Mother Earth and the devil’s dung

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Pope Francis documentaryOn Mothers Day 2018, “60 Minutes” featured an interview with the film-maker of “A Man of His Word,” the new documentary on Pope Francis in which Pope Francis speaks boldly about Mother Earth, the mother of all life.

Views from the Edge visitors and the readers of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness will recognize our long-standing position that all other moral, social, economic, political, and spiritual issues pale in comparison with the stewardship of the web of life we call nature. Like Pope Francis, we have contended that the planetary crisis is not just one issue among others; it is the singular overarching challenge to everyone everywhere all the time. We agree with Pope Francis. It is a faith crisis like no other.

In advance of the release of the documentary, we offer this excerpt of Franciscan Media summaries of Pope Francis’s previously published statements.

“Our common home is at risk. Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem.

“The earth, entire peoples, and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea—one of the first theologians of the Catholic Church—called “the dung of the devil.” An unfettered pursuit of money rules.

“This is the ‘dung of the devil.’ The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, Sister and Mother Earth.” – Pope Francis.

The Pope’s position also reminds us of another man of his word, Bolivian President Evo Morales who observed the following relation between Mother Earth, the devil’s dung” (money/greed), and the human species.

“Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” – Evo Morales.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 14, 2018.

The Beauty of the Swamp

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Quite serendipitously, you might say, The Pea Pod — the-small A-frame cabin by the wetland — became ours last August. It came into view in an internet search for an affordable lake or river-front property within easy driving distance from the metro area.

cabin IMG_6563Before stepping foot on the property we thought it was on a small lake, not a swamp on outskirts of the Silvan Shores Association. We immediately fell in love with the quiet serenity of the place and the simplicity of the wood cabin.

We soon learned that some of the Silvan Shores folks gather regularly at the association’s clubhouse at 10 A.M for coffee and conversation. Although we’ve chosen the Pea Pod by the wetland as a full retreat from all things civilized, we want to be good neighbors, and it’s a chance to meet others and pick their knowledge who who to call for various homeowner matters. At our first coffee hour Kay and I introduce ourselves by name and by the property’s location next to ‘the wetland’ just north of Turtle Lake.

Oh! You mean ‘the swamp’!” says Judy. We all have a good laugh.

Call it what you will — swamp, wetland, or marsh (remember Sydney Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn”?) — , the little cat-tailed not-quite pond with the trumpeter swans, great blue herons, mallards, loons, and beavers next to the equally unenviable cabin is its own sacred place for two peas in a pod.

This morning, eight months months after the ‘wetland’ turned into a ‘swamp’, I wake with the morning sun and see the beauty of the wetland other folks don’t get to see. Oh, they too might have a fat robin making her nest in the oak tree outside their patio doors, but they don’t experience dawn next to the beaver lodge and the loons paddling by in plain sight while the mallards, wood ducks, and the buffleheads greet the day with play near the wetland’s far side.

We prefer the wetland to the five lakes of the association. There are no boats here on the swamp. No motors to disturb the silence. No water-skiers. No anglers. No noisy humans. Within days the Trumpeter Swans will break the silence. The only oars on the water belong to the waterfowl and the flat tail of the beavers. It’s an uncivilized place that reminds us of the incivility of civilization and the beauty of nature’s frailty and glory.

  • Gordon C. Stewart at the Swamp, April 29, 2018.

Elmer Fudd’s Earth Day

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Burning Bush

“burning bush” in Autumn

This year, on Earth Day, something has stripped the bark from the burning bushes of our homeowners’ association. It’s sad to see the butchered bark of these beautiful burning bushes.

It couldn’t have been rabbits! The bark isn’t only stripped near the ground. There are lots of rabbits here at Village Point, but rabbits aren’t like squirrels. They can’t climb two feet from the ground. But, like Elmer Fudd, some of us are a little slow on the uptake. “They didn’t have to climb,” said a friend. “We’ve had several feet of snow!”

Darn those wabbits!

So, here we are on Earth Day 2018 celebrating the natural web of life on which the rabbits, the burning bushes, and human beings depend. But I’m confused which to prefer: the bushes or the rabbits.

Elmer Fudd: Got you, you wabbit stew, you.
Bugs Bunny: Look, Doc. Are you looking for trouble? I’m not a stewing rabbit. I’m a fricasseeing rabbit.
Elmer Fudd: Fwicasseeing wabbit?
Bugs Bunny: Have you got a fricasseeing rabbit license?
Elmer Fudd: Well, no. I…
Bugs Bunny: Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricasseeing rabbit without a fricasseeing rabbit license?

