Category Archives: Human Evolution

Thomas Berry on the Natural World as Our Sacred Community

IMG_7786“The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”

~ Thomas Berry

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I Walk in Beauty: Morning Time with the Living Earth

IMG_7703I kept my promise to myself and spent the start of my morning visiting the wetland near Claire’s camp. Font Hill Wetland in Columbia, Maryland. I am reminded that in returninng to the same place again and again, a palpable sacred relationship comes into play and divine expression is more easily revealed.

Beauty was all around me.

Bright raspberries against a background of green leaves,

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mushrooms growing vertically from a moss-covered fallen tree,

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the sky and tree tops captured in a puddle at my feet.

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And from these holy glimpses I recalled the Navajo prayer that Thomas Berry—my mentor/teacher/beloved friend—sent me in a letter long ago.

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
Beautifully will I possess again.
Beautifully birds . . .
Beautifully joyful birds
. . .
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.

I am thirsty for beauty right now, not only for inspiration, but to heal the deep sorrow I feel as a witness to the destruction of the living Earth; as a witness to the overwhelming destruction inherent in a culture focused on consumption without conscience. This destruction extends all the way to the very survival of the human species. We won’t survive unless we find a new orientation, one that brings the living Earth into our community as a beloved member of our family—a  mother that sustains us unselfishly and deserves our respect, our reverence, and our full attention.

“Our fulfillment is not in our isolated human grandeur, but in our intimacy with the larger earth community, for this is also the larger dimension of our being. Our human destiny is integral with the destiny of the earth,” wrote Thomas.

I am walking in beauty for myself for now, trusting that in these small, intimate moments of being present to the living Earth I will find the strength to come back into the world anew, less overwhelmed and better able to contribute to the critical shift we are being called to make, a shift to a world that lives first and foremost in harmony with this amazing, living Earth.

Don’t you just love the color of moss?

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Seeing the Living Earth Anew

IMG_7883I have come to the realization that we need to fall back in love with the Earth. Only when we fall in love with this extraordinary living planet we call home will we be willing and able to make the necessary changes in our lives that will halt the destruction inherent in our consumer-driven society.

My courtship with the living Earth has begun anew, and I am making an effort to spend quiet time in her presence. Thankfully, my daughter’s camp is near a small wetland, and I have vowed to start my morning there for the next two weeks—taking in the call of the red-winged blackbirds and the brilliant markings on their wings, drinking in the way morning light plays on green leaves and small streams, watching the whimsical flight of the butterfly, dragonfly and damselfly, listening to the chorus of the cicadas, enjoying the croak of a frog that takes me by surprise.

Then there are the cattails, which I have always loved,

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and flowers I do not know that meet my eye and pull me to them.

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Wetlands are a treasure trove of Earth’s creativity and expression.

I have come to the realization that sitting in front of my computer writing about the living Earth without spending time in her presence doesn’t make sense. I am grateful for the wake up call. And the gift of delight on this Monday morning.

Fukushima and the Role of Catastrophe in Human Evolution

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant  Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant
Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sometimes there are impending disasters that are so extreme, I have to tune them out for fear that they will have too great an impact on my capacity to function in daily life.  Such had been the case with the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan.  Since the initial accident in March of 2011, there has been little in media covering the ongoing leakage of radioactive waste into the air and Pacific Ocean; little on how a yet-to-be-quelled damaged reactor remains a serious threat to us all.  It was easy enough to tune it out.  Until my daughter Claire decided she loved to eat dried seaweed.

In my Internet meanderings, I had come across an article on Japanese seaweed showing high levels of radiation.  I remember quietly mourning the loss of sushi, knowing I was now much less likely to eat it, not knowing where the seaweed – or the fish for that matter – came from.  Still, I do eat sushi on rare occasion, quietly pushing away thoughts of radiation, telling myself that a little radiation here or there is probably tolerable.

But not when it comes to Claire.  So I looked at the packet of dried seaweed she loves and saw that it was from Korea.  I investigated further and learned that Korea was on the back end of the nuclear meltdown, and Korean seaweed and fish were showing no sign of radiation.  I was relieved, knowing Claire was in the clear.  Time to tune Fukushima out again and move on.

