Spirit, breath, air, wind

When you drive a car all the time, never walking or locomoting in any other way, you notice certain things, but you miss others.  On the other hand, riding on two wheels permits one to notice a different set of things, or at least to notice things differently.  When riding a bicycle or motorcycle, I have sometimes been struck with various differences in terms of sights and sounds.

Air is one of the reasons one rides a motorcycle.  I say things like “I love feeling the air” and “I just wanna catch some air.”  (One riding acquaintance called me a “fellow bug-toothed rebel,” but that’s another story.)  The air may be muggy and stultifying, refreshing, or varied.  On motorcycle rides through rural areas in which various types and extents of vegetation have grown, one notices cool-air spots.

I first noticed the difference in the air back in 2003 while heading out of Atchison, Kansas on 6th Street on my Yamaha 600 Radian.  The southward route becomes Old Rt. 73, also called Sheridan Road, as it works its way toward Leavenworth.  In spots along this road, the air may suddenly drop 10 or 15 degrees. Sheridan-Sherman RdYou look around, and you notice a small farm with a horse or two, a grove, or a meadow through which the prairie wind has rolled and cooled things down for the past few hours.  You might for a short time feel ensconced by trees that have banned the afternoon sun.  The air quality and temperature can vary, and you notice it as it rushes past your face.  (You wouldn’t likely have noticed these things if you were driving a car.)

Air.  Wind.  And breath and spirit.

Typically, when one encounters the English word “spirit” in a New Testament document, the Koiné Greek antecedent is pneuma.  (The Hebrew antecedent for an Old Testament instance is likely ruach.)  This Wikipedia page may mislead (it’s not really airheady but is complicated) at the beginning, but it shows some noun connections.  Not that all these terms are exact synonyms—such precise inter-language relationships rarely if ever exist), mind you—but the words have a high correlation, so the possibility does exist, depending on the context, that several English words—e.g., breath or air or spirit—could be substituted.  It intrigues me that the life-giving air around me could be conceptually related to the very breath that the Spirit of God breathed into the first human.  Maybe I’m too far out on a weak limb here.

[Thinking of limbs reminds me of central Arkansas, where the combination of storms and tree types results in more downed tree branches in people’s yards than anywhere else I’ve lived.  And then I go back to air and wind.  Arkansas air is often the stagnant, hot, horrifically humid kind that doesn’t say “motorcycle ride” to me.  Which is one reason I’m glad to be returning to the rolling hills of eastern Kansas, where those cool-air spots are.  Looking forward to breathing and catching some wind again—maybe, just maybe on another motorcycle.]


3 thoughts on “Spirit, breath, air, wind

  1. Brian Casey 08/06/2016 / 12:11 pm

    Mike Asbell (via FB): Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Brian. Since my college days, I have felt like we try too hard to draw lines of distinction when it comes to Spirit/spirit/wind/air/breath. I think this comes from an unacknowledged (and unnecessary) dualism that is part of our working paradigm. Psalm 104 (especially verses 29 &30) comes to mind. I remember going for a walk one windy night in the neighborhood around Lipscomb. My understanding and appreciation of many things was being multiplied by Clyde Miller through his Psalms class. On that night, I remember feeling as though I was surrounded by, refreshed by, and breathing in a rushing wind and Spirit all at the same time. It was like nothing I had ever felt before, but I’ve known it often since


  2. Brian Casey 08/18/2016 / 8:13 pm

    My reply to Mike: Sorry not to have replied or at least noted this. A flurry of things happened right about the time you wrote, and the “flag” e-mail has been buried. I did read your comment back then, a couple times, and have just read it again. Now I’m pulling out Ps 104. I didn’t note the verse numbers while reading, but those did jump out at me, of course!

    You may remember the name Whitfield from Cedars. Tracie Whitfield, the younger of the two girls, wrote words that I set to music, and I just thought of them for obvious reasons here:

    Walking outside on a clear, quiet night,
    I heard the song of the stars’ silver light.
    A soothing wind blew around my ears,
    Whispering “Peace” and drying my tears.
    I am one with God and now I’m free!
    I am one with God and now I’m free!


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