Burning Bush bark

“burning bush” stripped bark

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., EPA regulations are cast said as frivolous; big oil and coal are back; the Paris Climate Accord is trashed; the lakes, rivers, oceans and forests become part of Elmer Fudd’s stew pot on Earth Day. Everything is fair game for wabbit stew!

So, we are left to play the part of Bugs Bunny with Elmer Fudd, putting the question to Director of the E.P.A.Scott Pruitt and all climate change deniers:

“Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricasseeing rabbit without a fricsaseeing rabbit license?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing

This piece opened my day. Maybe it will open yours — and your sense of joy — also. Its sensibility is akin to watching the Manatees in “Stillness at Blue Spring” (Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, p. 3-4). Thanks to Kay and her friend Mary for bringing it to my attention. It’s pure joy!

A few years ago in a forest in northeast India, I heard and then began to feel, in my chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing. It sounded meteorological, but it was the wingbeats of a pair of great hornbills flying in to land in a fruiting tree. They had massive yellow bills and hefty white thighs; they looked like a cross between a toucan and a giant panda. As they clambered around in the tree, placidly eating fruit, I found myself crying out with the rarest of all emotions: pure joy. It had nothing to do with what I wanted or what I possessed. It was the sheer gorgeous fact of the great hornbill, which couldn’t have cared less about me.

The radical otherness of birds is integral to their beauty and their value. They are always among us but never of us. They’re the other world-dominating animals that evolution has…

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2017 in the Cleft of the Rock

This 500th Anniversary of the 16th Century Reformation is also the onset of climate departure. Not just climate change, but climate departure, the tipping point beyond which there is no way back.

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Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Preparing to preach on Reformation Sunday at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul leads to reflection on a strange text and several great hymns.

The text (Exodus 33:12-23) pictures Moses in the cleft of the rock with God’s hand covering him while God passes by with the reminder that no mortal can see the face of God and live. The hymns that come to mind are “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”

Perhaps, like Moses in the wilderness, we are in the cleft of the rock — between a rock and a hard place — and more than a little humbled as the Creator of all that is, Being-Itself, passes by while we are in the dark.

This moment of climate departure demands a new reformation, beginning with the recognition that we, homo sapiens, are mammals with the horses, cows, dogs, lions, cheetahs, and elephants — and that our future is imperiled by the gods of greed and prosperity our hearts have manufactured.

“Human nature is, so to speak, a perpetual factory of idols,” wrote the 16th Century Reformer John Calvin.

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2017 is a far cry from 1517, but it is, in this respect, the same.

A difference this year is that Martin Luther’s Ein feste Burg — “A Mighty Fortress” — will be sung in Catholic masses as well as protestant celebrations, bearing witness to the reconciling love of God over centuries of time.

Meanwhile the prosperity gospel — based on the idol of property — will go unchallenged in many churches, a departure from the truth that can only be found between a rock and a hard place: this cleft of the rock in 2017 while God passes by.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 27, 2017.

 

Elijah and his sitter’s text

Grandpa, my babysitter was crying today.

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Elijah (five months old)

I’m sorry, Elijah. Why was she crying?

Marissa’s cousin in Puerto Rico sent a text five days ago but Marissa didn’t get it until this morning. She was crying hard, Grandpa! It was really sad.

What did the text say, Elijah?

I thought you’d ask, so I asked Marissa to print it out ’cause you’re old. You don’t text so good.

‘Well’, Elijah, I want you to learn to speak proper English. You should say, “You don’t text so well” — not “you don’t text so good.”

Yeah, well, you say ‘well’ a lot. That’s not good. Well, here’s what Marissa’s text from Puerto Rico said. It’s not good.

Month 2. Day 1.

No power

We have running water

Telecommunications are fair on the best of days. I consider it successful if I can consistently get 2mb down. Today it’s about 0.13mb.

Traffic is insane

Fuel lines are better

Shopping takes hours

We are the lucky ones, the privileged ones. It’s not better, progress is slow, medical care is impossible for many.

We are here. We need your help. Keep pressure on news organizations, on elected officials, and aid organizations. Use your voice for people who have been silenced.

Grandpa! We’re gonna help, right? Are we ‘privileged’?

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, October 24, 2017

The Planet and Puerto Rico: Unincorporated Territories

Much of Puerto Rico is still without power. But it may be that Puerto Rico will lead the way for the U.S. mainland by developing a renewable energy power grid that replaces its dependence on fossil fuels.

