Credo- part of it, anyway..

This is a comment I made to another blog, Whitticisms. I include it here, because it describes some of my underlying motivations for doing this blog..

When I was a child, I believed food came from my parents, I didn’t care or need to know how. As long as they were alive and able, there might have been no need for me know otherwise.

But I was curious. Grocery stores were the next answer. More curiosity led to farms and ranches, and elaborate transportation systems. Further curiosity took me into plant and animal sciences, and now- at 57, and not a scientist- I see the sources of that food, and all things, in the exploding stars and formations of new galaxies. I am also sure there is more and more to be discovered.

I have heard so many people, and have even collected some recordings from the Creation Institute in Glen Rose, saying they believe in Creationism because “it is easier to believe than evolution.” Indeed it is; in exactly the same way it was easier intellectually to believe that food came from my parents. The frontal lobes of human brains, however, will not allow humans to stop wondering and asking questions. So I kept looking for the origins of food, just as specialists look for other things and, thank God, in the case of the polio virus and other maladies, find them.

Intellectual pursuits can be stopped by religionists who make the imagination and the asking of too many and too deep questions, into sins, in an attempt to “protect” their territories. The Dark Ages of the Church are historical proof of that! They told others that it was vital to believe only what they could see- a flat earth, an earthcentric universe- because that is all the ancients who spoke Creation stories could see. Well, again thank God, not all of their ’subjects’ bought into that nonsense.

I cannot make God fit into my limited abilities to speak of God. Neither could Moses. If I think I can define God by what I know today, let alone what the Hebrews of 1500 BCE knew, then I will either be terribly surprised by new information coming in tomorrow, or I will have to disregard- play dumb- about that information, and take the “easier” route through it.

Bottom line, we are discovering our God to be bigger than it is possible for humans to imagine or write about God. That should not threaten us at all. It should be making us feel the awe that most people are now able to discover and feel only through the work of scientists. Science and spirituality are not separate pursuits; they are both part of the same human consciousness that wonders, “Why?” and “How?”

God Damn Dog Fighting

(That’s a prayer, by the way..)

It looks like Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick will feel the revulsion of the NFL for his off-the-field pastime of dog fighting, as Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce Vick’s suspension this week for the 07-08 season.

Hopefully, Nike and other members of Vick’s endorsement gravy train will follow suit.

Any doubts about what the NFL is doing to Vick? This should eliminate any thoughts of “unfairness” someone might still be harboring:

dogfighting

That’s what a human fingerprint looks like, gouged into a pit bull’s face. If it’s nauseating, that’s my point. It is meant to be.

It is almost unfathomable at times what humans are capable of doing to animals. Dog fighting, cock fighting, exotic animal hunting, and even rattlesnake round ups are systemic manifestations of the religiously chauvinistic attitude that humans are at top of the food chain and, therefore, “have dominion..over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1: 28) That single biblical phrase, twisted in the minds of men who measure their virility by the blood they can cause to flow from other living beings, or by the neglect they have institutionalized under the agenda of economic development, puts us- this generation- directly in the path of what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction.

440 million years ago, 85% of marine animals were wiped out in the First Great Extinction. 367 million years ago, many fish and 70% of marine invertebrates met their doom. 245 million years ago, 95% of all animal species died. 208 million years ago, another extinction of sea animals primarily, but also some land animals took place. And 65 million years ago, 3/4 of all species, including the dinosaurs, were eliminated.

All of these five great extinctions occurred because of volcanic eruptions, meteorite strikes, and changing climates. This sixth great extinction is one we are able to witness and one which we are largely the cause of. (Statistics from Earth Policy Institute)

It is estimated that 10 million species inhabit the earth with humans. And each year, 1000s of these species, including microrganisms, are lost forever. Deforestation, mining, urbanization, and ocean pollution and over harvesting are the primary reasons.

How do the attitudes and actions of Michael Vick fit into this dismal picture?

Perfectly.

As long as our human and predominate worldview is one which regards everything outside of ourselves as, well, outside of ourselves, then the abuse and death of pit bulls behind barns in the Virginia countryside, as well as the poaching deaths of Mountain Gorillas in the Congo, will continue. As long we crush our natural empathetic response to other living beings, with the mechanistic attitude that we’re in control of the toolbox, then it will continue to be easy to regard other species as things– in our way, expendable, toys for our amusement, even trash.

