The Memory of Yellow

One day

(we don’t know where

or when

only that it had to be)

One day

a leaf, high on a sky-reaching cane

bent away from the perfection of

green..

deep green…

ocean green churning Life,

the leaf bent away and was

yellow

in the Sun.

It was yellow and there was no yellow

but the sun

and the shine of dragonfly wings.

Now this yellow, this primal yellow

this yellow become flesh

in the world, and warm.

In ten thousand years there was a shoreline of cane stalks

full of yellow

buzzed on and loved by swarms seeking

the sun warmed sweetness of rain

in the yellow fleshy folds

and then

a million years after, there was a stalky but stunted

bush of cane

nestling in orange fiery fury,

insects up and down its tangled highways

bringing, taking life- orange life- that way

and that way and on the wind

and then two million and there was pink

ten million and there was red

forty million and there were fields

grassy leafy green fields filled with

blue, another blue, and a third blue

and purple, and white- so many whites!-

and

yellowyellowyellowyellowyellow

and there was no one to name the colors

no one to classify and organize the colors

and the shapes, the seeds, the fruits

nor the bees, the ants, the butterflies,

and dragonflies (smaller now)

no one.

Which is why today the yellow waits patiently

for that time again

when the names won’t matter

and orange will call to pink

and only green

or maybe an ant or a bee

will be in the way of that calling..

(the yellow remembers)

David Weber, 5/2010

There are times, like now, and more frequently, when I know we are in the way of the earth. We are in the way of what the earth was doing for billions of years without us, and I wonder if..if the others of the world- the flowers, the cane, the insects, monkeys, snakes and coyotes, trees and

the oceans

could vote..if they could vote up or down, yay or nay, how long do you think they would let us stay? I hear a blackball rolling down the centuries, getting nearer. growing louder.

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.

Was Blind, But Now I See..Part I

Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see. (Blindness, Jose Saramago, pg. 326)

Luke 4:16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

I once was lost, but now am found..was blind, but now I see.. (“Amazing Grace,” John Newton)

I’m not anticipating with any glee whatsoever, what I am about to begin writing. Most of what I write (or think, or preach, or eat, or do) is motivated by Want– I want to write about nature; I want to eat mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy; I want to go to South Padre Island next week. And I will do, because I want to, all of those things.

But, kind of like the occasional serving of greens peas that I eat at a dinner party so I do not appear to be rude, there also those things which I, or any of us, must do. These personal essays about being blind are, therefore, motivated by Must, rather than Want.

(There are few things I find more repulsive to eat than green peas. Don’t ask me why; I don’t know why. You’ve got an illogical, indefinable revulsion about some food, too- I know you do. So I know you know something of the feeling I’m talking about. I put the peas in my mouth, try to keep my tongue from touching them, dare not chew [!], then swallow quickly, and hope I don’t obviously gag.)

After reading Jose Saramago’s Blindness several weeks ago, enough of a new vocabulary permeated the boundaries of my thinking, that previously unformed groups of thoughts, ideas, and even dreads began to coalesce into what has become, for me, a new coherence. Vague feelings of confusion and concern which have a way, when they are inexpressible, of descending (personally, anyway) into anger or depression, seem to be backlit now; I have been able to begin to think about them in new ways, shadowy as they might still be.

I was emerging, with a language, from a very real blindness which had been caused in large measure, by an inadequacy of words with which to communicate, to myself or anyone else. But it was not a good feeling: it was flat-out alarming! I had gotten used to living with a mild, unfocussed alarm over “what it is I do not know specifically.” But vague shapes and washed-out colors have now begun to gel and brighten; I can see them well enough to feel the need (I apologize ahead of time) to shout them.

This entry serves as a warning then: future entries will begin with this same title but be followed by a specific word. You will see words like Life, Death, Religion, Time, Science, Technology, Politics, and Evil following “Was blind, but now I see..” My point in telling you this is that you may not want to see, or you may be highly interested in the particular word of the day, but not want to read about what I am seeing. So be it. Skip that day’s essay, or all of them. My personal therapy is to write, and plant seeds of curiosity and thought in doing so. Some of those seeds will blow away, some will be eaten by birds, some will be washed downstream, but some might take root and grow.

And I think some of them, all of them eventually, must. And soon. We have lived under a veil- luckily, some of us- for so very long that it feels comfortable in the darkness. The air might be stuffy, we may rarely be able to discern real Light, but having gotten used to such things, we don’t even notice we are breathing harder and struggling to see with less and less success.