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While Elon Musk of Tesla proposes building a new renewable energy power grid to replace the destroyed carbon-producing fossil fuel-dependent grid, the Trump administration is shoring up the fossil fuel grid back on the U.S. mainland.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, on Monday said he would sign a proposed rule Tuesday rescinding Obama’s Clean Power Plan, established in 2015 to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.

Pruitt spoke at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Hazard, Kentucky — coal country.

“Here’s the president’s message: The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said. “Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers.” – Yahoo Finance, Oct. 9, 2017

Coal and oil are shipped at great expense to Puerto Rico from the mines of Hazard, Kentucky and the oil refineries of Houston. Puerto Rico, an unincorporated third world U.S. Territory, has been the loser. So have the people of Hazard who’ve been led to believe that winning the the war on coal will secure their future.

In the world of climate departure — not just climate change, but departure with no way back to what we considered normal — we’re all losers when the departure is denied.

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Governor Ricardo Rosselló and Elon Musk

The sun, on the other hand, is indigenous to Puerto Rico.

Could it be that a poor unincorporated Territory in the dark without power would lead the world by building a new grid lit by a source that shines without discrimination on winners and losers in Puerto Rico and in Hazard?

Perhaps, if the Governor of Puerto Rico comes to an agreement with the Elon Musk and the Tesla Corporation, the light may yet go on across the world that the planet itself is an unincorporated territory.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 10, 2017.

 

 

The Light Show

The moonless night beyond the picture window contrasts with the candles that wash a warm glow on the orange rough-cut pine walls inside the A-frame cabin in a place without a name.

flightA flock of Canadian geese flews over the wetland before dusk, honking their way south before winter comes to the Upper Midwest, while inside the cabin walls the Toronto Blue Jays had flown south to Minneapolis over the radio to play a ballgame with the Twins. Unlike the Canadian geese, the Blue Jays are going nowhere; the Minnesota Twins are preparing for a long flight to the World Series.

votive-candlesThere is something strange about being alone in a remote wilderness cabin without a remote or internet, but some things stay close. Like the radio I bring to listen to the Twins games, and my canine companion Barclay who doesn’t care about the Twins or the radio but does care about candlelight. Barclay had headed for his kennel for the night an hour after the Twins had broken the sacred silence—until the sound of a match drew him back to the sofa to watch the candlelight flicker against the walls.

Sometimes I wish I were a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel instead of a lone silly goose who needs a radio to stay sane in an otherwise silent night in a warm-lit cabin in a place without a name.

d6dbdcca-1865-4dbf-b1dc-9cfda368e47d.1By the seventh inning stretch, I’m tired of the Twins game, blow out all the candles, see Barclay to his kennel, and head up the ladder to the loft in the darkness. Only then do I notice the light show beyond the cabin walls: the Northern Lights dancing across the sky, a natural light show no World Series can match. Through the loft window I watch the light that knows nothing of matches, candles, or our whereabouts off the human map.

Sometimes, when awe reduces me to lightening bug, it feels good to be human.

 

What would Bill say?

What_Would_Wellstone_Do_-254x300“What would Wellstone do?” is a question often heard in Minnesota after the un-timely death of Senator Paul Wellstone. Most people can make a well-educated guess at the answers.

What would Bill say?” is the question I’m pondering this morning, looking for light in the darkness of the chemical eco-catastrophe  in Crosby, Texas.

Bill Gibson — click William E. Gibson to read Bill’s obituary — was a campus ministry colleague in the mid-’70s.

41XX644YJ4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One of 27 campus ministers in New York State under the auspices of United Ministries in Higher Education*, Bill was “doing his own thing” at Cornell. His own thing — “eco-justice“– resulted in Eco-Justice — the Unfinished Journey. Click the title to read from the book Bill edited.

 

Like Paul Wellstone, Bill Gibson was a trailblazer. Unlike the senator, he worked away from the floodlights, quietly taking the path less taken on what has proven to be humanity’s great unfinished business.

Thank you, Bill. Rest in Peace.

Bill-Gibson-1Your joy and light still shine.

 

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 1, 2017.

*Click HERE for the history of United Ministries in Higher Education (UMHE), the ecumenical ministry jointly funded by the American Baptist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal, Moravian, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Brethren, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist churches.

Big Yellow Taxi and climate science

Songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” rise from memory so many years later when an EPA climate scientist report reaches the New York Times before it gets edited or killed and all the scientists get the word “You’re fired!”

We won’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 9, 2017.