Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Enough

One of my favorite quotes is by Lao Tzu: "He who knows enough is enough will always have enough." Here is author Bill McKibben on the subject:

Last evening, on the longest day of the year, I took a walk in a meadow near my home.

At the edge of the meadow a path opened into the woods, and I followed it perhaps a hundred yards to the bank of a small stream where I rested on a rock and watched the brook flow. Then I walked back.

Nothing spectacular happened. No large animal jumped out to demonstrate its majesty. The flora was beautiful, but unremarkable: buttercups, Queen Anne's lace, daisies, lupines. The sky didn't crackle with summer lightning; the sunset was only streaks of purple, some rosy glow on the underbellies of the clouds. A few mosquitoes made their presence known. It was simply a lovely night.

And simply the sort of scene that we have evolved with for hundreds of thousands of years, that has made us who we are, that we can't be fully human, or at least fully sane, without. The sort of scene whose absence in our lives is now making us slowly crazy. If there is a pertinent modern question, it is “how much is enough?” The consumer societies we have created posit that the only possible answer is “More.” And so in pursuit of more we have turned ourselves into tubby folk, raised the temperature of the planet one degree with a further five degrees in prospect, countenanced the ever deeper gulfs between rich and poor, and so on. And in process made ourselves . . . happy?

But say you're in a meadow, surrounded by wildflowers. Do you find yourself thinking, “They could do with some more wildflowers over there”? Do you glance up at the mountains on the horizon and think, “Some more mountains would be nice”? Do you lie on the rock by the brook thinking, “This brook needs more rocks”? Does the robin in the tree chide herself for not tripling the size of her nest? I think not. Nature schools us in sufficiency–its aesthetic and its economy demonstrate “enoughness” at every turn. Time moves circularly through the natural world–next spring there will be wildflowers again. Not more wildflowers: second quarter output for 2005 will show no year-on-year gain. Growth only replaces, since the planet is already accomplishing all the photosythesis that is possible. It offers the great lesson of being simultaneously abundant and finite.

Interdependent, too. The emergent science of ecology is easily summed up: everything's connected. Field biologists using sensitive detectors have discovered that the needles of trees near Alaskan rivers owe their nitrogen to the carcasses of salmon that die along the banks, the same salmon that feed the bears whose pawing aerates the soil that . . .

We know now that this is true, but interconnection is anathema to a consumer notion of the world, where each of us is useful precisely to the degree that we consider ourselves the center of everything. We believe that pleasure comes from being big, outsized, immortal; now our zealots imagine genetically engineering us for greater greatness. But the testimony of the rest of creation is that there is something to be said for fitting in.

And because of that, the natural world offers us a way to think about dying, the chief craziness for the only species that can anticipate its own demise. If one is a small part of something large, if that something goes on forever, and if it is full of beauty and meaning, then dying seems less shocking. Which undermines about half the reason for being a dutiful consumer, for holding aging forever at bay. Six months from now, on the shortest night of the year, this field will be under two feet of snow. Most of what I can see will be dead or dormant. And six months after that if will be here again as it is tonight.

Advertising, hyper-consumerism, ultra-individualism – these are designed to make you crazy. Nature, like close-knit human community, is designed to help you stay sane. You needn't be in the wilderness to feel in balm: a park, a container garden on the patio, a pet dog, a night sky, a rainstorm will do. For free.

– Bill McKibbon, originally published in Resurgence, March/April 2005

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Left the Laestadian Revival Movement . . .

I just found this essay online and am very eager to share it with you. It is by a Finnish woman from Ostrobothnia who left the Laestadian faith ten years ago. I hope she finds comfort and healing. I love her candor and sense a kindred spirit.

Here is an excerpt:

It was emphasised at services that it is not about rules, but rather the fact that a Laestadian wants to operate in a certain way. I recall how I preferred to speak about desires, rather than rules. I was pained to read newspaper articles about things that Laestadians “were not allowed to do”. The question was about what I wanted to do or to choose!
But whose desire was it really all about?
I was not asked what I wanted, or what I felt was important. For instance, the negative stance on birth control was taken in the late 1960s at a meeting of preachers, where only men were present.

I knew already at the age of 13 that I did not want to be the mother of a big family. It was not until I was over the age of 20 that I said out loud that I cannot stand the idea of a big family. My friends answered that “you can’t know in advance what it will be like”.
I was supposed to simply trust that God would give me exactly the right number of children, even if I did not use birth control.
I knew that my mind could not handle such an experiment. I simply did not want to become pregnant reluctantly. My thoughts did not find resonance, because they resounded with the voice of reason, not that of faith.

Some felt that faith is that people are encouraged to push their reason aside in big matters. For me rejecting reason would have been an abandonment of my own psyche.
I was not ready to bend at all in the birth control question, or to hide my opinions. The security of the Laestadian community began to turn into insecurity.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Church Attendance & Torture Approval Connection

First I want to thank Ex-FALC for sharing her story. I hope we hear good news soon about her husband's cousin, kidnapped in Mexico.

Following is an article arguing that people are drawn to either authority or partnership (no matter what they call their "beliefs").

What do you think?

"In case you missed it, Pew released survey data showing that the more frequently someone went to church, the more likely they were to approve of torture. (So much for total depravity on the outside.) Church attendance in this case may be a proxy for conservative religious belief. Of the groups surveyed, Evangelical Christians were most likely to think that torture is often or sometimes ok (62%), followed by Catholics (51%), followed by mainline Protestants (46%). Nonbelievers were least likely to agree (40%)."