Dancing the Noise Away..

“When the sun rises, I go to work;                                                                   When the sun goes down, I take my rest;                                                                                                                   I dig the well from which I drink;                                                                                                                    I farm the soil that yields my food.                                                                                                                I share creation; kings do no more.”

(trans. By Y.S.Han, in the Christian Century, 1927. This poem is recognized as one of the oldest Chinese folk poems, roughly dated 2500 B.C.E.)

Once upon a time, We were in rhythm, and We danced, We: the Universe, My Ancestors, and Yours. We were indistinguishable then and for a long long time: animated Starstuff at the mercy and the glory of Winds and Waves, Thunder and Moonlight. It was hard to say where You began and where I began and where Your reach ended and where My steps stopped, etcetera etcetera times a billion or two, such was the Eternality and the Encompassing Everything of the Dance.

We danced in the soil to the beat of the sun,

we danced in the rain when there was nowhere to run,

and we danced all night to beat of our hearts.

When we danced that way, we danced as One.

And then one of us rose from the common dust and the rest of us followed and one of us would get ahead and the others would catch up, pass by, get there first, not make room, “Move along now” etcetera etcetera times a billion or two and the Rhythms seemed harder and harder and harder to hear.

And then on May 14, 1801, it became Silent. (Pick a date, they’re all arbitrary, all contrived, all confusing- in fact it may have been a spring day in the 17th Century, or Christmas Day, 1822- the dates, after all, are part of the suffocating, stultifying, stupefying of humanly concocted Noise that hinders our hearing even of our own heartbeats.

It became silent and then..the noise, the real noise the noise of iron-slurried coal and the noise of generators burning and of locomotives and rifles and the noise of screams and steam in heat-searing shudders and the tearing apart of mountains and bird’s nests, of rivers and negros’ backs. And the dancing stopped here and there, then mostly here and there and everywhere..

Many of our moonlit sisters and sun dwelling brothers died under the weight, the crush of the discordances. They rolled over in sweat-wet beds and could stand it no longer and died of any number of medical maladies all of which were hatched in Noise.

And we descended into hell.                                                                               And on the right day, we rose again.

That day, too, is arbitrary and for many (most?) still unrealized, but on that day, a day of particular noise, a day of eye-burning smoke

and ice melt

and fuel spills

and fish kills

and land fills

and death knells,

the Music was heard, again..

By, some on the wind;

by others, on the waves;

by all with ears to hear..

in the beating of our Heart(s).

and some of us remembered

and some of those who remembered,

Danced.

And the rest of us will, too,

and then all of us,

because the noise of silence and

darkness of being still

not-by-choice

could no longer be tolerated

and the jagged edges of the dance floor need to be smooth again

because that’s what we are always moving toward,

that’s where we will learn to breathe again

one by one,

etcetera etcetera times a billion or two,

then to Dance.

2010, David B.Weber

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Things I Believe; Things I Wish For..

(from the 2006 firstmorning newsletter)

Things I believe..(you can quote me!):

  1. There’s nothing wrong with ignorance. It only becomes bad if you build a fort around it to defend it against new information.

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1938 Book Burning in Germany

  1. If we didn’t know we were going to die, there would be no reasons to paint pictures or compose music.

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Cave drawing-France, Mexican String Art, Painting by Toulouse LaTrec

  1. The worst moment in Christian history was the day, in 325, that the Emperor Constantine marched his army through a river, pronounced the men baptized, and declared the Roman Empire to heretofore be the Holy Roman Empire. On that day, Christianity ceased being a movement and became an institution.

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  1. The Bible is not a god. It is a collection of documents inspired by human interactions with God. It is the best place to learn about God, but not the only place. Wherever there are birds and wildflowers- those are excellent places for doing that, too.

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  1. Anything that is done to intentionally hurt a child is evil.

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abandoned- Honduras; propagandized- Libya; overfed- United States

Things I wish:

  1. I wish Bill Watterson was still doing “Calvin and Hobbes.”

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  1. I wish Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders, and Kairos Prison Ministry could have the money that is flushed down the toilet every time a check is written to a televangelist.

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www.oxfamamerica.org www.doctorswithoutborders.org http://www.kairosprisonministry.org

  1. I wish the world wasn’t being homogenized into the image of an American suburb.

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Krakow, Poland London, England Kyoto, Japan

  1. I wish there was a really good home for every single dog.

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  1. I wish Europe and the United States were willing to clean up the three centuries worth of mess they made in Africa.

