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.

GoogleEarth_Image

Directly above me, is this:

GoogleEarth_Image(2)

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:

GoogleEarth_Image(3)

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.”

Mother Teresa..

A collection of letters from Mother Teresa to various confessors is due out next week. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, is already fueling many blogs and other on-line commentaries, the writers of whom are attempting, from quotes already published in Time, to use Mother Teresa to support their deep, solid, and impenetrable beliefs.

Teresa

In her letters, Mother Teresa expresses doubt- in her faith, in her calling, and in God. “Where is my Faith,” she writes in a confessional letter to Jesus, “ — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith.”

To a friend and confidant she wrote, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”

Fundamentalist Christians are weighing in already, pointing out that the Roman Catholic Teresa was trying to worship a “false” Jesus, a non-biblical Jesus, according to their strict standards of biblical literalism. Hers was a Jesus, they say, which was false to begin with- a caricature perpetuated by a Church bent on survival.

Some atheists have already begun to claim Teresa as a secret supporter of their position of non-deistic rationality. Some have already called her a hypocrite, giving lip service to belief, while harboring doubt.

Both groups are making the kind of mistake that is easy to make when the world is viewed in the mechanistic manner both groups base their viewpoints on. Most fundamentalists see the universe as a machine, manufactured piece by piece, by God, for the benefit of humankind; and many atheists see the universe as random collection of stellar accidents, devoid of transcendent and sacred meaning beyond the moment.

Mother Teresa, on the other hand, lived down in the mire with the rest of us. She lived where the call to alleviate suffering in the lives of others felt so real that she could ascribe the voice of Jesus to it. But she worked in the arenas of life where it seemed impossible for a God of love to have ever been present.

I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”

Hers was not an either/or position. Her doubts did not rise from the rigid and moribund philosophies constructed of doctrine and paper and words etched in rock, that both the accusing fundamentalists and the Teresa-claiming atheists live their lives within.* She was human, a human filled with doubts just like the rest of us, but one who had the courage and vulnerability to write of them. Unlike many of us, however, she poured herself into that “emptiness” anyway. She didn’t flee from it; she didn’t reject it. She alleviated suffering. She waged peace. She acted in human, healing love, as her Order still does.

Mother Teresa may well have felt ignored by God. But, because of her, many many have not.

*For the record, I am speaking here of those fundamentalists and those atheists who are making the Teresa-noise at present. The strident ones of both camps are making fools of themselves (I think) and do not reflect those fundamentalists who truly do try to follow Jesus, nor those atheists (and there are many, many) who couldn’t care less about adding new trophy heads to their walls, but just live- congenially and rationally.

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..

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.