I think we’ve been blind; I know I have been blind, much of my life, to much of what I have only begun to see, to look at critically, and then to observe contemplatively. While we’ve been blind, others have been dying and suffering en masse because of the majority’s inability to see.

I know I’m not alone in my “shouting.” I am simply one more in a long long line of known and unknown men and women throughout the ages who could not stop seeing, once they had begun. I also hope there are many millions more that will transcend my voice and vision with greater eloquence, insight, and urgency.

Tomorrow’s word: Hope

The Womb of God

(This was the message I gave last Sunday. I know it’s a long read, but new birth never happens all-of-a-sudden. I’ve decided to continue adding the occasional “message from Sunday.”)

(Update, October, 2014: Six years later, this still says what I mean,,)

The Womb of God

One of my favorite biblical authors is Abraham Heschel who, in 1962, wrote the definitive book on the prophets, called The Prophets. He described the time period around 400-500 B.C. when some of the great Old Testament prophets had begun to write and speak in alarming, revolutionary, and largely unlistened-to ways (I’m going to paraphrase just a little, because his words can be difficult at times):

Heschel wrote of that time- “Religion had declined not because it had been successfully argued against, but because it had become irrelevant, dull, oppressive, uninteresting. When faith is replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crises of today are ignored because of the remembered splendor of the past; when faith becomes an inherited heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority and rules rather than the voice of compassion, its message becomes meaningless.”

Part of my personality- my vision of the world, the universe, God, and all things and beings contained therein- is summarized in that statement. I listen to and read other preachers, so many other Christian teachers and thinkers, and I end up feeling lonely sometimes, embarrassed even because what I see and believe seems so different from what I hear being proclaimed as God’s Truth, God’s Word by almost everyone else, including many of my own denominational colleagues. And that sometimes leads to a kind of situational depression on my part. I wonder if I am wrong, and if I am even being fair in sharing some of my deepest insights and doubts and wonderings with you because they so often seem to run counter to what is considered orthodox and traditional in Christian thinking and doctrine.

That is this preacher’s burden. Robbie, primarily, and some others of you catch the brunt of that odd depression from time to time, maybe too often. But I hope all of you also hear and feel- underlying that confusion and what is a very real sadness at times- I hope you also hear a real hopefulness on my part. I don’t believe Jesus intended to lead us in circles around and around in 2000 year old cultural realities and perceptions. In fact, I think that following Jesus is God’s way of leading all people, in all times, out of the Bronze Age that religion had irrelevantly, dully, oppressively, and uninterestingly become stuck in, and into an always-being-made-new Creation.

~~

I sit by the ocean watching the waves in early morning moonlight and think about these things. I walk beside the evening’s incoming tide, watching the records of that Creation in the scampering of sandpipers and the 200 million year old ballet of pelicans. I stand on Carolinian sand dunes blown into existence by winds which blew across the continents of Africa and South America long before there was a human present to scratch boundaries of ownership across them. Around me are pairs of ragged claws, as T.S. Eliot called them, crabs scuttling in and out of their ancient habitats, in and out of holes dug among the tangle of vines, the cacti, the wildflowers, and the swaying salt marsh grasses.

One morning, as I am making what is for me a jaw-dropping discovery that the horizon is not a perfectly straight line, but a series of barely discernible ups and downs of tidal risings and forming waves, like letters, words, and sentences- a kind of oceanic story being written in circles around the globe, and on that morning that story is punctuated a mile offshore with two large spouts of water. A whale.

That same morning, a little later, dolphins- 3 of them- appear near my son and daughter and others, ten yards away, jumping from the water in perfect, almost friendly formation. Then, later that same day, two sharks- small ones- appear just beside the shore, gulping the small fish caught in a temporary lagoon caused by receding tides. Those who are swimming leave the water quickly, but are unable to stop watching this scene, an unchanging scene, a wild and eternal scene older even than the time of dinosaurs.

I watch episodes like these shoulder-deep in the water, or from my sandy seat atop a dune, or hunkered down beside the water’s edges where waves born in the meeting of Caribbean currents and sub-Saharan winds are wetting my feet as my toes curl into the million and millions of tiny worn shards of ancient shellfish, now grains of sand. Other shells lie all around me, saltwater shelters abandoned by ten thousands of mollusks and crabs, shells which one day, wave after wave after wave away, will also be pummeled into the granular debris of other beaches, other shores.

