4.5 Thin places: a personal anthology
In preparation!
The concept of thin places raises a question which is universal. Is the way we react to a place defined by its objective physical qualities or by what we know about it?   It was George Macleod of Fuinary who said that the island of Iona was a thin place. He meant that the veil between the physical and the spiritual, the mortal and the immortal, was almost transparent in the intensity of its pellucid skies and its religious history. He knew.
He used to describe the feeling he had standing on the pier at Fionphort looking across the sound to the Abbey as being like moving up to the front line at Ypres. Why should someone love Iona? Because it is green and white after the red rock and grey cloud of Mull? Because from the bay at the back of the ocean you can look westwards into the sunset and know it has not yet risen over America? Or is it because they know it as a cradle of Scottish identity, have experienced some spiritual renewal there, know it meant a lot to a friend, or simply were happy there themselves once? It is not possible to disentangle these things. Just as no landscape in Scotland has remained unaffected by human activity, so we enscribe every landscape with our culture.  This transcendence is easiest to explain through the lens of religion, but “thin places” are not confined to religious sites. One such secular place that Eric Weiner uses is the view from The Bund in Shanghai, China. Looking across the harbor you see buildings reaching straight for the heavens, glass paneling reflecting the sun like winking stars. As it stands, there may be few countries as outwardly secular as most of China, and yet this view continues to take the breath away from any tourists lucky enough to visit this highly-modernized city.  Thin places relax us, yes, but they also transform us,or, more accurately, unmask us. In thin places, we become our more essential selves.