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

 

 

 

 

Earth Day 2017 in France and the USA

Today on Earth Day 2017 it’s hard to believe it was just one year ago today (April 22, 2016) that the world celebrated 195 nations signing of the Paris Accord on climate change.

Marine Le PenExactly one year later to the day, it is both Earth Day and Election Day in Paris, where the French go to the polls following another chilling terrorist attack that boosts the candidacy of far right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen who would “Make France great again!”

Here on the other side of the Atlantic and across the world, scientists and supporters of science are casting their votes with their feet, signs, and speeches in the wake of the 2016 American election of a climate change-denying President and Congress unravelling the Paris Accord while concentrating of erection of a border wall.

March for ScienceThe March for Science stands with Albert Einstein. “We cannot,” said Einstein, “solve our problems with the same thinking by which we created them.”

The thinking that has led to our problems includes bad religion, fake science, bad politics, and bad economics that ignore reality, shrink reality to the size of the human will to power, and sacrifice creative imagination beyond the boundaries of worn out thinking.

Today it will take prayerful people on both sides of the Atlantic to vote for the Earth in whatever way we can. Good science, good religion, good politics, and good economics go hand-in-hand.

On Earth Day 2017 pray for the Earth. Pray for yourself, for others, and for all creatures great and small. The Planet has no borders. It’s all the same house.

Albert Einstein

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Earth Day 2017.

The Day after Earth Day

The day after Earth Day the world is returning to business-as-usual. Which opens the door to a commentary on the nature of the human species within the order of nature, and the way religion supports or belittles the Earth.

Two days ago we posted about a curious and rather humorous dream of Jesus as a patient in the hospital (Jesus in the Hospital).

Some readers likely stopped reading when they saw the name Jesus. Others like or are neutral about or curious to read the story. Yet another group is distraught or confused by the thought of Jesus as a patient in the hospital; it might be okay for him to appear in the dream as the doctor, but the thought of Jesus as a patient seems over the top.

The picture of Jesus in a hospital bed is a day-after-Earth-Day issue, an every day question of how we see ourselves, the world, and Eternity.

A Jesus who was never sick a day in his life, a Jesus without bodily functions, pains, and hungers, a Jesus who didn’t feel the hammer slam his thumb at his carpenter’s bench, is a not one of us. That Jesus is a figment of imagination.

The theological tradition of the church has always insisted on the full humanity of Jesus. His humanity was only half the Chaledonian Formula (fully divine-fully man), but Jesus’ humanity is the starting point for any claim to the formula’s other half: the divinity of Christ. From roughly 70 C.E. until now fanciful representations of Jesus have diminished Jesus’ humanity. The historical Jesus is, in effect, obliterated by a dualism that views spirit and matter as mutually exclusive, as are immortality and morality, eternity and finitude. Jesus wears flesh and blood the way an actor playing a part assumes a costume to draw an audience into the play. In these versions of Christian faith, the bodily Jesus is a disguise for God, but not fully human as we are.

According to Hebrew Scripture the human species is of the earth. The human being is named “adam” (Hebrew for “earthling”). We are one with the dirt, the earth, nature. Likewise, our end is dust. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes” we say at the end, as we do every Ash Wednesday to remind ourselves before the end.

Strangely, the dream I had the other night didn’t seem strange at the time. A friend who knows the Byron who appeared in the dream wrote that she laughed and laughed because “I could totally hear you and Byron having that conversation” about whether a member of the church staff had visited Jesus in the hospital and whether to announce his hospitalization from the pulpit and pray for Jesus in the morning prayers.

The day after Earth Day I still don’t know what prompted the dream. What I do know is that the dream wouldn’t have come without a deep sense of Jesus as flesh and blood, an “adam” like us.  Only a deeper appreciation of our complete oneness with nature will open our eyes to the real Jesus, the real us, and the sacredness of creation. Matter is not evil; matter is sacred.

Jesus in the hospital is a game changer – a view of human frailty and mutual dependence in a world that too often confuses the goal of religion as the escape from mortality, the soul’s release from the prison of material existence. This dualism is notably errant and it is dangerous to the planet.

Earth is in the hospital. Will we work and pray for healing – a kind of planetary resurrection? Or will we go back to a deadly dualism – business-as-usual – the day after Earth Day?

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2015.

The World in an Oyster – an Earth Day reflection

Oysters

A COMMENTARY FOR EARTH DAY – Rev. Gordon C. Stewart | Friday, June 4, 2010 – published by MinnPost.comThe “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico raises the most basic questions about how we humans think of ourselves.

We’re at a turning point. The crisis we can’t seem to kill in the Gulf of Mexico puts before us the results of a more foundational crisis than the black goo that is choking the life out of the Gulf. The uncontrolled “blow-out” raises basic questions about how we think of ourselves and the order of nature.

