AMPed

I went out to San Dimas this weekend for the AMP (Apologetics-Mission-Partnership) Conference. Four speakers presented on Friday night, with six more on Saturday. For an Evangelical gathering, the speakers were surprisingly diverse. Several were unapologetic in their religious chauvinism, targeting Islam as well as “marginal” Christians. Others were surprisingly liberal, most markedly the scholar who asserted that between Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22, the Bible was a testimony to human error. This struck me because the organizing agency, Reasons to Believe, upholds the purpose of proving the inerrancy of the Bible.

The most stimulating talk was Dr. Ross on the geological processes that stabilized the climate long enough to allow homo sapiens to cover the earth. One chart in particular was mind-boggling: it turns out that prior to the Laurentian, temperatures oscillated in a 24 F range around the mean. The oscillation is driven by the gravitational dynamics of the solar system and the wobbles of Earth’s rotation, and is large enough that large-scale agriculture is impossible. But when the last Ice Age ended, temperatures settled into a 3 F band. No scientific explanation is known, but that stability allowed humanity to cover the planet and then turn its attention to religious and scientific inquiry.

Given my intentions out at Love Returns Ministry, the most valuable part of the event was the opportunities that I had to talk with young adults. A young man in high school walked up on Saturday morning to ask me whether I understood Dr. Ross’s reference to “large and small dimensions.” I don’t know why he imagined that I would be able to answer the question, but he got a survey of the problems in the reigning model of fundamental physics. He chased me down during the morning break, eager for my opinions. As the conversation unfolded, he revealed that he had taken the evolution side of the creation debate in class. When I suggested that Genesis was evolution, he was taken aback until I made the connection between photosynthesis and “Let there be light.”

Then there were three young adults, two caught up in conversation during breaks and one that I searched out to supplement the response she had been given by the presenter of a talk on how as a Christian to talk to youth about sex and relationships. I focused on two messages: first, that Islam was merely a compression of the Hebrew tutelage to faith, with a shift from history to psychological analysis of the Old Testament heroes. Secondly, I emphasized that the presence of love in the heart was the best guide to our relationships, with the ultimate goal of becoming “spiritual engineers.” I found myself doing most of the talking, but when I stopped to apologize, they all responded with variations of “No, thanks for sharing.”

Far better to receive that than the attentions of the scholars at RTB. They are all so terribly certain of the truths they propagate. What’s important to me, however, is that the future manifest new possibilities – the possibilities allowed by hearts and minds that commit themselves in service to Unconditional Love. A positive reception by the participants in that future (our young adults) tells me that I’m doing the right thing.

Rise of the Womanarchy

I hate negative memes. They offend and alienate needlessly. These, then, were the off moments for me during the Woman’s March in Portland: the signs proclaiming “Down with the Patriarchy.”

Really, girls? You expect that your sign is going to have any psychological effect on men that are rewarded by woman that sex them up to go out and rape and pillage on their behalf? Especially when the female instigators get to lurk in the background as MYSTERY, tossing aside men with broken spirits while blaming the victors for the carnage?

Hopefully my readers recognize the Biblical reference. There are two “beasts” in the Book of Revelation. They are nearly identical, differing only in that the first bears the number “666” while the second is colored red and ridden by a woman with MYSTERY blazoned on her brow.

“666” refers to the sixth day of creation that gave rise to the mammals. Not yet fully in control of their primitive urges, they swept across the globe, rising to ecological dominance in every realm except the air. It was only in man that the capacity of rationality rose to a level that would sustain the expression of Unconditional Love. The first beast was almost cast aside by the metal tools created by men, but it survived by entering into our religious experience with the spiritual aid of the serpent – the ghostly residue of the dinosaurs.

The red beast represents sexual control as the strategy for dominance developed by female mammals. In its primitive essence, the most effective literary rendering is the long introduction to Jack London’s White Fang. I read it out of curiosity when it was assigned to my son in middle school, finding it a little odd until I had to bring in a forgotten assignment and saw the sexier eighth grade girls flaunting their tits and asses on the lawn while the drooling boys jockeyed for position.

In Revelation, MYSTERY is destroyed when the red beast turns on her. I believe that bondage is broken when the mammalian females come to realize that MYSTERY does not care for their offspring – that the dominant females of homo sapiens will countenance the destruction of the global climate so long as they can use fossil fuels to maintain their personal comfort.

Trapped in his patriarchic mindset, unfortunately, John was unable to perceive the feminine virtues at work (the common theme in Revelation is that woman corrupt men through fornication). From the masculine side of the process, I am aware that love prevails only when the oppressed believe that they have a choice. This is the liberating power of the resurrection: not even death is a barrier to those that surrender fully to love. With that fear eliminated, masculine violence loses its power as a strategy for social dominance.

So what other choice do women have?

