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?”

The Cicada’s Silence..

So soon to die

you can hardly tell it

by the cicada’s voice

 ~Matsuo Basho (1690)

cicada  Chinese

I will miss their song. The cicada’s season in the sun and on the branches of trees, is coming to an end now. Each day, there are fewer and fewer of the long, vibrating drones- one cicada signaling another of their procreative nearness, of their one, only, and final desire for the companionship of another.

Yet, even now, the final cicada songs are being sounded with vigor and enthusiasm: they are songs of LIFE. There are no beginnings to be heard in those songs, and certainly no endings: only the purest of be-ing. It is an awareness without the encumbrances of memory or imagination, no regrets or hope. It, simply, is.

I dare to call it, in my own human complexities, an enviable state of being. It is that place where the humans we admire most (think about it) spend the majority of their moments. When you are with them, they are with you; you do not perceive them to be remembering who you were yesterday, or what you are becoming tomorrow. They hear you, now. They see you, now. You are these moments to them.

That’s what the cicada’s song reminds me of each year. Being is better than remembering, though remembering is good and precious. Being is better than planning, though planning is necessary and enhancing to our lives. Being is certainly better than regretting what is past, or being anxious about what is to come.

Being allows us to not only hear and see what is around us, but to be part, a vibrant part, of that place we are in, that person we are with, those circumstances in which we find ourselves. It allows us to breathe and renew and to be nourished and active. Our Being is our affirmation, if we allow it to be, of all of Life which preceded us yet is still a part of us (no beginnings) and of all of Life which will come after us, and which we will have influenced for eternity (no endings).

It is our song, a song which can be heard in gratitude by others and sung in celebration by us. It is the harmonious chorus we sing with the cicadas, and with all else that lives.

Walking out of ourselves..

forest3

“When you walk into a forest, learn to tremble with the magnitude of what you are about, and you will never walk out. There will no longer be that self that approached the forest, for you will be new, you will bear the presence of the forest with you. Forests are alive with music on all sorts of hidden levels, and when you hear this music you will know that forest has permeated every cell of your body. Sip a cup of coffee the next morning, and all the fir trees will grow warm. The natural, human, and divine worlds flow together into our feelings. You need no teacher. The universe is your teacher, the forests are your teachers. You will know when you fail to learn, for failure is punished with boredom. If you develop the least flicker of sensitivity, the universe will come alive in you.”

(from The Universe is a Green Dragon by Brian Swimme)

A New Earth..A New Worldview

This newest and most detailed photograph of Earth, part of a series released by NASA and described in the post of August 1 directly below, or here, begs for additional commentary.

earthNASA2

And first among that commentary is this, another photograph of Earth taken in 1970 by Voyager I from an area within the rings of Saturn. Called “a pale, blue dot” by Carl Sagan, the photograph became well-known because of the late astronomer’s eloquent words about it. I do not attempt to equal, let alone surpass Sagan’s words; but the two photographs, placed together, offer us all a unique vision of place and perspective, and they demand deep, reflective,sometimes even uncomfortable thinking from each of us.

blue dot nasa jpl voyager

The Voyager photo must be highlighted, in order that we can even see the Earth from that distant perspective. But it is there, brilliant in its greens and blues, and accented always by the gray and white clouds of evaporated water hovering in its atmosphere, as can be seen so precisely in the newest NASA photos.

Before we could see pictures like these, beginning just fifty years ago, most humans could easily believe in the centered and seemingly supreme nature of our place in the universe. Ancient creation stories were explanations, shared through generations of families, bands, and tribes, of human origins, and all of them included references to that centrality and supremacy. Humans had the need, and still do, of making sense of themselves in the context of the environment in which they live. This skill of language, which preserves knowledge through time, makes us different from all others of the Earth’s species.

Most of us, whether we subscribe to them in faith or not, are aware of one, or maybe two creation stories. But at one time there were as many stories of human beginnings as there were the number of family tribes from which they arose. It was natural, even truthful, that the boundaries and contexts of those stories would be the natural boundaries and the environmental and cultural contexts of those who developed and transmitted them to others.

Among one tribe in India, the explanation was this: Lord Brahma the Creator, living in an emptiness filled with death and hunger, said one day, “Let me have a Self.” That Self began to grow, as large as two people embracing, and Brahma willed that a separation occur. Thus, male and female, husband and wife, was given explanation. She, ashamed of having sex with someone who had been part of her, hid her Self in the form of a cow. He, in turn, became a bull. And thus, the speciation of Earth began.

Among the descendents of those first tribes of Asian people who populated one of the Hawaiian islands, the origin story involved a rendezvous between the deep and dark caverns of the island (male) and moonless nights (female). Of that geological and meteorological union was born the coral reefs, from which all manner of sea life was subsequently born. As the ocean lapped onto the land, other animals were born- animals of the land. Finally, on the dawn of one extraordinary day, La’ila’i, a woman, and Ki’i, a man, and Kane, a god were born. It was through the three of them that all human life began.

I wonder how how stories of Creation would have emerged if those ancient peoples had had even an inkling of what we know today about the boundaries and contexts of our environment, within the context of a vast and ever expanding universe? Certainly they would not have been defined by the geographical features of the places in which the thinkers and storytellers found themselves. And certainly those stories would have all been much grander in size and scope.