Imagine the outcome of a democratic vote by the world’s species on which species should be next in line for extinction?

Amen

 

 

 

A New Earth..

These new photographs of Earth, released yesterday by NASA, are the most detailed of our planet to date. Over several months, every kilometer of Earth was photographed by satellite and this, the composite collection of those individual photos, is the result.

earthNASA2

Nikos Kazantzakis, writing his prologue to The Odyssey- A Modern Sequel, said this about his home:

Good is this earth, it suits us! Like the global grape it hangs, dear God, in the blue air and sways in the gale, nibbled by all the birds and spirits of the four winds. Come, let’s start nibbling too and so refresh our minds!

Published in 1938, Kazantzakis was not privileged when he wrote this, to have seen the Earth as we have been able to see it, this way. But, he saw it clearly nonetheless. He saw the Life-giving, creating and nurturing Being of the planet in ways that only Early Man and Woman had known it, and that we are, only now, beginning to perceive again.

We are not merely upon this place; we are among the myriad, mysterious, and magnificent results of it. As the fiery gases of the fourteen billion year old Bursting Forth began to cool and coalesce, and as those gases formed in solidifying rotational response to the massive Star burning and pulling at them from ninety-three million miles away; and as that Star poured out on those cooling, swirling gases an inexhaustible river of luminous photons; and as the Earth (without water, or rocks, still without form but never void) absorbed those photons, the atoms of our being, began.

Birthing- the continuous, creating, converging, conflicting, chaotic, and conforming process of Birthing- of all that we are, began. The burning storms of hydrogen, extinguished finally as the rivers of photons were absorbed, were becoming. They were, even in their formlessness, already becoming the volcanoes, oceans, and the granite underpinnings of continents. Already, ten billion years ago, they were becoming the great bacterial, living response of the Earth’s surface to the several mile high blanket of atmosphere of cooled hydrogen which clung to it. Already, the cast off oxygen of the bacterial revolution was seeding the Earth with Labrador Retrievers, Japanese beetles, roses, watermelons, toadstools, and grapes.

The surface of the Earth began and continues to reflect, as it continues to be dependent upon, the Bursting Forth moments of all that was, and is, and all that is becoming. In the grape, the photosynthesized and stored photons of the Sun swell against the contained environment of its peel. It is ours now, and the birds, and the insects, to remove from that grape from its own self-contained and whole existence to become our sustenance, our strength. We, the great inclusive mosaic of all that lives, We burst forth now in wave after wave of Life. From microscopic and unseen organisms in the millions to the great thundering African elephants and the song-singing whales, the Earth responds, births, absorbs, and creates. Behold! Every moment of time is a time of all things becoming new!

We are the observers, the witnesses. We are the poets and scientists, the artists and file clerks that the Universe has birthed, too. Our responsibility, our gift, is to see, hear, and begin (always) to understand where We have been, and where We are. And all of our metaphors, all of our mathematics, all of our sensuality, and all of our technology, returns to this single, shared vision of the global grape, hanging and swaying in the blue air. More than our Home, it is our Being- our skin, our hearts, our minds and our consciousness. It is fragile and mighty, fearsome and flawless, alluring and confounding.

Good is this earth..

earthNASA

The Gospel of Thomas..a reflection

From the Essence of Wisdom, Stephen Mitchell, page 6

The Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.”

I turn the page of The Essence this morning and here is this, a gift perfectly timed, from Mitchell who chose it, Thomas who recorded it, and Jesus who spoke it.

There are things we know, even without questions preceding them. They are things that have been built from the words of 10,000 authors, a thousand conversations, all the music we have ever listened to, every dawn we have ever witnessed, every sadness we have endured, and every single one of the joys that have made us smile, laugh, wonder, anticipate, and be thankful.

They are the things connect me to you, to every person on the planet, and to each part of the universe. They are shaped by the God-image in me; thus, they are unique and how dare I demand that anything about myself be patterned precisely in the Image from which you shine. The Image of God in you is differently shaped, and uniquely yours.