I am caught up again and again in the transcendence of moments and minutes, of time and eternities. All that is around me on this shore- on any shore, and on beyond these shores to the mountains far behind me and the plains and rivers and lakes and fields beyond; all that is around me, beside and behind me, over me and under me, from the verdant green of every flower, to the forests of trees beyond them in the Great Smoky mountains, from those creatures in the seas which are too small to be seen, to sharks and whales, to crabs and the pelicans, the gulls and sandpipers, to each and every animal that burrows, flies, swims, crawls, slithers, or hunkers down near the waves watching it all- all of it, all of them, emerged in their primary, first forms from the ocean. Life- all life- has been born in these salty wet depths. All life has surged upward and outward and forward from this womb of God, this birthplace of an always new Creation.

Above me, and I cannot look elsewhere now, the morning sun is rising between scattered gray, yellow, and white clouds moving from east to west in massive air currents I cannot feel, but only see. Clouds formed by the endless evaporation of water from the ocean’s surface in response to the 10 billion year old sun’s invitation to rise toward its light and warmth. Clouds which, when laden with the many tons of hydrogen and oxygen atoms formed into molecules of water, attracting each other, joining together and spilling in heavier-than-air raindrops on the lands over which they pass. Gentle spring rains or summertime deluges, the ocean pours through them onto lands beyond, where the grasses absorb them and grow. And then the oceans are eaten in their now green and leafy incarnations by cows. And dairy farmers gather the now milky white drops of the ocean together into pasteurization vats and stainless steel tank trucks, some of which, not far away, will be made into ice cream.

Lick the ice cream and savor the ocean’s journey onto your lips. Taste the ocean’s always new and endless Creation on your tongue. We are a part of it. It is a part of us. The boundaries of difference among living things are blurred and obscured by the commonalities of our origins. Our own saltwatery blood pulses in rhythms begun by the oceans and the moon in gravitational, tidal dances, and I am overcome, again. I put my earphones on and listen to the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” as I watch and wonder in gratitude and humility and I raise my arms in the same form in which I earlier saw the whale’s spouts, and I listen, and I try to sing, because I must. I must.

It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

When I come back up to the house and onto the porch my son and his girlfriend are sitting there drinking coffee and Joshua asks me, with a tinge of worry, I can tell- “Daddy, what in the heck were you doing down there?” (I didn’t think anybody would be out of bed yet!) “What in the heck were you doing down there with your arms in the air?”

And I tell him, “Becoming sane.”

~~

Psalm 24:

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

I need those words. I need those words to wash over the curse of my own jabbering ego; I need those words to clean and scour the false priorities I schedule for myself constantly. I need those words, in waves crashing against my pride, I need those words to remind me that, at the bottom of everything I am nothing, but that me and you and every living thing are a part of the whole of everything. We are the intricately, intimately related parts of the earth’s fullness thereof. And we are loved very, very, very, very, very, very, very much.

Matthew 5 from ‘the Message’, verse 3: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4″You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5″You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6″You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

7″You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Here’s the truth the ocean was drowning me in that morning, and during those days there. Here’s what I can see so much more clearly now- what Jesus is able to lead me, and all of us toward, if we are following him.

Continuing in Matthew 5, verse 13: “David, Let me tell you why you are here. (No, my name is not really there. But there’s a white space there- insert your own name in it!) David, let me tell you why you are here. (Do it, let Jesus talk to you here) David, Joey, Sarah, Nancy, Manuel, let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Verses14-16: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

So, I cannot be quiet. I dare not be quiet. If I feel the saltwater kiss of God on my lips, what else can I do but share that caress in these ways available to me, with you? I must continue to shout that I can learn almost as much about God from a wildflower field as I can from the first chapter of John. I must admit without embarrassment that I learn as much about the active presence of Jesus in a roomful of sentenced-to-life convicts as I do from the letters of Paul.

And I must stop being ashamed or otherwise discombobulated, when I tell you or others, or even admit to myself that an hour beside the ocean, lost in the eternal mysteries of blue-green waters tinged with golden sunlight, is better than any sermon, any day. Even this one.

So, on a gray Friday morning a week ago, August 15, the day after Sarah and Travis’ wedding, I got up, almost as usual before everyone else, walked down the catwalk across the dunes, sat on the last step, and wrote what follows. I didn’t know then if I would ever share it with anyone. Having read these words of Jesus just now, though, I know that I must:

August 15, 2008, Holden Beach NC

Abba, Father..

Through the smallness of my words, I cannot explain to anyone, least of all to myself, who or what you are.

Through the inadequacies of language and grammar, whatever I write leaves so much unwritten that it might be better to tear this blank page into a thousand pieces, lift them to the wind and, as they are blown across the beach say “There, there is God.”

