Abundance, Diversity, and Death

Nature values life in abundance. The very soil beneath our feet is evidence of this truth, a testament to the untold abundance of all that has lived and died since life’s first humble beginnings here on earth. In equal measure, nature values diversity of life. Anyone who has ever strived to maintain a weed-free lawn can testify to this truth, as can anyone who has ever pondered the existence of the infectious diseases that so often plague us.
Abundance and diversity, these twin values ultimately work in concert with each other, despite appearing to engage in mortal combat from time to time. Like when an abundance of foxes decimates a population of hares, annihilating diversity in the process; or when the abundant crop that we’d hoped for doesn’t materialize on account of the insects, weeds, fungus, or disease that came to call "our" garden home. Notwithstanding the inevitable ebb and flow in the short term, abundance and diversity do eventually come to exist in harmony with…

The Insufficiency of Intention

“It’s the thought that counts.”
These words have a certain ring of truth to them, don’t they? On the other hand, a friend once related to me a story of how she put a lot of thought into choosing a gift for her daughter which, while perfect in every other way, happened also to be of a particular color that was rather abhorrent to the little girl. But it wasn’t just a dislike of a color. The real issue was that the little girl felt unheard.  She felt unknown – by her own mother nonetheless! Didn’t her mother know that she didn’t care for that color? I can relate, actually. As a young adult beginning to walk a path of vegetarianism, I was presented one Christmas with a beautiful leather jacket. It was quite expensive, too, which meant that accepting it with a smile and then never wearing it again seemed like a woefully inappropriate thing to do. And all the while we were having the discussion as to why I could not accept it, I just couldn’t help thinking of all the times meat had been fo…

Cargo Cults and Climate Change

I was having a social media conversation with a climate communicator friend the other day. He’d posted a video by the much lauded Bill Nye the Science Guy that fairly closely followed the talking points many climate change realists use when speaking about climate change: 1. It’s real. 2. It’s man-made. 3. We can do something about it. Check out the video here if you’re so inclined. 
On the one hand it’s a great video – engaging, educational, and hopeful. On the other hand, with the exception of a brief mention of the potential for gains in efficiency, the take-home message is fairly one-dimensional – vote. Without any actionable suggestions as to how to address rampant consumerism or population growth, without ever mentioning our insidious and ubiquitous belief that we’re entitled to take from the earth whatever we want in order to fulfill even our most trivial desires, it just ends. Vote. Just vote.
By all means vote! Vote for politicians who support valid climate research and have …

Beginning Anew

Perhaps it would be easier if each new year began in spring – when dry stalks pulse again with green, and pregnant buds begin to burst; when the color of renewal is everywhere, and the light of each new day comes calling: “Greet me with full measure of your life force!” So much easier it is to think of new beginnings when all around us is rebirth! How can we not join in when it is so? But no, the year begins in the coldest depths of winter – when our days begin in darkness, and we muddle through their grayness clutching our collars with our hats pulled low, wishing for nothing other than to slumber long and late, with the mind of a cocooning being for whom life resides in the in between.
Nonetheless, we greet the year with noisy revelry and bluster. We rage against the dying of the light with plans for what we think should be. We huddle with those we love on the eve of a brand new year – reminiscing of what has been, so filled with hope for days to come. But then we wake up all alone…

The Hunger That Keeps This Whole Thing Going

A couple of months ago I once again hiked the trail that, earlier in the spring, had inspired me to compose that very ominous post: When Faith in the Earth Betrays Us. This time, though, it was an entirely different experience. The air was calm. The leaves were full, and various luscious shades of green. Sure enough, ample evidence remained of the circumstances that had prompted me to write that earlier post. Numerous fallen trees and limbs still blocked the trail. But there was also much more abundant evidence that life would not be subdued. Life, it seemed during this hike, was indomitable. In fact, life was so indomitable, it seemed that the entire forest was literally breathing as one. Yes, literally!

It started softly at first, almost inaudibly. The rhythmic rising and falling of sound became just barely perceptible only to disappear again amongst the chatter of birds and the rustling of leaves. When it returned it was a little bit louder, and distinctly like the sound of breath…

A Nudge Toward Repentance

Every once in a while I experience an apparent synchronicity of events that leaves me musing about the possible existence of some greater intelligence acting in our day to day lives. That such God-like intelligence might be tweaking events in our lives is a foregone conclusion for some. Others are inclined to pass off these occurrences as mere coincidence that the perceiving individual chooses to invest with whatever meaning might be appropriate to him or her. I’m fairly agnostic on the matter. However, regardless of how we might think they came to be, such interesting collections of events can serve to focus our attention on lessons that might be worthwhile to learn, or relearn, as the case may be. For instance, here’s a recent occurrence of “synchronicity” in my life:
Event #1: I was heading home from work last Friday afternoon when I decided to make a detour for an early dinner. I made a right turn at a busy intersection and then quickly maneuvered into the left lane in order to ma…

Healing Awareness

One of the highlights of my work is that it allows me to meet people from all over the world right here in my hometown. A few days a month I help out with an organization that provides assistance to immigrants and refugees who are new to the St. Louis area. I try not to pry or ask unnecessary questions, but often enough I become privy to stories of great pain and hardship. Youths from Sudan and Somalia, women from war-torn Congo, victims of Bhutanese and Bosnian ethnic cleansing, endangered translators from Iraq and Afghanistan – I feel honored and privileged to be a part of their lives. Hopefully I’m able to provide some measure of hope and healing to them after having experienced far too much of the darkness of this troubled and chaotic world.

The other day I was speaking with a young man whose entire family still remains back in one of the cities most devastated by the Syrian civil war. He fled there without many of the documents that all of us here in the U.S. would just assume w…