Desperately Seeking ‘Victim’ Status

The movie ““Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” opens in general release April 18th. Because of its anti-evolution stance, I have followed the movie’s pre-release marketing to the conservative Christian market with much interest. The premise of the movie is that scientists who entertain the Intelligent Design “theory” of Creation are systematically being discriminated against- expelled- by the larger scientific community.

While there apparently is no overt Christian content being promulgated by the film, there is little doubt that the conservative creationist Christian community is being targeted for the bulk of ticket sales. Piggy-backing on the remarkable success of the pre-release marketing of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, producers of “Expelled” have held special screenings across the country for conservative Christian leaders, school personnel, and others who they are confidant will create a “word of mouth” buzz about the movie. The producers have even created a method for Christian groups to use the movie as a fund raiser during the important opening weekends of the film.

The movie’s website makes much use of the word “Darwinism” as a synonym for evolutionary theory. This over-use of “Darwinism” is, in fact, one of the things which caught my interest concerning the motivations behind the movie. To describe evolutionary theory as “Darwinism” at this point is like describing gravitational theory as “Newtonianism.” (and, yes, the study of gravity still emanates from various theoretical positions. Theories are not, to paraphrase Isaac Asimov, crazy ideas thought up by groups of scientists after a night of drinking and carousing. They are fluid bases for connecting facts and ideas, subject to research and peer review- temporal and historical peer review wherein theories are modified, added to, and subject to sometimes scathing criticism.)

Theories begin when someone, somewhere puts ideas together in a laboratory beaker, in an archeological study,  or some other place of intellectual inquiry and curiosity. The results of combining curiosity with evidence usually results- during those first moments of observation and initial understanding- in an “Aha!” or, most often, in a “What the..?”

“Galileoism ” (Oops, I mean “Physics”) has grown from the publishing of a single paper in the 16th century which was condemned by the reigning Roman Catholic hierarchy of Europe, into a multi-faceted discipline of scientific inquiry that now comes up with far more questions than concrete answers. Which is what any good and valid theory will do! Stupid, baseless theories- Flat Earth theory, for instance- are shunted off to the cellars of intellectualism very quickly. They do not lead to new questions; they lead only to dead end answers based on easily reviewed facts. They remain valid only in the minds of crack-pots and those with Bronze Age axes to grind.

So, “Darwinism” is a buzz word, purely and simply. Darwin saw what he saw, with no knowledge of DNA or access to a electron microscope, and wrote down what he saw, and what he concluded about what he saw, in his 1859 classic The Origin of Species. It was a brilliant work, but it was only a beginning. Like all theories, parts of Darwin’s have held up through time, parts have been argued about and discarded, and parts of it remain open to continuing, complex, ever-increasing, and valid scientific inquiry. Darwin birthed questions by the 1000s, and a few good answers.

Intelligent Design is a compromise by creationists’s with the overwhelming evidence of evolution. It is their attempt to keep their definition of a humanly-imaginable, humanly-understandable, and a humanly-emotional and motivated god in the mix. Their definition of a watchmaker-god is part of the post-industrialist worldview that sees the universe as a collection of fitting-together pieces, rather than as a unified whole. They need answers to questions, rather than more questions, because they are afraid they will lose grasp of God, and be unable, therefore, to control what we know about God, otherwise.

It is shoddy, silly, and confusing “science.” And here is exactly the kind of “intellectual” discussion such goofiness leads to- from the official “Expelled” blog:

“Until the late 1980’s when the generic ‘President’s Day’ became the official holiday that subsumed them, America used to celebrate the birthdays of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

“As a result, “Darwin Day” has now supplanted Lincoln’s Birthday in the popular imagination; both men were born on February 12, 1809.

“We think that that is a shame.”

From a “scientific theory” to claims of victimization, in one utterly irrelevant rant. A challenge: find someone today, anywhere, for whom February 12 has “captured their imagination” as Darwin Day. But when they don’t have any verifiable, peer reviewable, honest and forthright facts to back up their silly ‘theories’ then they must resort to victimization. “They’re picking on me!” they cry to each other.

Yes, IDers, you are being picked on. For a reason: you’re wrong. You are trying to diminish God and you are clouding our children’s education. And, apparently, based on the reviews so far, you’ve made a really bad movie,too.

Texas Youth Livestock Auction

This could be called “Yet Another Reason I Love Texas.”

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The local livestock auction for young people of this county is being held today. The winners in the various categories (swine, beef, and goats) get to auction their animals off to local banks, car dealerships, oil drilling companies, and other companies which bid BIG for the winning animals.

