While doing some advance planning for a summer vacation I came across some Yelp reviews of America’s National Parks. Charge me with an “OK Boomer” offense, but I struggle with the idea of reviewing natural wonders on Yelp.
“Don’t waste your time!! I paid $20.00 for nothing but nasty rock and salt.”
“I have to say, this is the ugliest place I have ever seen.”
“SNORE. Once you’ve taken a good long look at the lake (10 min) and snapped a few photos, you’re done. You can peruse the gift shop for some Oregon souvenirs but really, that’s it.”
“Badlands is basically washed out hills of 50,000 year old mud. You have vast grasslands on one side, and old mud on the other. And the mud wasn’t even different colored layers or have any other redeeming qualities. It was brown.”
“Scenery is grand and huge and up in the air and distant and impersonal. I got bored fast.”
Summit of Haleakala, Hawaii
“Do yourself a favor and Google ‘pretty sunrise’ and save yourself the disappointment.”
We are increasingly trained to judge and rate everything. Further, the internet and social media have flattened the structures of social intercourse so that every voice is heard equally. These reviews remind me of the woman at the Louvre muttering, “I don’t know what’s so great about all this.” And the docent who overheard her and remarked, “Madam, the masterpieces here are not up for evaluation. You are.”
It’s one thing to give a restaurant or a movie a snarky review. Human efforts always come up short. But to post reviews of nature, God’s handiwork, is absurd.
The aim of any spiritual life is to find amazement in the most ordinary features of nature, of life. To see, as did William Blake, “a World in a Grain of Sand/ And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,/ Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/ And Eternity in an hour.” But these Yelpers actually reverse the epiphany. They take the patently awesome and twist it successfully into a massive disappointment.
In his classic Will and Spirit, Gerald May urges us to drop our willfulness, the bending of everything to our own egoic tantrum. We must instead, he says, cultivate willingness, surrender. What we accede to is simply the shape and nature of reality, the beautiful and the terrible, trusting that some infinite power is in charge of life, and we, finite and blind, are not.
We have to laugh at the Yelpers but they are only writing large what we are all thinking: “Why couldn’t an all-powerful God create a better world than this?