Each of those Creation stories became a part of each tribes worldview. It was one element of their consciousness which helped explain to them how the world worked and how they were to function and regard themselves within that world and within their tribe. We can, only because of the new information we have gathered technologically, be amazed, even aghast, at the narrowness of those stories. It was a narrowness, which later gave rise, as human populations grew and coalesced in more urban settings and as tribes began having more frequent contact with other tribes, into nationalism, chauvinism, racism, and even patriotism.

Those ancient worldviews served their purpose in tribal contexts. But when they became institutionalized in the identity of nations, they became dangerous. And they still are. 20,000 years after Paleolithic Man first scratched pictures which would eventually evolve into language,on the walls of caves in southwestern France, we (humans) are on the brink of nuclear holocaust and human suicide.

It may be time for a more universal,less parochial, less nationalistic, more humane and shared worldview- one which encompasses not only our particular human tribe, but other tribes, other species, even the Earth itself, in the context of an always expanding, always creating universe.

How do we begin? We begin exactly as our ancient ancestors did as they sat around campfires at night and wondered, Why?, and How?, and Who? We can hold in our hands now the pictures of the Mother from whose womb we are born, and of her place. That is a place to begin anew.

And many of us acknowledge, too, the breath of the Father surrounding the Mother and all else that is. It will be incumbent upon those of who do recognize that Father, to allow that Father to be as large as he really is, and not limit his imagination and activity by the size of our own knowledge or, worse, by the worldviews of ancient peoples who were only beginning to know him.

The New Story, the New Worldview begins whenever we choose, as individuals, for it to begin. None of us alive today will hear its completion. We can only plant the seeds for its eventual fruition and hope, and pray, that there will be others in distant futures who will live and flourish within that story in ways that do not perpetuate the human suffering and fear that our worldviews have.

(Here is my former entry on Carl Sagan: A Pale Blue Dot)

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

Reflections on..Kafka (again)

From The Essence of Wisdom, page 7

Franz Kafka: “The fact that our task is exactly as large as our life makes it appear infinite.”

I read something recently that enabled me to think- at least a little- about the concept of time on a universal scale. If the 13.7 billion year age of the universe were compressed into a single 24 hour day, do you know how long one of our 80 year old lifetimes would be?

1/10,000th of a second.

That doesn’t give me much time to get the things done which I’ve been putting off today, let alone those things I’ve delayed doing for forty years. It also emphasizes to me the time that I’ve wasted being angry at others or myself, regretting and wishing regarding the past, and worrying and fretting about the future. Those were all dead issues to begin with but I have worked overtime many weeks keeping them alive and hot on the front burner of my mind.

“Someday, someday,” I would mindlessly mumble to myself in the past when I considered learning Spanish, writing a novel, learning French, or sending a thank-you card to Auntie Helen for a cake she mailed to me in 1971. (She died in 1985, never having gotten that card, either). But the “somedays” these days, are a whole lot fewer than when I was 14 and told a friend who wanted me to play bass in his band that I was too old to start taking guitar lessons. I have a sense of the finity of the somedays left to me at this point, even without knowing the specific number of them .

When we are five years old, next Christmas is 20% of our lives away- a long, long time; when we’re fifty, it is only the equivalent of 2% of our life away! It really does come around faster and faster each year, according to our body clocks. And that realization sends many of us the refrigerator for another beer, to the couch for another thirty minutes of a sit-com we’ll remember for ten minutes after it’s over, or into yet another mental bouillabaisse of leftover regrets, worries, and wishes, with a dash of salty tears.

Here’s what I’ve been doing, better and better, over the last several years, that has involved lots of time- not a second of which I consider wasted, misused, or lost:

  1. Looking around: There is not a single hour during the day when there is not something new, interesting, or weird to be discovered in a tree, in the yard, or under a rock. Today I watched Zero, one of our cats, try to catch a hummingbird. She didn’t have a chance and I decided that hummingbirds may be the most fearless birds on earth. And I saw (and am still watching) three toads on the back step eating June bugs (who don’t know it is July. And didn’t care, right up to and including those moments they were being swallowed.)
  2. Looking up: I can’t keep my eyes out of the sky, because my imagination follows right behind them. I am not an astronomer. I am physically starstuff and somewhere out there are my physical ancestors. And they are backlit by 13 billion year old light. And they are big, and faraway, and mysterious, and we’re getting to know each other just a little bit better.
  3. Reaching out: Every single living thing is programmed, gifted, destined, and trusted enough to do that all the time. But I, like many others, learned somehow- perversely and dangerously- that it’s better not to touch, embrace, speak, or be vulnerable to others in any perceivable way. Now, if I can put two people together into the beginnings of a community, or stimulate the growth of any real community in some way, it has been a glorious, God-perfect day.

Follow me around for awhile and you might think you’re following a four year old, and maybe you are. I’ve missed too much. The somedays will run out before I’ve seen it all, but that- I know now- is absolutely the last reason to stop.

God’s gotten much, much bigger during this whole process, too. God doesn’t follow me around quite as much as I thought; it feels more like I’m following God in all of this.

What a concept!

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.