Now livestock auctions are being held somewhere in America every day of the week. And, yes, I know (and even agree with) some of the criticism of the livestock and meat-packing industry. But this auction has a whole different flavor (pun intended) than many of those other ones. This auction is one of those places where the spotlights and attention are young people doing well. And, while there is a difficult reality to be faced by these young men and women as they say “good-bye” to their animals, they are also learning about relationships in life, and being an integral part of a community that is vital to this area.

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These animals have been raised for meat production since they were calves, kids, and piglets. They have been tended to daily by their young owners, and handled often so that they would “show” well when their time in the ring finally came. The animals are as clean and spiffy as their owners.

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You’ll note that there’s not a lot of jubilation evident in these faces of these youngsters, despite the fact that they are walking away with a whole lot more money than they spent on the raising of their animals. They’ve experienced that it is possible- impossible not to– love an animal. But they are also learning about the purpose and hard work involved in raising their livestock. The ones who continue in ranching will never lose that tension between the care of their animals and the purpose of their being raised in the first place. Some of the gentlest, kindest people I know are ranchers who discovered that dilemma early on, and continue to face it daily.

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Another thing I love about this Youth Auction is that the organizers realize that people really do like to eat other foods besides meat! So the opportunity exists for cookies, cakes, and pies to be a part of the judging and auctioning process, too. This little boy just sold a $750 cake to a local bank!

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These are the kids who ride horses, have dogs and cats, grow up understanding and respecting the land, and who get to spend part of each day hoping for rain or shading their eyes against a sunset. They will never eat a hamburg in blissful ignorance of where it came from or be able to tolerate the intentional abuse of any animal.

Or any other person. Just watch them as they grow up and you’ll see what I mean. The lessons you see being learned in these pictures don’t end today. They are part of lives now and those lessons will will benefit all of us.

"Road Hazards Affect Driving Conditions"

That was the top-of-the-page headline in this week’s local paper. Really.

In a small Texas town, it’s sometimes a challenge for editors to fill a paper with enough “news” to be able to pretend that it’s the news, and not the advertising, that is the reason for the paper’s existence. This is not to say, of course, that the local paper doesn’t have its share of “normal” bad and unsettling news, but the weeks between “Major Drug Bust on West Side of Town” and “Local Man’s Death Going to Grand Jury” are way more numerous than they are in, say, Dallas or Fort Worth.

So why do I love reading the local paper each week? It’s precisely because headlines about driving conditions are the norm and not the exception. Local newspapers do not have as their primary purpose the scaring of their readers into a state of fear and submission to advertisers for more information about pharmaceuticals, better security systems, and this weekend’s local Gun Shows. Small town newspapers, quaint and funny as they sometimes are, reflect lifelong local attitudes that have been shaped by less noise, less hurry, and- around here anyway- this:

moon crop 

This is the moon. I can see it almost every night, along with stars, planets, and the occasional meteorite. If it’s not cloudy, I can watch the sun rise and set by looking east or west from my backyard. If it is cloudy, I can join the rest of the town in hoping that it rains, or snows. Snow here is not only rare and pretty, but, like the rain, life-giving. It’s not an inconvenience on the 40 minute morning commute through traffic fumes and toll booths. It’s moisture for the fields, ponds for both the cattle and coyote, and the promise of springtime wildflower extravaganzas.

The rhythms of rural areas and small towns are determined by the land upon which they sit and the skies under which they are nestled. Going to bed with the glow of the moon coming through the bedroom windows is- for me- a far superior way to go to sleep, than with the light from street lamps, Taco Bells, and passing police and fire trucks ever was. (24 years in Dallas; almost 5 years here)

And while I have no way of measuring it quantitatively, I wonder often how it is to experience such an earth and sky centered existence for a lifetime? I wonder about that because, having lived in both urban and rural settings, I observe a richer awareness by people here in the countryside of where their humanity is rooted. The explosion of wildflowers every spring may, for some people here, become passe. Nonetheless, they are seeing them; the colors are filling their minds whether they are aware of it happening, or not. The Big Sky they have looked up at everyday since they were bouncing in backyard strollers,  is an ever-present reminder that humans are not at the top of any apex concocted in a corporate boardroom or automobile showroom.

