Earth Day in Trump Times

Readers of this site need no motivation to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2017 or to care for our beloved Mother Earth. This year, I think my blog about Earth Day requires suggestions for dealing with the negativity our current politic reality elicits in us and that challenges the compassion we want to maintain for all interconnected beings. How can we best deal with our reactions to Earth’s suffering life-systems and populations in today’s political climate that so seriously threatens everything we care about?

I can’t pretend to solve everyone’s upsets, but I offer a few thoughts that have helped me:

Consider the Law Of Three: According to Cynthia Bourgeault (The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, 2013), the universe’s foundational evolutionary principles require affirming, denying, and reconciling. From these arise the fourth: new life. E.g., seed is an affirming, positive force; moist ground will destroy it, but sunlight reconciles the two, resulting in something new: a sprout.

If I correctly understand Cynthia’s insights, I find this theory extremely liberating. I can trace its truth throughout history and it convinces me that today’s opposing force (our current political situation), far from being the ultimate evil we often judge it to be in a dualistic framework of good-evil/ either-or, is actually required in this evolutionary scheme of three! Being aware that a loving, reconciling force exists, and helping to “incarnate” (my word) this “principle of self-emptying love” (Cynthia’s words) are vitally important to prevent the story from ending with the negative. Cynthia writes: “With a spiritual practice, you gradually develop the heart as an organ of alignment with God” that results in conscious attention to the third force, to reconciliation and new life. Cynthia also uses the verb “midwife” to describe what we do as we deepen contemplative skills. (This reconciliation is not related to capitulation!)

Note the Law of Three in 1. the on-going story of creation and 2. our religious stories:

1. Historical Perspective: Our current situation can feel overwhelming, but it’s far from the first major challenge Mother Earth has faced and solved in her multi-billion year story. One very oversimplified example: More than 2.3 billion years ago multicellular forms began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. After about 200 million years, the overproduction of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere set Earth’s original atmosphere dangerously off balance. Very bad news! But, lo!, Earth evolved aerobic organisms that consumed oxygen and thus created a positive equilibrium. All evolution on Earth followed, and this balance still keeps us alive (at least so far).

Over the billions of years of her lifetime, Earth has shown the eagerness and creativity she needs for her survival. Do you see signs now that she is creating something new? E.g., think of the millions of people gathering simultaneously in multiple countries to support better policies. This never happened, never could have happened, on Earth before our time. Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how we will respond to current challenges. But, being part of the human species, we can deepen our ability to see in wholes and tap into the Love that lives and acts in us and in all creation in order to go beyond a binary dead ens.

2. Religious Traditions: Without ever knowing what science would reveal about constant change, evolution, chaos preceding order, or the Law of Three, Scripture shows over and over that 1. affirmatives, confronted with 2. denial and hatred, and 3. reconciled by love and new insights, can result in new life. Take, for example, the birth of a beautiful boy in Egypt, the decision to kill Jewish babies, but his dilemma, reconciled by love, resulting in Israel’s heroic new leader. Or, as this season reminds us, Jesus’ vision and practice of inclusive love, met with rejection and crucifixion by the powers that be, but reconciled by his consummate self-emptying love — resulted in new life.

Suggestions: I hope one or two of the ideas below will empower anyone in need to find, activate, and “midwife” a reconciling force — such as the Mystery we call God — in the midst of upsetting news from DC. Please share in “Comments” ideas that have helped you.

. Recognize and accept your reality — shock; denial; pain; guilt; anger; bargaining; depression; loneliness — and be gentle with yourself. Decide whether where you are is where you want to stay and if it contributes positively to improving what upsets  you.

. Deepen belief in our sacred, interconnected world; deepen awareness of the Love available throughout it. This changes not just our personal consciousness, but contributes positively to universal/ cosmic consciousness.

. Remember, in spite of everything, we are all interconnected. Whether or not they understand or agree, everyone — even in political leadership — is part of the sacred whole and deserves our basic respect.

. Limit consumption of negative news, alternative facts, and rumors — but stay informed of real facts.

. Savor beauty and good news. E.g., courts in New Zealand and in Northern India each granted major rivers their rights to legal personhood, reinstating them to their ancient status as beloved members of the Universe community. As persons, they may speak to protect themselves against the overwhelming industrial assaults and desecration that threaten their survival. Rejoice that Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’ — and proclaims values threatened by Trump.

