Pablo  |  He/Him

The Cathedral of Nature

New York, NY, USA  |  Cuernavaca, Mexico
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests
Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub

Session 11: June 19, 2023

I have a love story for you all.

In December, here in New York City, I visited the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine with a long-distance lover who was visiting me. I’m still figuring out how I feel about churches. Here I was, a gay Mexican raised Catholic, walking into a magnificent, grand hall filled with sculptures, next to a man that I like. A Keith Haring piece stared back at us, and I wondered if maybe there might be space in my religion for my full self. As my lover headed back across the country to his own island, the island of Catalina, he gifted me one of his favorite books as homework: The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry. I flipped through its pages eagerly, waiting for the moment when we’d meet again.

Coincidentally, the book told a story also set in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. There, in the 1970s, there had been a public discussion on technology and the natural world. Standing in the middle of this church where I had stood just a few weeks before, John Fire Lame Deer, a Lakota spiritual leader, remarked to the congregation how interesting it was that their people found themselves closer to the divine in places like that cathedral. He said that for his own people, if they wanted to go closer to the divine, they would go to a field under the sky, surrounded by trees, with the earth under their feet. And so my mission became clearer: since my lover had visited this cathedral on my island, when I visited him in Catalina, I wanted to visit the Cathedral of Nature.

Three months went by, and soon enough, I was with him—crawling under muddy fences, snorkeling in underwater forests, jumping over streams. When we reached a summit, instead of the glorious view, we stared at magnificently complex lichen on the rock. I knew we had reached it: the Cathedral of Nature. I told my lover how much the shape of the fungus reminded me of the patterns I saw from the plane, flying over the snowy mountains of Utah: the same pattern as rivers, the same pattern as veins or neurons. He looked at me and said, very matter of fact, “It’s the path of least resistance.”

And something so obvious hadn’t occurred to me. The same forces that made rivers, that made mountains, that made stars, made the veins in my body, pumping my blood, raising my heartbeat as I sat next to him.

The book The Dream of the Earth describes a vision: that young humans might one day hold their hand up and think, “it’s taken fourteen billion years for this hand to form.” And as I looked down from a hill in Catalina over the ocean, in the Cathedral of Nature, I could look at my hand holding my lover’s hand and, for the first time, see myself made in the image of God.

Pablo is a Mexican theater artist born and raised in Cuernavaca and currently working in New York City. He is the Associate Director of The Public Theater’s Public Works program.