Easter, my 75th birthday, and the 60th anniversary celebration of my church confirmation are all occurring around the same time this year.
Let me start with Easter. On Easter Sunday in 1955 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died in New York City. I found out about him in the winter of 1956. My student quarters in post-war Berlin were cold. Coal was being rationed, and at one point I could buy only a single bucket of coal for my stove. During these cold months the Berlin American Memorial Library was a welcome escape – it was warm. While spending time there, I discovered Teilhard’s 1929 book: The Phenomenon of Man.
Teilhard was a French Jesuit Priest whose ideas conflicted with those of the church. The Vatican essentially exiled him to China where, to their dismay, he helped, as a trained paleontologist, to unearth the Peking man – a missing link in mankind’s evolutionary chain. I came upon his work only after his death, because this was when Rome no longer held sway over his writing.
Fast forward to New York 30 years later when, just by chance, I learned about his grave in a Jesuit cemetery north of New York City on the campus of the CIA. Not the currently controversial Central Intelligence Agency, however, but rather the Culinary Institute of America, one of the best cooking schools in the world. The students treated us to a delicious meal at the on-site restaurant, where they appeared to be just as enthusiastic serving as cooking. It reminded me of past experiences in my engineering career. I was so excited about the instruments I had invented, I became equally motivated to make them available to the world.
The Jesuit monastery was sold to the CIA after Teilhard’s death. Nicer would have been for him to have been buried here in Manhasset, where we have an impressive monastery; a former Gold Coast estate with a beautiful chapel. We attended a lovely service there this past Christmas – a first for me, but a long standing tradition for Brigitte. So much for my personal encounters with Teilhard.
More currently relevant are Teilhard’s writings that propose solutions for conflicts between Christians and Muslims. It was fourty-six years after his death in Manhattan, that almost 3000 people died there on 9/11. His work from the late 1920‘s considered the churches world view, that covered Adam & Eve to Judgement Day, shortsighted. Instead, he covers the big bang to a proposed united cosmos under the auspice of Christians. An Easter-spirit type sentiment that would embrace all mankind regardless of religion.
Teilhard’s biosphere of the Peking man and Homo sapiens is superimposed by a thought sphere (see diagram above). In the context of the internet and how this Easter letter can be read around the globe, his thought sphere seems almost prophetic.
Let me return to my opening paragraph by saying my long planned birthday celebration with the entire family, traveling from east and west, will be in Las Vegas. Last week I received an invitation to my church confirmation reunion in Germany. Unfortunately, it falls close to my birthday, making me unable to attend.
Once again Happy Easter!