Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Following the French

December 31, 2021

I could have sworn I blogged some years ago about an initiative with some French grocery stores to sell ugly produce at lower prices. This based on the reality that only a portion of produce grown is able to be sold to grocery stores, who generally want perfect fruits and vegetables which will appeal to consumers. Those less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables often end up rotting with no buyers available. However, I wasn’t able to find either that post or any related online material about the program. Hopefully it’s still going!

But the French are continuing to re-evaluate how to be environmentally friendly in the grocery store, this time banning plastic packaging. I’ve been amazed (and depressed) that despite alleged concerns over the environment and trash here in the US, disposable products continue to be created and marketed – a triumph over alleged convenience over any sort of ecological or environmental conscious. The example that sticks in my mind is commercials for single-use disposable plastic cutting boards.

Attempting to reduce the production of single-use plastics and the ongoing creation of trash bound for landfills ought to be a common-sense topic for those who truly believe human beings are behind climate change. It ought to make sense in general, regardless of your views on the origins of climate change. Less trash is good, and reminding people of the financial as well as environmental benefits of reusing and reducing is something we all could use.

Might even make a good resolution for the new year!

Fear and Science

December 17, 2021

As another example of how nearly every media source – including science-based sources – utilizes fear to capture our attention, I offer this gem from National Geographic:

The Universe Is Expanding Faster Than It Should Be

Say what?

No, if the universe is expanding it is expanding at whatever rate it expands at. But the headline makes it sound like there’s a problem – a danger even! Oh my, what are we to do about this? How are we to face this potential nightmare on top of Covid and the general decay of our culture and society?

Sheesh.

The headline should read something along the lines of:

Current Scientific Models Inaccurate In Predicting Universal Rate of Expansion

The problem isn’t the universe, the problem is our scientific models are not accurate or complete. It isn’t that the universe is misbehaving somehow, but rather our knowledge is incomplete. That would allow people to sleep better at night, and remind us that as wonderful as science can be, it is not perfect or complete.

But I suppose that sort of statement is fear-inducing to folks who place their sense of well-being in scientific certainty and accuracy.

Breaking Silence

December 8, 2021

Perhaps the best way to break the long silence here is not with my words but someone else’s. Thanks to The Mockingbird for sharing this beautiful poem.

The Mercy of God

A poem by Jessica Powers, a Carmelite nun (1905-88):

I am copying down in a book from my heart’s archive
the day that I ceased to fear God with a shadowy fear.
Would you name it the day that I measured my column of virtue
and sighted through windows of merit a crown that was near?
Ah, no, it was rather the day I began to see truly
that I came forth from nothing and ever toward nothingness tend,
that the works of my hands are a foolishness wrought in the presence
of the worthiest king in a kingdom that never shall end.
I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion
and defended with flurries of pride:
I walked out of myself and went into the woods of God’s mercy,
and here I abide.
There is greenness and calmness and coolness,
a soft leafy covering
from judgment of sun overhead, and the hush of His peace,
and the moss of His mercy to tread.
I have nought but my will seeking God;
even love burning in me is a fragment of infinite loving
and never my own.
And I fear God no more; I go forward to wander forever
in a wilderness of His infinite mercy alone.

Book Review – Old Man and the Sea

November 4, 2021

Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I’d read this back in one of my high school literature classes. It’s not a complicated little story so it wasn’t as though the intervening decades clouded the storyline or the outcome. But as part of our less-connected, wi-fi-unpredictable life for the moment reading together as a family has come to the forefront. The place we’re staying had a copy and I knew it would be good for everyone to experience it.

I like Hemingway, but his sparcity can be exhausting at times. Where Bradbury or other authors bury you in similes and metaphors and adjectives, Hemingway remains terse, no doubt a throwback to his days in journalism. The story is slow, as slow as being stuck in a boat at sea alone for days on end, trailing a line connected to a massive, unseen fish below. I would likely be tempted to tighten it up a bit, but tightening it up ruins the entire point of the story. You feel the interminableness of Santiago’s situation. You feel his hope as well as his wariness. You admire his stolidity.

His dedication is to a code of manhood rapidly being erased in a Western culture intent on desexing and unisexing everyone and everything. No doubt he is dubbed as an example of toxic masculinity in college literature classrooms on two continents. How foolish, to risk his life on such an uncertainty, against overwhelming odds. Yet Santiago’s decisions are set by larger forces than himself and he seeks only to measure his mettle against them, just as he continually measures his own pain against the pain reported of his beloved DiMaggio. Does his suffering come close? Does he measure up?

If you haven’t read this for a while go back to it. As a father of boys and young men it is helpful to show traditional masculine qualities evaporating in the world around them. Like other much longer epic works it highlights the importance of doing what you know to be right and proper despite the potential loss you may personally suffer in doing so. Some things are worth dying for. Some battles should be faced squarely that the stories may be told and passed down to younger generations who will one day have to face their own giants, whether under the waters or in the stars or in their own hometowns.

Celebrating Life – Selectively

June 9, 2021

This article headline caught my eye – announcing scientific discoveries of the remarkable resilience of a very small creature. And while the longevity of these tiny creatures as another testimony to the creativity and imagination of our God is worthwhile in itself, it was one particular word in the headline that gave me pause.

Animal.

A living being. One definition of the word says a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli. Yet it’s tiny. Really tiny. Too small to be seen with the naked eye according to Wikipedia.

Yet there’s CBS declaring this critter alive and valuable while at the same time promoting news angles that attack the humanity – even the animalness – of unborn human babies. And it made me sad that such language – and the protections that language imply – would be extended so freely and joyfully to one creature, yet denied so vehemently to human babies in a mother’s womb. Science, the new religion of the West, depicted as fearlessly objective in pursuing truth, should be the first voice against abortion. But it isn’t. It’s curiously silent.

