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world.” The seraphs in Isaiah’s vision who declared “the whole earth is full of his glory” could hardly have been referring to human beings—not if the rest of the Book of Isaiah is to be believed. At least God had the glory of Nature then, during that very dark time when Israel faced extinction and Judah slid toward idolatry.
God makes plain how he ...1
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