Jesus heralded the transformation of the patriarchy under the guidance of Unconditional Love: the rise of Manarchy, with the capitalization carrying the indications of Genesis. I have been seeking in this life to support a female partnership, a Womanarchy willing to subdue sexuality in the service of Unconditional Love. It is to perceive the womb as the sacred crucible in which spirit is joined to matter, thus the mechanism that can be used to call angels to guide that which is good through the era of duress that Gaia is to suffer.

I see the rising spirit of resistance against death in the hard-hitting political analysis offered in the teen girl magazines, and the strength of the criticism brought by Rachel Maddow and other female commentators. But criticism is not enough: if the joint power of the Patriarchy and Matriarchy is to be broken, woman must turn their powers to the service of Love.

Walk in the woods. Go to the zoo. See what is beautiful and good and offer your inmost self to its service. Give the red beast an alternative. Use your wombs to guide it into Unconditional Love. MYSTERY will not be destroyed, she’ll just become irrelevant.

From Grief to Power

A friend was offering a sermon on his birthday yesterday, dwelling on the contradiction between his grief over all the things that we are losing in this era, and the joy he finds in seeing his community interacting. When I had the opportunity to speak, I offered:

Grieving is the prequel to the opening of the door of our heart to a spirit that would otherwise be lost.

That opening is not easy, because the expression of Darwinian selfishness has left so many of them traumatized. But once they have settled in to the experience of being cherished, they look back into the world they have departed and reach out to those left behind, giving them assurance, strength and guidance.

“They” are trees, flowers, fish, birds, mice, whales, children: anything living that is being displaced by a disappearing or polluted ecosystem.

Over the years my conscious welcoming has gathered quite an entourage around me. From that community of displaced souls I draw my power, power that is expressed in the t-shirt I started wearing six months ago to dance celebrations. Across the shoulders are a right and left hand framing a head and a heart. The words are:

DANGER
Angel Gateways

They just want to be friends.
Please play nicely.

Exuberant Faith

In The Soul Comes First, in assessing the crippling effects of the heresy of Original Sin, I conclude:

The more serious fault […] is the conclusion that Humanity is a flaw in Creation. This is completely in opposition to the actual truth. Humanity is an essential and valued part of Creation, an element that is [be]held with the most tender concern and honored regard in recognition of the difficulty and importance of the work that we must perform, the pain and sacrifice involved in accomplishment of that work, and the joyous consequences of its eventual completion.

When I wandered with the Boy Scouts on backpacking trips, I would feel this shouted at me from the wilderness – the trees, birds and animals begging for relief from drought. When I paused to bless the land, raising my hands to remind the heavens that they suffered, one of the fathers snapped “Would you stop doing that?”

In my dialogs with those of conventional faith – once principally dogmatic Christians, but today including atheists – I am often dismayed by the energy they invest in running from the truth offered in that opening excerpt. I have come to understand that their rejection is rooted in the privilege of flesh that resists the primacy of spirit. For it is the flesh that suffers, and the spirit that reaps the joy.

Even Jesus struggled with that paradox, testifying at Gethsemane:

The sprit is willing, but the flesh is weak. [NIV Matt. 26:41]

This comment, at the end of his long journey of surrender to the limitations of his age, was prefaced by:

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. [NIV Matt. 26:39]

In that moment of weakness, with Simon Peter dosing nearby, I wonder if Jesus heard the echoes of the apostle’s complaint on the lake of Gennesaret. The fisherman, weary from his fruitless night and irked by Jesus’ commandeering of his boat as a podium, grudgingly responds to an encouragement to lower his nets in the deep water:

Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets. [NIV Luke 5:5]

And thus unfolds the little charade that Jesus had organized with the fishes, those quiet denizens of the waters that wait so patiently for us to assume our stewardship of the earth. Recognizing the Man that had come to show us the way, they spent the night lurking in the depths of the lake, teasing the fisherman. When the net enters the water at Jesus’ command, they surged exuberantly upwards, each calling to his fellows: “Come! Leap into the net! Show these fishermen his glory!”

But did Simon follow? No, condemned by religious teaching to believe that the sinner eclipses the saint, Simon falls to his knees and begs:

Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! [NIV Luke 5:8]

This is the second great obstacle to faith: the conviction that we are unworthy to serve love.

Simon Peter, by nature extravagant in all things, expresses this with physical extravagance. Again at the temple, he cannot just deny Jesus once and then depart; he must amplify his shame by lurking in the shadows, watching impotently so that he may deny Jesus twice more. What would have happened if, recalling the fish, he had stepped forward brazenly to cast his arm around Jesus’ shoulders and proclaimed, “Look at the dignity of this man! How could he not be God?”

Instead, Jesus went to the cross, bearing the weight of the dependence of all flesh upon sin, and caught Humanity in the net of his heart. Some still fight to escape that embrace, but I for one hunger for the company of those that leap exuberantly into faith.