Fifteen years ago I was with a group of pastors who spent four days with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, whose mission is to protect and clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Our time there began with a day on the bay on a Skipjack, one of the last remaining motorless sailing vessels that used to harvest oysters by the tens and hundreds of bushels from oyster beds. The director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and an old waterman named Earl, who had worked the bay for 54 years, took us to school.

Back then the oyster population had shrunk to a fraction of 1 percent of what it used to be. Fifteen years before our visit the oyster population would filter all the water in the bay in three days’ time. A single oyster pumps five gallons of water through its filtration system every day.

The oysters were close to extinction; the bay’s natural filtering system was in danger. “It’s humans who’ve done this,” said the old waterman. “They’ll come back; I have to believe they’ll come back.”

Others were less hopeful. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources discussed the damage to the wetlands and the estuaries, the seedbeds of life. It had sounded the alarm for public action to protect the birthplaces of all the seafood we eat, the places on which the whole chain of life depends.

Deepwater Horizon fire
Deepwater Horizon fire

This week we heard from the Gulf of Mexico that the attempted “top kill” has failed and that the “spill” is spreading in every direction — not only on the surface, but below the surface — a glob the size of the state of Texas. I think of Earl and his Skipjack as I see the poisoned oysters in the hands of Louisiana oystermen whose livelihood depends on clean Gulf waters. “It’s humans who have done this.”

But it’s not every human who has done this violence to the Gulf. It was not the indigenous people of North America, nor was it the Moken people (“the sea gypsies”) who, because they see themselves as part of nature, anticipated the 2004 Asian tsunami while the rest of the world was caught by surprise. It was a specific form of humanity known as Western culture that sees humankind as the conqueror of nature.

Our language is not the language of cooperation with nature. “And God said, ‘… fill the earth and subdue; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth’ ” — (Genesis 1:28), a conquering view based in the idea of species superiority expressed in the phrase “top kill” for the attempt to plug the hole that is killing the oysters and fish of the sea.

Insofar as interpreters of the Book of Genesis have shaped this Western hubris, my Judeo-Christian tradition bears responsibility for this crisis. The idea of human exceptionalism springs from the Bible itself.

But no sooner do I sink into confession and despair than I remember a prayer that Earl called to my attention on the Skipjack 15 years ago, the prayer of St. Basil from the third century that offers a more hopeful understanding of ourselves, a view like Moken people’s that knows that the whole world’s in an oyster:

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of kinship with all living things, our brothers and sisters the animals to whom You have given the Earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to You in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for You, and that they have the sweetness of life.”

 

Muskrat Heaven

A story in preparation for Earth Day, April 22, 2012

Muskrat

I stand looking through the picture window at the pond behind the house.  The small nature raft in the middle of the small pond is peopled with Canadian geese preening in the mid-morning sun.   To their left, three or four ducks paddle across the pond – but something is different.

They’re moving much faster than usual. They don’t seem frightened; they’re just moving faster.

Then I see why.  A muskrat is chasing them – ten yards or so behind.  I’ve seen this before – mallards and muskrats playing a game of catch us if you can.  Speed up, slow down, speed up.  Nobody ever catches anybody and nobody ever gets caught.  They just chase and get chased.  It’s play.

As the mallards paddle past the raft with the muskrat in hot pursuit, the muskrat makes a sudden 90 degree turn, races at full speed and leaps up for the raft, the geese flapping their wings, scattering in flight just as the muskrat lands and springs into the air. A flying-muskrat in hot pursuit, an air-Jordan muskrat suspended in mid-air, a flying goose wanna-be, leaping and laughing for joy. Muskrat heaven!  Sheer unadulterated play.

I envy the muscrat, the ducks and the geese today. I know I’m making the story up, but the story I tell speaks aloud a yearning for more playfulness.  An enjoyment of each other with natural games that keep away the boredom and challenge our pretensions.

Nature raft with mallards

Nature raft with Mallards

I watch the pond a lot these days to learn about myself and us.  Oh, I know!  There’s also terror and danger in that pond – the snapping turtle lurks beneath the surface, the fox roams the edges, and my neighbor sometimes stands on his deck with his shotgun aimed at the little muskrat who dares to burrow his home under his manicured lawn.  But today all of that is beside the point – upstaged by ducks and geese and a muskrat in self-forgetful play. I stand looking through the window and give thanks for quacking mallards, honking geese and a funny little creature whose muskrat heaven restores my natural sense of play and joy.

Earth Day Poem

Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. My friend Steve sent this poem this morning.

Hope it lifts your spirits and causes you to do something crazy for the Earth.

“Earth Day” Steve Shoemaker, April 20, 2012

Kites - Morro Bay Kite Festival

Earth Day is best observed with string and kite.

A little bit of wind is nice, but not

Required:  just hold the spool and run–take flight!

To make a kite, buy line and glue, get

Help by recycling– all the rest is free:

Day-old newspapers can be cut just right,

And sticks from fallen branches, two or three.

Your spirits will fly up just like the kite!