Except that I couldn’t.  I was already knee-deep.  I had learned that radioactive waste from Fukushima has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean for the past 2.5 years and is heading toward the West Coast.  It was deeply disturbing news to bear, yet almost paled in comparison to what is currently happening with Fukushima Diiachi Unit 4, the nuclear reactor that still has the potential to cause the most powerful, widespread nuclear accident in human history.

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Stepping into The Twilight Zone: Attack of the GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are always on my radar screen.  I’ve understood for some time that genetically engineered food is something I do not want to ingest if I can help it.  Keeping them out of my family’s diet is a daily priority for me.  Yesterday, I saw on Facebook that Peru had officially banned GMOs.  Wanting to get clear on how many countries have banned them – in the hopes that these bans matter – I did some further investigation and ended up in…The Twilight Zone.

Countries that have banned GMOs include Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Russia, Austria, Greece, Poland, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar and, for the most part, the Nordic countries.  Kudos to these countries for standing up to the biotech companies pushing these seeds!

Now, take a look at this map, which shows in red all the places where GMOs are thriving.

sott.net May 2012

That is one frightening visual.  Here’s why.

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Blue River, Wider Than a Mile: A Personal Look into Blue Jean Manufacturing

I love my jeans.  Weather permitting, I wear jeans most of the time.  What I wear with them will vary, depending on whether I’m going to the grocery store or into the city for the evening.  As the years go by, and I find myself having passed the 50-year-old yard line, I feel like jeans keep me from getting too old too quickly.  An illusion, perhaps, but when I put them on they still feel like me.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop wearing jeans.  If I make it to 90, I’ll still be wearing them.  They provide some continuity to my human existence; a source of comfort in an ever-changing world.  Uh, that is until I came across an article on the manufacturing of blue jeans.

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Pet Peeve

I heard a story months ago about the outrageous number of pets that are being abandoned during this time of economic crisis. Municipal shelters and private rescues are overwhelmed, and the United States is on track to euthanize 6,000,000 pets including nearly 1,000,000 Chihuahuas and small dogs. One hundred Chihuahuas a day are showing up at shelters in California.

I keep thinking about the Chihuahuas. These tiny little animals – affectionate, intelligent and prone to being high strung – are being tossed out of pink snakeskin purses and into shelters or onto the street because they require a high level of care that owners realize, as an afterthought, they don’t have the time, money or patience for. Given the pop-culture parading of these dogs by way of Paris Hilton, “Legally Blond” and the ad campaign for Taco Bell, people think of Chihuahuas as trendy accessories rather than living beings.

I find myself imagining all these Chihuahuas in the shelters, quivering endlessly and wondering what happened, where the love went and what will become of their little lives.   Continue reading

One for All and All for One

When the title of this essay came to me, I was not sure where it originated in the files of my memory. As it turns out it’s from the Three Musketeers. This was not the association I was hoping for, so I will be redefining it for my own purposes. (Isn’t that how it goes? The human species invented words as tools for communication, and it is the human that gives them meaning.)

All spiritual traditions outside of Western thought and religion share the premise that we are all one. The human, the animal, the forest, the sea, the sun. There is one intelligent source of life out of which myriad expressions are born, the human species being one of them. And in the case of the human family, we are 6.8 billion particulars all made of the same stuff.

Hard to conceptualize, I know.   Continue reading

Soldiers and War, Water and Oil, Peace and Love

I recently heard a report on the Prime Minister of Japan’s decision to keep an American air base on the island of Okinawa. This was contrary to his pre-election position (imagine that) and sparked outrage in the people of Okinawa. Among the issues being expressed by a Japanese activist against the presence of the U.S. military on Okinawa was the sexual molestation and rape of young women on the island by U.S. soldiers (of course this does not apply to all soldiers).

I had a hard time digesting this information and found myself ruminating on it for some time. Aside from the fact that such behavior is absolutely unacceptable and criminal, I was thinking about what it is that allows a soldier to feel free to rape a 10 or 19-year-old Japanese girl. What is going on in his heart that he cannot see this other being as someone who deserves respect because she is another human being?

I began thinking further about the behavior of U.S. soldiers.   Continue reading