We share so much, given to us in such abundance by the 14 billion year history of the universe. And yet we allow those tiny, tribal traditions- the smallest fraction of who and what we are- to separate us, categorize us, frustrate us, and keep us dying within boundaries that should not, must not, be. We are being destroyed by denying the allure, the attraction, the love between us and all things.

The moon calls to the oceans and the oceans respond. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are on, in these moments, a co-mingling, gravitational collision course, born of their intrinsic nature to be drawn together, in which this part of all-that-is will be recreated and begun new all over again. The cicadas call to each other in the treetops- a billion year old beckoning to reproduce, to continue, to live. Food and water will attract us throughout the day, as will the eight times a minute desire to feel the oxygen aspirated by trees, grass, kelp, and flowers, filling our lungs. We yearn for, desire, need, and want; we are formed for community. It is basic to who we are and how we live and it not something apart from us that we choose. It is vital. The connections between ourselves and everything else, from the Flaming Forth of the universe to the photosynthetic activity of each plant on the planet, from the people close to us whom we most cherish to the smallest dying child in some place so far away we do not even have a name for it, from blue whales to the 10,000 organisms in a teaspoon of soil under our feet; ours was not, cannot be, was never meant to be, a solitary life.

I can sit on that which I know, and say nothing. Or I can dress it up in the binding and too-tight clothing of old traditions, and try to disguise it in more palatable and presentable concoctions. I can continue, as I once was, to be frightened and to let fear constrict the Image of God in me. I can do those things- I am practiced at them- but they will destroy me. I have felt that destruction too many times, and cannot go back to it.

But if I add my small voice to those of the visionaries- the lovers- who saw, knew, and prophesized, and who dared to say that we are all- everyone and everything- parts of a living whole, then I am alive, and I am saved from the hell humans- me among them- have created. I can emulate and even acquire the ravenous ego of a Caesar, or a Hitler- those instructions and those monstrous abilities are imbedded in me, in all of us. Or I can emulate the fearlessness of St. Francis and empty my pride daily on the public square.

I can imitate the robber barons and acquire, seize, and hold, all of that which my intellect and finances will allow me to. It is easy to do so; I will feel safe in doing so, even applauded for doing so. Or I can imitate John Wesley and live a life with the daily intention of dying with no more than that with which I was born.

I can curse the darkness, scream at it, damn it; or, I can learn gratitude in all things like Nelson Mandela, who sat unfairly in the twenty year prime of his life, in a prison cell.

I can do those things and much more; I am capable. Or I can, simply, follow Jesus into a life of connections. And I’m getting better at it,

I think. I hope.

Rilke..a reflection

The Essence of Wisdom, page 4-

Rainer Maria Rilke: “Most people have turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself, at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us.”

I don’t know how so many people can get by during the day and not seem to question anything. Frankly, I admire- a little– those who are able to be satisfied with someone else’s rules; it would probably make life less confusing and a little easier to navigate, to be sure. But, for me, anyway, it wouldn’t be much fun either, and the fun in questioning outweighs (again, for me) the passive acceptance of the ways things are.

I’ve paid a lot of seat belt fines for having that attitude. Why must I wear a seat belt on residential streets where I am driving between 15 and 20 mph? I suspect the reason is municipal revenue raising and fine quotas, rather than concern on the part of any police officer for my personal safety. But that’s one of the practical downsides of always being stubbornly stuck in the questioning mode.

On the upside, I learn a lot of stuff. One example that applies to my profession and which you read about frequently here, is my thinking about the Bible. Agreed, it would be easier for anyone to believe that the various books of the Bible were written with lightening from heaven on a rock, or spoken in God induced trances by the prophets, or dropped, perfectly translated and edited in Zip-lock baggies, onto the desks of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But- for me- all of that would negate human interactions with God and reactions to God over time. And that is what the Bible is an imperfect record of.

Yikes! Imperfect?

Of course. The original languages the Bible were written in are ancient ones. Scholars of biblical translation will always have arguments and make necessary concessions about specific words and phrases. Does a comma go there, or there? And is this a new paragraph, or not? Since there were no grammatical marks in ancient Greek, sometimes it’s just a guess. And what about these verses at the end of Mark, or this 8th chapter of John? (They don’t ‘fit’ their contexts at all and don’t even appear in the oldest manuscripts.)