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Refugees in Darfur, Sudan..the world is too busy elsewhere..

Lola, 2004-2009, beloved friend

Lola, our five year old golden retriever, died yesterday. She was a chubby little thing and we took a walk in the too-hot midday sun. While it was a walk we had taken many times before, this time she could not catch her breath and we were not near enough to cooling water. I carried her, tried to revive her, but I was unable to help. She tried, she died. Hopefully, I will one day be able to stop second guessing myself because I loved Lola . She loved everybody. Her physical absence is today excruciating.

I wrote an article for the emailed version of “The First Morning” in October of 2006.  I reprint it today because I am unable right now to write what I will write later about Lola.

IMG_0192 Lola is our three year old yellow Lab. She is sweet in every sense of that word which humans overuse when they’re talking about their pets. She will fetch, over and over, any ball that fits into her mouth, until she is exhausted from running. At almost 80 pounds, she still stands by the chair I’m sitting in waiting for me to pat my lap as a signal to her to “crawl on up here.”

Last night, I was outside, it was about 10:00. I was reading and Lola was sitting beside me, her head resting on my knee. As happens once in a while, in a field across the highway, about ¾ of a mile from our backyard, a pack of coyotes began howling and barking. Now that’s always a remarkable sound, which usually goes on for several minutes. Perhaps a hunt has been consummated, maybe females are being called, or some danger is near. Whatever the cause, it is a sound of wildness that calls to my imagination.

And this night, Lola heard that call, too. She left my side when it began and walked to the middle of the yard and sat down, her attention fully focused in the direction of the coyotes’ howls and barks. She was alert, but relaxed- not tense and on edge the way a noisy truck on “her” street causes her to be. She was so relaxed, as the coyote chorus continued, that she laid down sphinx-like, very still and totally concentrating on the not-so-faraway sounds.

What was she hearing? This was a sound from far beyond the normal barking she hears when we take our dogs on walks and dachshunds, pit bulls, or other retrievers bark at our trespassing. Nor did Lola react to the sounds of these coyotes like she does when dogs behind fences bark at us on our walks. Fence-barkers are reacted to by Lola with much false bravado and silly gnashing of teeth. Lola is pretty much a sissy, though, and runs the other way if she perceives in any way that the fence protecting her has a weak link somewhere.

As I watched Lola listening to the coyotes, I believe I was watching her responding to the eons of DNA wound through every one of her bodily cells. Retrievers, as a breed of dog, have only been around for several hundred years. But they, like every Chihuahua, Great Dane, Pit Bull, and new little Foo-Foo of the month, have ancient common ancestors among the wolves of Northern Europe and Asia, and more recent ancestral cousins among the dingoes of Australia and the coyotes of North America. I think; no, I know, that Lola was hearing a real call of the wild. It was a call to the wild in her that she has, through breeding and spoiling, no idea how to respond to. But she can hear it. She can feel it.

clip_image004When the barking and howling stopped, Lola sat back up. She looked back at me, as her ‘real world’ was coming back into focus. I went over and hugged and ‘talked dog’ to her. It just felt to me- maybe I’m making all this up, but I don’t think so- it felt to me like there was a longing in Lola that could never, would never, be able to be expressed. The life of the pack, as her 1000X great-grandmothers knew that pack life, will never be part of Lola’s experience. But I could see that some deep and real genetic chord in her had been sounded. And she had enjoyed it.

I often wonder how many of those ancient and genetically ripe moments catch our own human attentions. Most people respond to the seashore in ways which cause them to describe it as “beautiful” or “awesome.” But those words, they also know, even as they are saying them, do little to describe what the ocean is really making them feel. That feeling is the real response to the ancient, genetically sensitive, call which the ocean makes on most people.

Most, but not all. While significant and numerous communities of humans lived over hundreds of generations by ocean shores, their DNA codes being sculpted by the foods, winds, and climates there, there were other communities with ancient histories living inland. Some people today are affected by mountains or deep forests in the same way as others are affected by the oceans. Some communities, many of them around the world, never left the base of the mountains where life-giving streams full of fish and clams were present. Others hunted and gathered in the forests and the edges of forests. Their present day descendents might feel their calls to the wild in the scent of pine, the taste of wild onions, or, in ways very different from the way Lola heard them, the howls of wolves, dingoes, or coyotes. (“Run!”)