. Eliminate time spent vilifying people with whom we disagree. Don’t get caught in the quicksand of negativity.

. Take a break. Maybe some thoughtful deep breathing. Maybe a walk. Maybe some laughter. Maybe relish something that brings you smiles. Maybe grieve as needed. We can always find something that is awesome and gratitude-inspiring.

. Join action groups. Depending on circumstances, support them financially, sign (and add your own words to) their letters and calls to legislators and meetings with them, share statements from groups with which you agree, join in marches and meetings …. Your efforts are not solitary!

. Note the planks in our own eyes. What we don’t like in others can be a clue to what we don’t notice in ourselves. E.g., Dislike how Trump stereotypes Muslims, Mexicans, etc.? Any chance we stereotype his followers?

. Listen carefully to the Spirit within yourself and all others. Challenging as it is, do this especially with those with whom we disagree. Learn people’s opposing viewpoints without trying to enlighten or change them. If people hear what they think, they might make their own changes!

. Keep in our prayers everyone and everything currently suffering from or threatened by current policies, as well as those who sponsor and approve them.

. Own this quotes: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

. While celebrating Earth Day, visualize Earth’s potential new life! Such imaginings can become third forces!

Spring Equinox Celebration 2017

This year the moment of equal day and night happens on Monday, March 20th. Although climate chaos has altered weather patterns everywhere, the seasons remain consistent. Twice a year the day and night time are equal in length. Daylight increases in the Northern Hemisphere and lessens in the Southern.

ANCIENT AWARENESS

seasonsThe word equinox dates to the 14th century, but celebrations of this event can be traced to the Romans, Mayans, Egyptians, and Saxons. (For examples, see  www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places/…equinox-around-world-001464.)

Though records of sky observations exist from about 8,000 years ago, some humans noticed the changes even before these formal breakthroughs. How awesome to imagine someone’s early “Aha!” What an awakening and cause for celebration!  One wonders if early celebrations included thoughts of rebirth and if they had religious significance.

WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING

Our early ancestors could not have pictured what we know is happening: our sphere, rotating to create day and night, is also hurling around the sun, 90 million miles away. Earth revolves around the Sun at a speed of about 18.5 miles, or 30 km, a second. It was happening aeonseons before humans evolved to observe it.

UnknownDefinitions of the spring equinox correctly state that it is “the time when the sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator resulting in equal parts of light and dark.” But this incorrectly implies that the sun has moved to this position. Our awareness shifts when we realize that Earth has reached the point in its journey around the sun when its  equator is in line with the sun.  We’ve known that for centuries, yet it is still a hard concept to remember!

The image shows Earth when it reaches this mid-point, but be sure to remember that our sun is about 110 times the diameter of Earth.

FAITH-FILLED CELEBRATIONS

Many religious groups use this time to honor special events in their history that relate to newness. The theme of rebirth and resurrection are present in the Christian tradition of Easter, celebrated this year on April 16th. In the Jewish faith, Passover begins April 10th. Early Pagans in the Germanic countries celebrated planting and the new crop season. Many Persian countries, with roots in Zoroastrianism, celebrate hope and renewal with the festival of No Ruz – which means “new day.”

MEMORIALS

By all means participate in whatever celebrations are held by the religion of your choice to honor specific events in its salvation history. This is sacred time, deserving our deep prayerful participation. But also remember why the celebrations take place at this time of year.

You might also wish to honor the equinox with this brief memorial, perhaps with new insights into your religious traditions:

1. Begin by being very conscious that you are held by gravity whether you are sitting, standing, or lying down. Imagine your place in your bioregion and its size. Continue extending awareness of your “place” until you feel embedded in your hemisphere and this entire planet. Our spherical home is relentlessly rotating East. Try to sense that movement. If you can see the sun, remember that it is not moving; you, with Earth, are traveling. Integrate your special religious remembrances into this history.

2. Keeping in mind Earth’s rotation, check this image. Unknown-1It shows Earth’s size relative to our sun. We know we travel completely around the sun each year. Far from being close, Sun is about 90 million miles away, and its light takes eight minutes to reach us. Once each year, when our double trajectory is just right, we experience the spring (or autumn in the Southern Hemisphere) equinox. Recall that our sun is a star.