And speaking of manuscripts. None of these books went from the author to the printer. The New Testament gospels and letters would have been carried around for years before being copied by whoever was nearby that knew how to read and write and was willing to laboriously copy the text onto another vellum or papyrus with a sharpened stick or feather quill. And mistakes were made. All of the oldest copies we have of these books are copies made between 100 and 400 years after the originals were written, and multiple copies of the same passages reveal numerous floating commas, varying breaks in stories, and even additions, or subtractions. The original copyists, after all, were amateurs, recruited to do this work, probably voluntarily. Only several hundred years later did the professional factories of transcribing monks begin to appear, who would continue to do their hand copying at least until the 16th Century when printing presses began to appear. (Each of them manned, I need also to note, by different human typesetters of varying educations and skill levels.)

Most of those grammatical and contextual problems can be dealt with, however. We will never all be in agreement with the exact meaning and ramifications of what is written there, but we can all be in the general ballpark. What causes some to call “Foul!” however, is the question of whether the Bible represents the “complete” knowledge we are intended to have about God. Many say it is. I and many others say it is not.

It would be easier to regard the Bible in the former manner. It would be easier for studying, making conclusions, agreeing with the doctrines of others, and deciding once and for all what the “rules” are if I regarded the Bible as everything I needed to know about God. But I can’t, don’t, and won’t. I cannot pretend I can relate personally or exclusively to the 4000 year old worldview of a nomadic people learning how to cope in a new agricultural economy. I cannot pretend, simply because it’s easier, that God brought the world about in a literal seven day week. That explanation made sense to a people who had no telescopes or microscopes, and who believed that the earth was the center of everything- everything being a big dome over a flat earth, and containing everything, including the stars, within it. But it makes no historical sense to me. (There are theological truths in those stories- and in abundance. But that’s another subject for another day.)

Over the years, various individuals have discovered more about the nature of the earth and universe. Many of them, too, arrived at conclusions which it would have been easier to not have made. Copernicus, then Galileo, initially kept their findings about a sun-centered solar system quiet. Even Einstein later juggled and fudged on some of his initial conclusions about the expansion and movement of the universe- they were hard findings to admit to; it was easier to ignore them in the hopes that they would simply go away or be found to be wrong. They jarred his personal worldview that the universe was finite and contained; they were hard conclusions so, for awhile, he took the easy, and wrong, approach to them- he hid them. (He later, of course, recanted, and said that those actions had been the worst mistake of his life.)

I choose to keep my mind open, all the time, to new information. That’s hard work sometimes and the temptation to retreat into someone else’s orthodoxies is real. But I cannot put a period at the end of any sentence about God. I cannot construct barriers around any set of beliefs because tomorrow there will be new information, new insight, and new light shining on what had formerly been darkness.

None of us want our doctors to restrict themselves to the medical books of the 17th Century. It would be easier for them, certainly, to reach into a bucket of leeches to cure our stomach ache, or to make some cuts on our arms to help fix our headache. At the time, there was a real medical basis for both of those procedures, but now we (and they, thank God) know more.

So I’m stuck. I’m stuck with a God that won’t stay still. I’m stuck with a God that is no longer adequately able to be described only with the metaphors of ancient peoples. I’m stuck with a God who has revealed some attributes and characteristics to me, but has many more for me to discover.

Blame God, if you must find blame for all that. God’s the one who put all those question marks in my mind. I barely made it through college science courses with a C! But as soon as I got serious about God, that old information suddenly took on a life of its own, and it doesn’t give any indication of letting up.

So, I guess I’m stuck.

Hallelujah. (I guess.)

Information not to be found at the Creation Museum

41 lb chialpis s mex

The shared genes of various species, and a comparison their DNA sequences, make it possible to determine how closely related various species are. Mushroom DNA shares more commonalities with human DNA than it does with plant DNA. Mushrooms and humans share about 42% of their DNA. Does that mean that somewhere, once upon a time, a pretty mushroom met a really fun guy?

It simply means that, about a billion years ago, humans and mushrooms shared a common ancestor. That number, of course, can only be an informed guess; we do know for certain that there was (thank God!) an amicable separation and continuing evolution of the two life forms.

Mushrooms are the fruit of an underground and much larger fungal system. It is the sexually active part of a mycelium biomass that is ten, a hundred, even a thousand times larger than the mushroom itself. There are giants in the earth!