I wonder about those things, because not only do I observe them, I feel them. I can hear ducks out at the lake, coyotes in the early evening, and the rustling of mesquite and mimosa trees almost anytime. I can see people I know driving by the house. I never hear obscenities like “Hump Day” and “TGIF” from people bound to share their misery at work that day with me. I feel the calm of the moon on the horizon and I feel a serenity in the calloused hands of ranchers as well as in the sounds of the Friday marching band on the football fields a few blocks away. I’m reminded of truths which really matter- like, ‘road hazards affect driving conditions.‘ And I’m not so prone to be addled by the subtle but relentlessly fearsome noise of emergency vehicles and morning drive time.

I have a clearer, more ready, less encumbered, and desirous view of this:

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Build a Shelter of Light and Air..

I ran across this phrase, and it fascinates me:

shelter light and air

It is fascinating to me because of its Simplicity and Truth. And that Simplicity and Truth is found not only in the images or recollections which the phrase gives rise to in our imaginations or memories; it is the clean nature of the statement itself.

Build a shelter of light and air

Stated in the imperative, it is like a command that has been waiting to be spoken. It is a place which I am perceived to be ready for now- by whom?- and being invited to enter. But first- the imperative- there is work to be done, assembly to be undertaken.

The first task, for me, is disassociation from those things- things, stuff, material- that I have allowed to define me and, in the process, bend me. Because that is what stuff does, it bends the shape of the Image of God, the humanity in us, into the shape of whatever shiny baubles attract us. I have learned to feel my way in the dark with my wallet. I breathe in the smog of others’ desires for me to have the satisfaction that only they can sell to me. I am vulnerable and I have been injured, over and over, because I have traded too many times the security I was born with- the security of community with others- for the individual and illusory safety of bank account numbers and one more gadget.

I have forgotten so much about sharing. But I have remembered enough to know that holding my hands outward, toward others, is eminently more rewarding than holding them clenched and thrust within my pockets. I want to make room for the Image of God to be growing again, through the presence of others, and not stunted any longer through the weight of all my stuff. So it begins there.

The second task is to “let there be light.” Yes, that Light. The Light that comes not from the sun, and certainly not from any incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs; I want more of the Light the ancient rabbis called First Understanding. I want the Light of more Knowledge, yes, but even more than that, I want the Light of Appreciation and Acceptance of what I already do know. I want to spend less and less time criticizing, evaluating, deciding, and then second-guessing, than I do in feeling passionately about and cultivating the facts, ideas, and opinions that are already in me and that I know to be valuable. I want to continue moving from whatever is dark in me, toward that which is Light, and awaits me.

And then, to breathe. I want to breathe through walls which separate me from the pulse of the world around me. I want the Air, the lightness of being which surrounds us all, to be the only barrier between myself and others. I do not want to fight for air behind musty walls of tradition, or within stale spaces of ancient standards. I no longer want to gasp for air within the stench of dogmatic death.

I want to feel the ruach, the breath of God, always blowing against me, always being drawn into my being. I want to feel led by the Spirit into open spaces, and not pushed by the status quo against the brick walls of fear built by others.

I want to build a structure of Light and Air with others, for others, because of others, and live there, too.

That is the only structure, a structure of Understanding and Freedom, that will withstand the onslaught of those who live, instead, in forts, ready to fight and die for the beliefs they cherish and store within dark, thick, impermeable walls. It is the Structure of Light and of Air in which I will live and toward which I am moving.

I beg you to come along. We will need each other, to help each other disassemble, unpack, and even tear down some of what we thought, by ourselves, was precious. We will need each other to remind the other that the Light is sometimes uncomfortable but always illuminating, and that the Air is often harsh and cold, even as it is life-giving and clean.

We will build a structure of Light and of Air and we will say, “Welcome” to all who come nearby.

I watched the moon last night and it was so beautiful I had to stop..

From the movie, “Grand Canyon,” this tiny snatch of dialog:

Dee: “Jane, do you ever feel like you are just this far from being completely hysterical twenty four hours a day?”

Jane: “Half the people I know feel that way. The lucky ones feel that way. The rest of the people ARE hysterical twenty four hours a day.”

~~

There is this place, by Jacksboro Lake on a southwest bluff, where I have spent days (weeks?) over the past four years, losing myself and then having to go find myself again.

Last night, just after dark, I took my dogs there so that they would anchor me to reality in the way I knew I needed to be anchored. The moon was full; “full” as in “ready to give birth.” Maybe, I thought, to me. (Again)

I sat on the end of the most ergonomically awful concrete picnic table ever designed. I can’t sit still anyway, even in the most comfortable of places, but that place at the table was the perfect view of the moon itself and the slowly pulsing green-then-white guidelight of a nearby airport’s single runway. So I sat, and stared. At the moon, and into a mirror.

