Apparent Awe


It is the tallest skyscraper in the western hemisphere, and the fifth tallest in the world. One World Trade Center, also known as the “Freedom Tower” is named after the original North tower destroyed by terrorists on 9/11, 2001. The South tower, along with eleven other buildings in New York City were destroyed in this horrifying attack where thousands of people were killed.


The design and planning the new One World Trade Center took four years, and the construction spanned another seven years, culminating in 2014 at a cost of over four billion U.S. dollars. At 104 stories and a height of exactly 1,776 feet, a precise reference to the year of the United States independence is embedded in the constitution of this structure. Two years alone were required to establish the base of the building which is identical to that of the original twin towers and encompasses 310 cubic meters of concrete standing 59 meters high.


Architected by David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, the edifice chamfers from the twentieth floor skyward in the form of eight isosceles triangles, tapering in the shape of an octagon in the center as it rises. A spire finishes off the last 408 feet of this monumental building.


The structure is framed with the most advanced steel and concrete design on the planet. Its environmental footprint greatly exceeds already rigorous standards. Thousands of high technology glass panels maximize natural light and minimize heat. One hundred percent of rainwater for the property is captured and recycled for watering gardens and filling pools. One of the largest and most efficient fuel cell systems in the world is used to help power the superstructure, along with wind and solar power. Steam is used for heat in order to reduce the need for gas or oil.

The View From Below


Pensive. This is my emotion gazing upward from the street level while my eyes strain into the presence of this special building. It draws you into reverence. It’s hard to look at something so beautiful, yet know that it shouldn’t exist. What I mean is that the very presence of the new building was forced by evil and horror. So many lost their lives, leaving a tragic trail of grief to families, friends, and the world. We all long for the attack to have never happened, and that our view of the Manhattan skyline would still include the familiar Twin Towers, with the people in those buildings going about their lives without incident.


Standing before this magnificent skyscraper and others also stirs within me an awe for God. Skyscrapers are like miracles to me. The complexity of design and construction is almost beyond comprehension. How can such a behemoth stand perfectly straight? How is it possible to engineer a sway factor of 1/500 of a building’s height so it can acquiesce to earthquakes and over one-hundred mile per hour winds? How do you flush a toilet on the eightieth floor and quietly traverse water to the ground level? How does it not crumble from the massive weight under the downward force of gravity? How is fresh air delivered at specific temperatures to millions of square feet?


Continuing to gaze upwards, I am subdued by fixating on the enormity and beauty of a skyscraper. I am silenced by the feat of bringing it into being. I struggle to center myself. Still surveying, my core feels hollow and doesn’t seem to move at will. Contemplating the process of transforming a mere plot of dirt to the the completed grandeur of a rock-solid, gleaming masterpiece of engineering and art tightly surrounded by other superstructures is overwhelming to comprehend. At the forefront of this marveled creation are the brilliant architects, designers, and construction teams of diverse disciplines who developed the formation. Initiating with a concept, years of effort were committed to driving a herculean engineering project based on a precise design. So precise, a beam just a few centimeters off will cascade into an untrue frame. These types of structures simply cannot exist without being implemented to an unwavering specification.

Incomparable


So why does this stir within me an awe for God? It does because the scale of complexity and beauty is unnerving to my core. And yet a skyscraper is built by mere man. So if something like a human-formed object blows my mind, what about a life sustaining mountain that reaches 15,000 feet into the sky? Or what about a tapestry of Redwood trees towering above the earth?

The Hyperion is the name given to the tallest tree in the world. A Redwood tree of 370 feet tall, it is indeed a skyscraper. Redwoods are undeniably masterpieces of both engineering and art. Some of them still living today also stood in California when the Romans were conquering the world and Jesus walked on Earth. That’s over 2000 years old. If you have ever had the opportunity to walk among them, you experience a feeling of quiet reverence in the presence of these giants.