But if I don’t write something, right now, I might cease to breathe.

I know that Genesis says humans were created in the image of God, but I think we have done a much better job of recreating God in our own image. I would rather watch the image of God I see in these pelicans, or in these scampering sandpipers, than think about the image of God which fueled the hundreds of slave ships which crossed these waters in front of me.

My heart soars as I watch the image of God in this rising sun, and know what the ancient biblical writers could not have known: that this is one of a trillion sun-stars, and a fairly minor sized one at that. I see God better in the golden explosion of these early morning, sun-reflecting clouds better- infinitely better- than I do when I read the church-blessed history of the “godly” men who came to these shores 400 years ago with ships full of guns, germs, and plans to baptize and bless the “savages” who had lived here 6000 years on land they called “Father” near the waters they called “Mother.”

My heart aches as I think about the Japanese trawlers chasing down with high powered, 21st century harpoons the whale I saw yesterday, because a Japanese god wants whale oil burning in his temples. And my heart breaks when I think of the creature-killing weapons-testing happening beneath these waters because an American god says “My country, right or wrong, my country.”

It is the man-created images of God which infect my soul, not this billions year old image in front of me! The truest maps of creation are written on the backs of these seabirds, and in the God-writ words on the horizon. I can taste God here in the spray of saltwater. I can hear God in the symphonies of the sun and moon and the harmonies of the ceaseless waves. I can see God in paths of crabs and the nests of sea turtles. And I can touch God here, simply by lifting my hands.

Hallelujah!

Can We Survive this Century?

Well, I know I won’t. I’m 58, it’s 2008, you do the math. But this is a larger, vital, and very (very!) important question which concerns us humans, and untold other species of plants and animals that have arisen through time from the starstuff of earth:

Can we survive this century? Will the year 2100 be noted, observed, or recorded by anyone?

The question will be the subject of an ABC special this coming September- Earth 2100. Scientists from various disciplines will gather together to discuss what might happen, and when, if current population growth and resource consumption continues unabated.

Last summer, The World Without Us by Alan Weisman was published. Weisman interviewed biologists, engineers, geologists, and meteorologists about changes that would occur if, for whatever reason, humans were no longer part of the planetary equation. The result is both fascinating and disturbing- if you’re a human, of course. For most other species*, the possibility of our sudden absence would (if any of them noticed) be the greatest day in the last 1.7 million years!

The deterioration of buildings and infrastructure would begin within days. A Scientific American video- The Earth Without Us, based on Weisman’s book- is an interesting introduction to the phenomena of urbanscapes turning into landscapes. Intriguingly, one of the last recognizable humanly concocted “structures” to exist would be Mount Rushmore.** Four million years from now, barring any direct asteroid hits, George, Abe, Tom, and Teddy will still be staring out through granite eyes, into the Black Hills surrounding them. (Where there once lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon, somewhere there.)

The immediate disappearance of all humans is almost impossible, outside of a cataclysmic planetary event, like a massive asteroid, or a physics experiment gone terribly wrong. But there are numerous possibilities for the gradual but total absence of humans. Chief among them would be a virus, or a new strain of bacteria. Other possibilities- very real ones- would be nuclear fallout after a large scale war, meteorological changes, a series of smaller asteroid hits, or a depletion of resources a la Easter Island, on a global scale. And if anyone thinks that humans are not stupid enough to let the latter happen, keep driving your SUV, or allowing agri-businesses to patent the world’s food supplies, or burning anything we can put a match to.

What will be lost, if humans are? The ability to record what is happening in the world and the universe, great art (paintings will turn to mold), and the inability to warn other species that may evolve into beings that “need” styrofoam about our short-sighted and continuous mistakes.

What would be gained? Consider the lilies of the field, and the birds of the air..

*Animals that are dependent on humans, of course, would not find such an event very fortunate.Most pets would soon die of starvation, as would all zoo animals which were unable to escape. Cattle, most breeds of which have had all speed and most wildness bred out of them, would be the victims of canines- wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and dogs- which would flourish, and some felines, which would make a gradual comeback as well. Pigs, if they could escape their confines, do fairly well, fairly quickly in the wild. Interestingly, roaches living outside of their native tropical environs, would disappear after a year or two of no heated buildings. Mice and rats in former urban areas would also disappear as food supplies dwindled and as raptors- hawks, eagles, and others- began making high rise buildings into dream aviaries.

**Also interestingly, the last artificially lighted city on earth, because of the nearness and automated systems of Hoover Dam’s electrical production, would be..ta-da!..Las Vegas!

The Earth Without Us

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.