3. Ponder Walt Whitman’s poem, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

No matter what time of day it is, stars are around us. Enter into the feeling of this poem. Look out (not necessarily up!) to wonder, to marvel, to be aware of the equinox mystery and our place in the cosmos.

4. End this memorial as creatively and meaningfully as your imagination allows!

 

Ash Wednesday 2017 Stardust Ritual

If ever we needed reminders of the fact of the interconnection among all existence, as affirmed by cosmology, quantum physics, and other sciences — as well as mystics and saints — it is now, when dualistic thinking is causing havoc. Whole groups are being vilified and artificially separated from the rest: “winners” from “losers”; “good guys” from whoever the judging group happens to be; humans from Earth, our common home with which we share existence. Lent offers a good opportunity to “re-pent” — re-think — these rifts.

image_540_1Everything has come from elements resulting from generations of exploding stars. Our Solar System and everything in it developed from a shimmering cloud of stardust elements like calcium, carbon, and hydrogen resulting from a supernova explosion. Thus we, too, are made of stardust elements. On Ash Wednesday, Christians traditionally receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads to remind them that they are dust. The following ritual is meant to enrich this realization by reminding us that, even before we are dust, we are stardust!  (For a two-sided pdf copy, please contact terrishcj@aol.com.)

Needed: one candle and a dish of dirt (or glitter, representing stardust). Decide who will read.

Leader: To begin, let us pause to recall past times whenashes_6329cp we have received ashes on our foreheads and heard words like these: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Remember how that influenced your practices during Lent.  

Pause to Reflect.  
Carry those thoughts and graces with you now, but place them in a larger context: the context of the entire universe and its amazing 13.8 billion-year history. After billions of years, thanks to the divine Mystery living and acting in our world and in us, stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. We became part of this blessed creation. We are connected to all life; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle. 

blastReader One: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated by the explosive force of the blast. And yet she exists in each of us, in the cells of our bodies that are composed of her dust. Consciously or not, we carry her within us as surely as we carry the DNA of our biological parents. (Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato)

Reader Two: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of [an exploding] supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” . . .  I like knowing that the composition of my body has the elements of a star that was once brilliantly aglow in the universe and is now dancing in me. There’s a magical sense of connection that comes from this knowledge . . . . (The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp)

Reader Three: Dust particles are suspendedimages in the air at all times, unnoticed until sunlight bathes them in radiant streaming light. In this warmth, the specs sparkle. No one who cares about shiny furniture is unaware of what dust can accomplish, just by being. Nothing is insignificant in our universe!

Litany of gratitude:
•  for the Spirit present within the creative process of creation and within each of us, We are grateful.
•  for the generations of supernovas that exploded, resulting in stars with increasingly more of the heavy elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy, We are grateful.
images-5•  for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants, clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine, We are grateful.
•  for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices, We are grateful.
•  for those who lobby to prevent mono-cropping, toxic fertilizers, and the use of GMO’s that endanger the earth, We are grateful.
•  for the scientists, theologians, thinkers, writers, speakers and artists who have helped us realize our place in creation — [Pause to quietly remember one or two who have helped you. Name them if you wish], We are grateful.
•  for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth, including Pope Francis, and for his encyclical Laudato Si’We are grateful.

Sharing:
Jesus, too, was stardust! Jesus, too, died to give new life, as each seed must do. How might we connect the creation  story with our Lent experiences this year? How might our Lent resolutions reflect our call to care for E/earth?

Blessing of soil (or glitter):
May this soil (or glitter), which dates back billions of years images-2and which took over 4 billion years to form on Earth, keep us humble — humus is the Latin for soil. May it remind us of who we are and how vitally we interconnect with the rest of creation. May we trust in divine power working in us for the good of all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil (or glitter):
Depending on the number of participants, either divide into pairs, each member blessing the other with soil from the center bowl, or form a circle and pass the bowl of soil, each blessing the person on his or her right.

100_1230Thank you, (name), for bringing your starlight into my life. I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for all of creation. (Add anything you may wish to say at the beginning of our Lenten Journey.)

Extinguish candle. 

Socialize.