I am at a time of year, professionally, when a series of planning, administrative, and evaluation meetings are looming. I have said “yes” to a few too many other responsibilities in the community as well, and they feel oppressing- despite their value and necessity. On top of that, always on top of that- through all that, under and around all that- my Mom is dying slowly of Alzheimer’s, and the last few days have brought bad news and more bad news about her slow descent into a brain functionless body.

And my laptop is not working, so I am trapped inside walls, beneath a ceiling, and when I look up from this keyboard I see wires in the wall and not the sky or the neighbor’s soaring pine trees. And I need that sky, and those trees, as frequent reminders that I am not what I am feeling: a mere set of wires myself, in the wall of others.

We all have a God-enabled, generations-old template of Beauty in our souls. We recognize Beauty from a distance and are drawn to it. The particulars of that Beauty for each of us differs; there are those parts of it we all share, and there are those parts of Beauty which have been particularly with each of us, I think, from our conception.

We can stand in a crowd and collectively be in awe of a particular sunsrise or moonscape. Some will weep, others will try, try, try, to share with others how that Beauty within has been touched. Some will even leave litter or denigrating comments behind them after such an experience, but it is only because they are afraid of how they have been touched by the Beauty they try to culturally suppress. Even in their brash and ugly actions, they are confirming Beauty’s affectiveness.

Or, by ourselves, or with a small (always small) group of others, we might discover Beauty that is so particular, so meaningful only to us, that we will wonder why others are walking away in seeming boredom, possible confusion, or what we might mistakenly call their blindness. van Gogh saw such Beauty in the potato-eater’s rough lodgings. Picasso saw it the screaming of a dying horse. O’Keefe saw it deep within the folds- there!- of desert flowers.

I see such particular Beauty- a field of wildflowers, for instance- that I cannot help but wade into, touch as many colors as I can, watch insects symbiotically propogating, write snatches of poetry about in my mind, thank God for, get lost in to the point where my name and whatever else I hang onto that I ‘think’ is important become meaningless, and wonder why others won’t or can’t follow, or why others must talk about football scores or fashion, or.. why something must be wrong with me to react so crazily, so often, to these kinds of visions.

And then, I react in a truly crazy, not mistakenly crazy way: I want that field of wildflowers. I want to build a wall around it or put up No Trespassing signs. If others can’t/won’t appreciate it, then I’ll just go there by myself. Those kinds of ridiculous thoughts, I know, do not not come from the God-Image in me or anything else that is real, but from the culture in which I have also been immersed since conception. I want what I cannot have, allow myself to get frustrated because it is not mine, and then remember- back in the day- how I could pour brown liquids on the whole damn egoistic-societal-cultural mess in my mind and make it go away. For awhile. For a very short while.

No, I am not even close to going down that wet dead-end path again. But I have been warring with myself about where, why, and who I am, and I am trying to find a way to surrender. I am in a profession, and have made numerous other bad and good lifestyle decisions, that have caused me not to have deep roots in this place I live, or anywhere else. I will never have the experiences of rootedness that others around me have, and I would like to. I am subject to being told to move elsewhere in my job as well. I don’t think I can do that again. I need more permanence, more anchors; I don’t want to float away, from myself or anyone else.

And I don’t want to be watching my Mom die, day by day, while always hoping that tomorrow will be The Day.

I want to flee to the wildflower field. I want to be drunk on the colors there, and write about them on my laptop there, and turn to others and say “Look!” and know they will be excited as I am to be there, too.

I want I want I want what I cannot have in the way I want it, when I want it, and how I want it. I am a pistol-whipped, selfish Westerner and salt is being rubbed into my wounds by Beauty. But, oddly enough, I would have it no other way. And that is the realization I have come to and that is the understanding which keeps me sane, functioning and getting better.

My wants are unrealistic, artificially-inspired to some extent by my status as an American consumer, and even fanciful. Beauty is real. But Beauty is only to be perceived- owned!- on its own terms. Beauty is, has been, and will always be. I am the impermanent one in this relationship. How silly it is of me to try to squash it to the point where I can have it my pocket, or exclude others from sharing it. So I am embracing and holding onto that part of the wildflower field, or the moon, or my dog’s exuberance, which is mine to hold onto, and letting the rest thrive- for others to react to as they will, and not as I think they should.