Unless you aren’t a threat to current cultural assumptions and assertions – or funding sources.

Isaiah 55:12

September 17, 2020

Conventional wisdom divides material into animal, vegetable and mineral. Helpful at one level but perhaps damaging at another, as we tend to ascribe certain characteristics to one group more than the others, characteristics of thought, motion, feeling, etc. Frankly we’ve often relegated these things just to the narrow category of humans within the larger animal classification, though that’s finally beginning to change as we come to understand other animal life better.

But perhaps this is only the first small step in a much wider understanding of the world around us, one that might see trees and other plants viewed in a whole new light that necessitates a whole new acknowledgement of relationship between us and them.

Maybe Scripture isn’t simply using anthropmorphisms, and trees and other vegetable classifications are far more complex than we’ve assumed. Science will take credit for discovering this but Scripture has used that kind of language for a lot, lot longer.

Makes me wonder if maybe, along a similar line of reasoning, our understandings of Isaiah 55:12 and the mineral world have room to grow as well!

A Bit of Joy

July 13, 2020

In the midst of a constant barrage of bad news, if you’re looking for an online escape, you might want to check out https://window-swap.com/

You can get a glimpse of what people in other parts of the world see out their window at the moment. Sometimes it’s a pretty urban landscape, and sometimes it’s a stunning landscape. Not a bad way to while away a few of those lockdown moments!

New Neighbors

May 6, 2020

Beyond our human neighbors we have many wildlife neighbors in and around our house and yard.  While our dogs have managed – by scent and noise, I’m sure – to deter the possums and raccoons that used to feel comfortable moving through our property, they’ve been replaced by other critters.  Mostly gophers and/or groundhogs.  They’ve made a patchwork of our front yard as well as the hill that comprises the majority of our backyard.  Taking a live-and-let-live approach, I don’t get out there with the usual means of combating such neighbors (poison pellets deposited into their burrows where other critters won’t happen upon them).  They proliferate.  They’re cute, even if they’re lousy  landscape designers.

But we noticed a different critter on our hill earlier this week.

IMG-0966

If our research is corrected, this is a black-footed ferret.  This North American native species was at one point considered extinct, but now is listed as endangered (although that listing is not at the State level  but apparently the Federal level?).  We aren’t sure if these are wild ferrets, or escaped domestic ferrets.  They certainly act wild, and there are at least five of them we’ve seen on our hill.  Since these ferrets are generally rather solitary, we assume (hope?) they’re a family.

They live on groundhogs and prairie dogs so hopefully that means we’ll be having fewer gopher and groundhog neighbors in the future!  The ferrets are cuter anyways as well!

Staying Sane

April 1, 2020

As people deal with shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, here are some interesting options for staying sane both individually and as a family.

Here’s a list of movies suitable for watching among multiple generations of adults.  I can vouch for The Two Popes as a worthwhile watch.  Our family has also (previously) watched The Hundred Foot Journey, and were not as thrilled with the overall quality of the movie despite a few good moments.  The Shawshank Redemption is one I only recently watched and found to be deserving of the accolades it has collected over the years.  Likewise Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great family classic.  Romancing the Stone isn’t nearly as good in the adventure category, and goes for some more sexual humor than Raiders does (although sequels to Raiders up the sexual innuendo substantially).  While it might sound boring, The King’s Speech is a phenomenal movie from an acting perspective.  As I remember, A Fish Called Wanda also has some sexual innuendo but also some stellar performances.  The Usual Suspects is one of my all time favorite films.

Perhaps you’d rather do some explorations in the real world?  Maybe a virtual trip to Disneyland would be a fun diversion?  Or if you’d rather wander farther afield, here is a collection of walks through various places in the world.

Inter-Species Confession

September 26, 2019

In other news, a major US  seminary hosted a chapel service where  students prayed to and confessed their environmental sins to a group of potted plants.  Gene Veith gives his two cents here.

To be fair, as pointed out by the Washington Examiner article, Union Theological Seminary has long been accused of essentially being non-Christian.  The school apparently brags about this, boasting not just ecumenical chapel services but inter-faith services as well.  Interesting.

Veith’s commentary seems to say there isn’t a place for confession to plants.  I interpret him as saying it is inappropriate (or pointless?) to  confess or apologize to  anyone/thing which can’t reciprocate.  I’m not so sure I would agree with that, but the plant chapel service also is clearly troublesome.

Plants can’t  absolve us.  Not in any way we can receive.  I can confess all day long and apologize all day long, but I have no idea whether or  not the plant forgives me or not.  Even with my dog I can’t be sure, although I’m far more sure with my dog than I would be with a cat.

Scripture has a habit of anthropomorphizing nature.  The examples that leap first to mind include Isaiah 55 and Psalm 96, which have trees clapping and singing, respectively.  But one might also think of Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22.  In case you think this is a case of dumb people thinking nature is real, we might consider Romans 8 and Paul’s description of it groaning as in childbirth.

Many would say this is just colorful and descriptive language rather than an assertion about the sentience of plant life.  I can’t refute that necessarily (and  don’t really care to try), but I’m also willing to entertain the opposite position, that while we think of plants and rocks as inanimate and non-sentient, perhaps we just don’t understand their language.  But maybe someday we will.

We shouldn’t pray to plants.  But perhaps a step in seeing them as part of God’s creation – a part we were and are intended to act as stewards of rather than exploiters – would be helpful.  I’m not comfortable with doing with Union Seminary did by a long shot, but I suspect we’re all going to be surprised in the new heaven and new earth to discover that perhaps our current classifications of animal, vegetable, and mineral were neither deep enough nor Biblical enough to describe reality as God created it.