Something which all humans in all places seem to share is a fascination with fire. In a shared setting especially, where the fire is purposefully built and controlled, the fire-fascination of people is that same kind of fascination which comes from beyond words, beyond the need for language. Fire, shared and communal, is always quieting, always a cause for reflection and wonder. It is settling. That kind of shared, life-enhancing fire is something which the majority of persons in everyone’s family trees depended on, gathered around, slept near, and were made warm by. Our genetic, human DNA was shaped by that warmth; it is not serendipity or even mere coincidence that we are, as humans, attracted to it. It is inevitable. We can’t stay away from it.

On beyond the campfires, mountain streams, forest glens, ocean waves, and calls of the coyote, there is another even more ancient and powerful call. All humans have that call in common, too. The Apostle Paul said that even the trees and rocks hear it. I’ll write about that call later in the week.

God, Sex, Goliath, and Other Scary Things..

What’s wrong? Here’s the answer:

(These thoughts are complicatedly interrelated as most of the thoughts in all of our minds are. I admire deeply, though, those persons that are able to simplify in ways that I can’t. Bear with me. I promise some new ideas here that will affect the way some of you see the world from this point on. Really!)

Families, Bands, and Tribes

Our species evolved and spent most its communal history in bands of families and tribes of bands. Families bonded together for security and diversification of the gene pool, and crossed the difficult barriers of geography and suspicion to become bands. The people who lived on that side of the mountain needed to get at animals on the other side of the mountain and- “oh, by the way, while we’re over there hunting can we procreate with your people?”

(Trying my best to simplify- I trust you understand. This is cultural anthropology in the smallest nutshell it’s ever been crammed into.)

The bands became tribes. Not overnight and not automatically, but as populations increased and as climate changes (like ice melt), geographical episodes (like volcanoes), and animal migrations or extinctions occurred, the advantages of cooperation over competition were hard to ignore! Now, Americans, think Ojibway, Dakotah, Chipppewa, or Apache. Those are tribes– they lived in districts, many lived in smaller bands, they spread out over a geography, and sometimes at peace and sometimes at struggle with adjacent tribes. What united them was the geography, the resources they learned to share (Apaches and the earliest horses, for instance), language, and shared DNA. A member of a tribe knew they could move from valley to valley without harm, because that was tribal land. They also knew they might have problems on the other side of the valley, over the mountain, because that was the land of another tribe.

Stories

Stories evolve among any group of people over time and every tribe on earth was abundant with them. Stories informed those who heard them how to think, how to act, and what the tribe determined was important to know. The shared knowledge of tribes through the telling of stories is why we as humans are still vital (too vital from other species’ viewpoints!). The Dakotah had stories about the Cold and Buffalo, the Aleutians had stories about shifting ice and Walruses (is more than one Walrus, Walri?), the Aztec had stories Warm Seas and Fish, etc, etc, etc.

These stories were how children learned. They weren’t “made up” stories. They were truths that had been observed, or thought about; conclusions about the world around them were made, and those thoughts and conclusions were made memorable and interesting through stories. The stories contained the most current truths available.

Now, here’s the part that has everything to do with today: One way to make sure children in a tribe knew their place, understood their role, and knew to never go over that mountain was through fear. Fear works. Has, does, and will. It’s no accident that the purveyor of bad tidings in the Garden of Eden was a Serpent (hissss!) rather than a cow or a chicken (yum!). Nor, continuing with the familiar stories of the Hebrew tribe, was it surprising that the awful, horrible, sneaky Philistines had a secret weapon (Goliath) or that the loose-living, oft-married Samaritans were trash. Both were good reasons to keep the kids who were feeling their wild oats blooming, at home, where having no other gods before YHWH was much more manageable.

More To Come

OK, I’m going to continue with this tomorrow, and I will deal with these two ideas:

1. Humans lived in tribes a long, long, long time- longer than any of us have the ability to imagine. Ideas and concepts are as deeply a part of us as our physical structure or repertoire of emotions are, and as our abilities to stand erect and run evolved, so did our need for stories and the structure with which they were told. Stories are in us. We need them.

2. We live in a time, however, when we do not need to be afraid, out of ignorance, of the people who live on the other side of the mountain. Our tribe is global now. The separations no longer keep us alive by insuring our safety. The separations now, exacerbated by fools, are going to kill us. Our stories must be re-written.