This one was found this week in Chialpis, the southernmost state of Mexico. It is 41 lb.! Which means, I guess, that we should hope it is not too promiscuous.

Novalis..a reflection

Page 2, The Essence of Wisdom-

Novalis: “We are close to waking up when we dream that we are dreaming.”

Let’s begin with baby pictures. Here’s one of me, and of you, too:

baby pictures

From the Keck Observatory, photo images were released today of the most distant galaxies ever seen. This is a picture of light from these galaxies which has been traveling at the speed of light for over 13 billion years, which puts these galaxies within 500 million years from the birthplace of the universe.

They really are pictures of the very stuff- the starstuff- of which everything in the universe is composed. Before the stars and the suns, before planets and moons and asteroids, there was rushing, always cooling gases. Collapsing on itself, gathering in on itself in trillions of stars, the gas burned, sending photons (light) into the cosmos. The photons in this picture have been traveling a long, long time.

What follows from this point will offend every person who continues to construct a God crippled by their own human capacity to imagine and believe the data collected by telescopes like Hubble, Keck, and Cassini. Stop reading now, if you don’t want to know about a God who is larger than your doctrines about God.

Really, I’m serious.

As the photons of our star, the Sun,were absorbed by the dust of exploding galaxies and the cooled hydrogen which had become Earth, a new something began to emerge. A life form which consumed the dust, then reproduced, then changed over billions of years into a nucleus centered, cilia propelled bacteria, began to emerge. The by-product of its eating was one of the harshest gases found anywhere in the universe: oxygen. Yet new bacteria adapted even to that poisonous environment. Those bacteria cooperated, became communities of bacteria, became mobile, adapted sensing appendages, and over much much much time became the wiggly, scaly, winged, swimming, flying, crawling, seeing, hearing, many-legged, few-legged things which today fill the earth along with their many and distant cousins, the things that grow from the earth.

To make a very long story a little shorter, and to get more quickly to the quote which began this essay, one day, once upon a time..

One of the animals, (almost certainly a furry one, with a backbone, and probably moving most of the time in a two-legged manner), looked at the hill he was near, or the ground she was standing on, and perceived the hill or the ground to be something that was not a part of themselves. It was “other” and that “other” could be thought about. At that moment, whenever it was, human consciousness began. That animal could think about an object, and know that the thoughts were coming from within itself- not from the wind, or the water, or the food they ate, but from within themselves, somewhere.

It will always be impossible to definitively verbalize the specifics of those first moments of conscious thought, but I find it to be delicious contemplative food! For these were the moments when the frontal lobes of our brains began to develop. Those two halves of our brain in front of the ear and above the eyes, where our abilities to remember, plan, imagine, and think abstractly, now had a reason to expand, and indeed they did! That ancient animal- a bonomo? a chimp? A lemur?- set in motion our human ability to take pictures of 13 billion year old galaxial explosions, and everything else, good and bad, that we do so well. On that ancient of days began the universe’s ability to think about itself.

Us! You, me, and the other 8 billion of our fellow thinkers on earth today- we are the entire universe’s ability to think about and begin to understand itself!

Each person has the occasional opportunity to experience at least a little of what it was like for that first conscious thinker. We relegate our dreams to dry psychological definitions sometimes and miss the substantive and, I think, important insights they can give us about the nature of our consciousness. We swim through our dreams; the persons and objects of our illogical and unable-to-be-controlled consciousness are one with us, very much like water surrounds us when are swimming. They are projections of ourselves into the day’s events, or reflections of our DNA-fueled “memories,” or even our bodily reaction to food we have eaten. Whatever their source, we are “in” them, much as our ancient ancestor was “in” her or his world.

We literally are close to waking up, when our conscious mind begins to interact with our unconscious, dreaming mind. We try to make things we want have happen in our dream, happen; or we try to escape the hole that is opening up in our dream or the dark and hairy something that is gaining on us, but we can’t. And then, the cursed or blessed alarm clock drags us back up into our developed frontal lobes again. Time to get up!

Dreaming about dreaming; feeling and experiencing the awareness of the universe within ourselves; waking up to our abilities to see, hear, and feel more deeply; becoming more fully awake to the encompassing God, who connects us with the stars, the bonomos, and each other in our dreams about dreaming.