Redwoods thrive in the fog. Most of them can be found in the coastal region of northern California and southern Oregon, where fog is produced even in the summer from warm air flowing over the frigid ocean. Treading on a carpet of mulch and fibrous bark filaments that lay at the base of these natural towers, Redwoods look like majestic poles shrouded in the soft wafting mist. The branches don’t hang low, so your eyes need to traverse upwards to see the transition from elongated trunks saturated in rust-colored bark to the deep green rows of subdued boughs. It’s silent, except for the crackle of twigs beneath your boots and echoes of birds jabbering with their daily activity. These grand trees are stunnnig. If they could talk, I am certain they would be among the wisest.


But unlike a towering urban building forged one story at a time by construction workers with cranes, trees need water to extend to the sky. Remarkably, as fog or rain gripping the v-shaped rows of leaves eventually evaporates, a kind of natural pump is created that tows water up through tiny micro-pores located in their cell walls. This gravity defying natural water escalator inches nutrients up molecule by molecule to nourish the Redwood, all the way to the apex. Not only that, these trees create their own rain. As fog saturates leaves to the point where the grip is finally lost and cascades downwards, crashing through the loamy base, it penetrates the soil to quench the thirsty roots.


At first wedged in the sky, a seed smaller than the tip of your little finger arrives at its time to journey downward to a resting place in the moist soil below. Within a month, it will germinate in its mineral rich abode and then begin to root. This miniscule seed is the descendent of greatness. Its inception is only the beginning of a journey that could last thousands of years to ascend skyward in silence. Standing in the presence of a Redwood is worthy of awe.

There’s More


A Redwood tree is only one of the miracles on this planet. What about the arresting beauty of a serene alpine lake emerging from behind a curtain of brush and Pine trees, saturated by turquoise water that has meandered for centuries from a hovering glacier? Or what about a sunset swept in hues of slate blue and orange against the horizon of a raging ocean? Or what about a Penstemon flower, ebbing in a soft breeze while arrayed in a perfection and brilliance unattainable even by the greatest artists in history of the world. Or what about about a Macaw, whose brilliant plumage looks like surreal vivid brushstrokes painted in the foreground of a living canvas. Or what about the masterpiece of humans, whose bodies, intellect, and reason are the most complex on earth.


There are scientific and theological debates about how the earth came into existence. This question is among the most deliberated in the world. I respect the diligence and study poured into this issue. In the end there is one thing that generates venerable apprehension within my soul. This is the question of what existed before there was nothing? Even if there was a big bang, what was the source of the design that followed?


It is undeniable that a skyscraper jetting up in the streets of major city required both design and construction using the intellect and physical effort of humans. A 75 story building is not wrought into existence from an initiating molecule. Likewise the Mona Lisa did not leap onto the canvas without deliberate forethought and brushstrokes from Leonardo Da Vinci.

Now think about the magnificence of trees, flowers, animals, and certainly people. These are infinitely more complex than man-made objects. Consider the human brain - it is still not understood. There are more questions than answers with regard to consciousness, perception, reasoning, sleep, dreams, personality, memory, the will, and more. They are mysteries to the greatest scientists in the world today. If man-made objects required a designer, then even more so is a designer required to create humans, animals, and the universe from nonexistence to masterpieces.


For me this is enough. I believe Redwood trees are the product of the artistry of God. When I look at a tree I see God’s majesty. When I look at a sight as ordinary as a Robin hopping around pecking its beak into the grass for a worm to take back to its nest, I see God. I can’t help but dwell, and marvel. Perhaps the sight of a tree or a bird doesn’t move you. That’s OK. Paul, who was an apostle of Jesus, wrote about that which is apparent, that which is right in front of us every day, yet not always acknowledged:


“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Maybe one day you’ll wake up and look at a tree or the person across the table from you differently. Maybe you will see God. I think that we should endeavor not lose to sight of the awe in the familiar.

© 2018 by Mike Duensing​.

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