I am, like Jane (far above), always becoming more and more comfortable in feeling hysterical. You’d think I’d have gotten used to the particular music to which my mind and spirit dance by now, but sometimes the beat is just too fast for me to keep up. Make of it what you will, but that’s where I’ve been, and I’m feeling pretty darn good, most of the time, for having been there. And for being here. Now.

~~

 

Also from “The Grand Canyon”:
Mack: Of course, it would also be nice not to feel bad most of the time.

Dee: Yeah, but that’s how you get yourself in trouble. By thinking how nice it’d be to be happy more.

 

Google Earth (and Sky)

Like most people, I’ve looked at the rooftop of every place I’ve ever lived, flown from Texas to Paris a dozen times, and tried to see what my kids were doing in NYC and Boston. Google Earth never ceases to fascinate.

And apparently, it never will. Recently added to the program is the ability to explore the skies. (And you can get it here: google earth (and sky!)) You can choose specific coordinates, a particular planet, star, or region. Or, you can see the sky directly above wherever you happen to be at the moment, as I’ve done in the pictures below:

Here’s where I live. Right in the middle of the picture is a fairly empty block, with a D-shaped driveway. That’s me.

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Directly above me, is this:

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And deep, deep above me is this. To get there involved flying through what looked to be a snowstorm of other galaxies. But, I made it:

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I don’t know much about the sky, but I’m learning. And Google is helping- a lot, from my layman’s point of view. Google is continuing, from my point of view, to “not be evil.”

Thou

Thou

I’m adding another blog to which I will occasionally be adding pieces. Whatever else I may be writing about, I believe the stuff there will reflect my greatest passion: the need for me, you, all of us- all of humanity- to begin or continue changing the ways we see and understand the Earth and the universe, and our own places within them.

All I can do, all any of us can do, is let loose memes into the imaginations of each other, and pray that some of them take root, and grow. Our old answers have cumulatively led to a world on the brink of nuclear and/or biological catastrophe. It is time to either re-think our viewpoints, or remember the attitudes buried deep within our DNA that enabled humankind to flourish cooperatively with the Earth for over a million years.

The underlying reasons for my doing this blog- Thou– and for the mindset which gave rise to it, are what follows. However you can help me understand and participate in this Great Story, as Thomas Berry has called it, please let me know.

Martin Buber’s book, I and Thou, published in 1923, examined the language of interpersonal relationship and dialogue, and how that attitudinal language can affect the nature of our personal realities. He said that humans have the opportunity of adopting one of two attitudes about themselves in relation to their world: I- Thou, or I- It.

The I- Thou relationship involves the individual engaging the world in its entirety. That relationship does not isolate the individual within a special set of circumstances and characteristics; rather, the individual is in a dialogue, a mutually enhancing, learning and growing relationship with everything, with all people and all things.

The I- It attitude isolates the individual into a special, usually higher category of circumstances, which makes an equally and mutually beneficial relationship between that individual and their world, more difficult. That attitude is the gateway to all types of exploitation, abuse, and injustice, as the individual is prone to regard all of that which is outside of himself, as lesser than himself.

I am not a philosopher. I can barely hang onto most philosophical treatises and esoteric philosophical discussions. But Buber’s ideas resounded in me the moment I first read of them, many years ago. I began to feel a sense of liberation, which continues and expands to this day, from attitudinal chains around my mind and heart that would bind me to a particular role or place; from color-leeching filters over my eyes that kept the world’s true vibrancies from being seen by me; and from particular lies of self-perception that were hindering the world’s love for me, and my own love for the world.

To be in dialogue with the world is not easy for anyone who lives within the predominate cosmology of the day, even as we are aware and learning about that cosmology. It has shaped us, as worldviews have always shaped the consciousness of humans, even as human consciousness is shaping, or reinforcing, the predominate worldview. Humans have a long, long history of regarding themselves as set apart and special, the apex of a Creator’s intentions and artistry. But they have a much longer history, before that present and predominate worldview, of regarding themselves as arising from, in communion with, and vital to the world, as the world was to them.

 I believe that that ancient interaction with our environment- with other humans, animals, the seas, the trees, and all things, in community- is our true nature. And it is in re-establishing that dialogue, that regard, with all that is, that we as a species will be able to survive. Our course, right now, is one hell-bent in opposition to, and exploitation of, all that is It.

 We must begin, and many have, to speak to the world and the universe as we would speak to those most intimate to us- as Thou.

 As you..