Our consciousness.

Good Memes..for a Good World

 

The word “meme” was coined about fifteen years ago to help us understand the transmission of cultural ideas through societies and through time. It sounds similar to the word “gene” and that’s on purpose. Genes are, of course, those tiniest of information carriers within our DNA, which transmit specific biological information onto subsequent generations. Memes act in similar ways to genes, although the actual “thing” that they are, is not as easily identified. Some examples of cultural ideas and actions, passed on widely through space and time, will be helpful:

 

Shaking hands when meeting someone new

Singing “Happy Birthday” for someone’s birth anniversary

Bowing one’s head in prayer

Particular hairstyles

Shoes

The story of Santa Claus

All of these things feel right and normal to some people, perhaps most people. But there was a first time for each of them. They are ideas that are not instinctual, like eating or reproducing, but learned. How and why some things are learned, accepted, and shared agreeably with others who also accept them, are what the study of memes is about. We can view memes with some objectivity, instead of merely accepting them as tradition. Thus, we can also affect the transmission of new ones. The Advertising industry has understood this for quite a long time without having a specific word for what it was they were passing on into society, through time. “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette _______” can be completed by everyone over 45, but no one under 40. It’s a meme that has run its course.

Some memes, on the other hand, are huge (compared to the story of Santa Claus anyway).

Democracy is one, Charity is another. And, like cigarette advertising, there are some huge memes that have run their course, too, and we must do what we can to help eliminate them before they kill us all. Specifically, I’m talking about all the cultural excuses we maintain that separate from other humans. Stereotyping memes continue to be passed on, despite the total lack of any basis for them, we now know, within our genes. Stereotyping- being suspicious of others because of physical or cultural differences- is a cultural artifact that continues to cause people to go to war, die, and live in fear. It’s an artifact that remains from ancient days when it was impossible to communicate, see, or know about people of other races or nationalities. We were afraid of the unknown and acted according.

The communication methodologies we have available today, from printed matter to television to the Internet, have gone a long way in helping all humans to begin to see similarities and relatedness within our species. It’s hard to hate someone whose eyes you have looked into, or who you know loves their children as much as you love yours.

We have the means here on the Internet, to help spread new memes that say we are much more like each other than unlike. These are the kinds of memes than will one day, when as many people believe them as today believe in shaking hands, cause more and more peace and understanding to happen. Here are three sites whose builders are committed to doing that. Tell others about them and help change your grandchildren’s world:

http://www.6billionothers.org

6billion-others.jpg

http://100percenthuman.org (comes with music)

human_2.jpg

 

 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_the_clash (comes with music)

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Life I

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin..” Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida, iii.

It has been a very, very wet Spring in this part of Texas- the wettest, some say, since 1957. There are a host of meteorological statistics available which explains and measures this unusual precipitation, and I am thankful that there are those who gather and study those facts, but I am fascinated most by what I am seeing: the earth giving birth, prolifically.

I am not a scientist, and certainly not a biologist. What I am is one who stands in awe, and wonders. I have seen things this Spring, now Summer, that I have never seen before; I’ve gone back to those things again and again, watching the beginnings of their life cycles and seeing, above all, the connections between..everything. Here are some of those things:

Fungi

toadstools1024.jpg

It is everywhere. Pick a spot in the yard, in a field, on a tree, get down on your knees if you need to, and you will see it, too. Under the mimosa tree where I read and write in the mornings (when it is not raining), the ground has been covered, twice now, with thousands of inch high, tightly compacted, toadstools. Those particular ones are only there, beneath the mimosa; where the shade of the mimosa stops, so do they. There must be some symbiotic relationship, between these toadstools and the mimosa blossoms which fell there in massive quantities several weeks ago, or between the shade and the soil, or between all three. The toadstools were not there last year, and this year (in the last month) there have already been two waves of them. They appear overnight, and then are gone again in several days. There may be more such waves; I am watching.

puffball3.jpg

In the neighbor’s yard each summer, there has been one crop of puffballs each summer, in mid-June. This year, so far, there have been three of those crops, the first in early May.. They are not large in number- ten to fifteen appear at a time, but each puffball is massive: some will get to be the size of a football. They are called, by fungi aficionados, Texas Mammoths, and prized among those who gather and eat mushrooms and other fungi. I’ve tried them, twice. They are a bit too intense for one who is used to grocery store portabellos.

Other toadstools grow in that yard as well. There have been four large fairy rings, as they used to be called, so far- circles of three to four inch high toadstools that form a circle, of a slightly larger diameter each year, feeding on the nutrients of a now long-gone tree stump. The toadstools are lovely, with large heads pockmarked in spiraling patterns that become darker as the toadstool ages. These seem to live for about a week in their fully grown form, after having appeared half-grown overnight. I do not know whether these are edible, I have not tried them. And won’t.

“To be matter of fact about the world is to blunder into fantasy —
and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful.”

– Robert A. Heinlein

Several large, old branches have fallen from pecan trees in the backyard, due to the weight of the water which has soaked into them. There is often a fascinating, flesh-like fungus which grows in rose-like clusters on them. The fungus is wet, a deep brownish pink, and feels soft, like a baby’s ear. Once, when I brought a limb from out of the shade into the dry garage, it was only a matter of hours before this fungus began to get harder and brittle.

Underneath the grass (and, no doubt, within the walls and under the floors of every building) there is a lattice of mold that spreads, like a spider web, drawing from the moisture there, even as holds back slightly what few opportunities there have been for the moisture to evaporate. Similar fungi are on the sides of trees, which are providing a super shade this year for that fungus to grow within.

toadstool2.jpg

There are a few- five?- two inch high toadstools with red crowns covered by black circles, just near where the hulls of the sunflower seeds fall, which I feed all year to the birds. These toadstools look dangerous to even touch- a red alarm for other animals (including me) to stay away! And I will, but I will get close enough to look and stare, and wonder some more.

“Nature does nothing uselessly.”– Aristotle

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Lichen, those flat, webbed communities of rock clinging almost-bacteria, almost-fungi are brightly anchored in white, green, and brown contrast against stones, concrete foundations, and even bricks. Lichen- related to those same lichen found recently at the frozen North Pole and to those lichen found at the hot lips of active volcanoes- are one of the oldest forms of plant life. Slowly, slowly they are feeding on and turning their granite or mortar hosts into dust with their relentless, unstoppable spread.

More, to follow..

Community

Community is the point. The point: the Image of God in us. “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” God said. (Genesis 1:26) I know the prescribed Christian spin I’m supposed to put on all of those plural pronouns. But I’m much more interested in the fact that God is talking in plurals, about Godself, than I am in the acceptable human definitions of that linguistic challenge.

Us. Not us and them and absolutely not us versus them. Just..

Us.

Our DNA (one of the languages of God, in my opinion, if you must know), was formed in the million year cauldron of dependence on others. An individual, on his/her own, in a prehistoric environment where animals and weather were both large and unpredictable, stood little chance of making it through the week alive. In a community, however- a family, a band, a tribe- individuals had a chance to live into another year and, in so doing, create new community members.

That was a plan that worked. We know it did, because we are here, writing and reading about their success.

It is in us to be in Community. When we have the opportunity, we will default to it, in fact, under the right conditions. You can read more about it, in five minutes, if you wish; or, you can watch Community happen in this video. It is a small and temporary Community, but it is a real one. Watch it form. Watch it include. Watch its power to make people forget themselves and be in communion with each other (on a subway!):

In a Community, individual egos are not merely shed, they are given over. It is not hyperbole to say they are sacrificed for the good of the whole. It doesn’t happen all at once by merely walking into a relationship with another, or others. It is a gradual movement, a gathering in which the “our image” of the above quote from Genesis becomes the defining mortar of the group (a group of two, ten, or thousands). One by one, individuals discover Community as they look up one day through new eyes and notice a new intensity of colors and movement; they begin to make discoveries about themselves that are..flabbergasting:

“I care for her more, far more, than I care about myself.”

“I want him to be happy at whatever cost there is to myself.”

They are more important than me.”

“I am loved.”

You can see the micro-beginnings of these statements even on that subway, can’t you? Unfortunately, we know that each person eventually arrived at their stop, and had to leave. But don’t we also know that there was a reluctance in each of them to do so?

Nobody wants Community, real Community, to end.

In fact, it is not meant to end.

So don’t let that happen.

(More to come.)