Healing the Legacy of “Black Gold”

I was aware of the exploitation of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador by Texaco, and must admit to not being terribly surprised that similar offenses have occurred throughout the world. Reparations and restoration may be impossible, given the vast extent of the degradation. They will certainly bankrupt the industry – Ecuador alone represents a $27 billion liability to Chevron, which bought Texaco back in 2001.

The two European oil giants, Shell and BP, have both made forays into renewables. This piece from Platform London describes their uncomfortable attempts to muster the conviction to do what is right for the future.

In America we addressed the issue of culpability for environmental degradation with the Clean Air and Water Acts. Parts of the legal framework were moderately unfair: “joint and severable” liability meant that if a small-potatoes polluter dumped something into a landfill, non-polluters had to pay to clean up the mess. Even when a polluter was able to pay, the chemical  and oil industries have evolved a sophisticated array of legal practices to avoid financial liability, ranging from divestment of operations responsible for managing polluted sites all the way to bankruptcy.

As it became clear that the original Acts were not going to generate assets sufficient to undo decades of exploitation of workers and ecosystems, Congress responded with a broad tax on the industry. This recognizes that the benefits of exploitation accrued to the society as a whole, motivating local, state and federal elected officials to turn a blind eye to the effects of pollution. The Superfund Act recognized that society as a whole needed to take responsibility for the problem, and contribute through taxation to remedies.

I’m not certain whether those at Platform London and elsewhere recognize that we need to move beyond attempts to hold Big Oil responsible for its servicing of our addiction to fossil fuels. All of us, as citizens of an energy rich economy, need to do our part to contribute to a solution. That means a global pact to finance restoration and restitution.

Given the Brexit vote, it appears obvious that we lack the institutional means to negotiate that kind of commitment. What the activists might consider is that Big Oil itself may be a powerful and motivated partner in creating the conditions under which that negotiation can take place.

Trimmed to Size

I am in the third stage of down-sizing my living space, preparatory to relocation from a 1200 square-foot apartment with attached garage to a 700 square-foot space. Considering the expense of a storage unit, I have steeled myself to discard or donate everything except the bedroom set and my tech tools. I began the final purge and boxing up for the move last night, and stuff that had survived the first two cuts is now either piled up in the garage pending a trip down to Good Will, or sitting in the dumpster.

Strangely, the two collections represent very different aspects of my life.

The primary impetus for down-sizing is that my sons are off to college. I’ve held back their child-hood memorabilia, most of it stored under my bed, which is were it will be again after the move. The rest of me as a father is destined for Good Will, including the power tools that I used in fixing up the house their mother now lives in, the racks that stored their backpacking gear, and the last of the storage bins that held their craft supplies.

In the dumpster lies the record of my intellectual life, starting with the journals I wrote in college that marked the beginning of my attempts to understand the power of love and why it was so hard to transmit it. Also from that era are the remnants of the comic book collection that I accumulated up to the date of my marriage at thirty-five. More significant are the last of the evidence of my investment in Diagrammatic Programming, the systems analysis technology developed by my father who passed away just before New Years.

The furniture and appliances are no loss. But these things hurt somehow.

From the comic collection I did hold back my run of The Puma Blues. It’s been sitting on a wire rack for three months, but made it to my bed last night. My elbow began aching around 9:30, so I decided to turn in. Instead, I ended up propped up by my pillows, trying to decipher the faded scratches of the hand-lettered dialog, while a voice in the back of my head keep on observing “This was the only thing in your comic collection worth keeping.”

Puma Blues, which ran only 24 issues, charts the experience of Gavin, a young man confronted on all sides with the futility of the struggle against death. It was created by two Canadians with deep environmental sensitivities. The artwork lovingly captures the natural world, with a moodiness that sometimes makes it difficult to discern the minutiae of artificial existence.

Set at the turn of the millennia, the ecological context of Gavin’s life is terrifying: global warming, acidification, ozone depletion and nuclear terrorism have brought the natural world to the point of collapse. Strangely, in seeking refuge from hopelessness, Gavin finds himself posted at a nature preserve, monitoring the pH of a lake that is being limed to allow the fish to survive, and thus to support the rest of the ecosystem. But with too much free time on his hands, Gavin is brought to confront a more direct experience of mortality, in the form of videos made by his deceased father that consider darkly the larger question of humanity’s relationship to eternity.

The storyline offers two promises for healing, promises that I regret were barely formulated before the series was dropped. The first is the assertion by Gavin’s father that “rebellion is the beginning of faith.” In the backdrop of Gavin’s life, the rebellion is evident in his rootless refusal to engage society, and it is indeed that rebellion that allows him the opportunity to engage his father’s voice. But from my writings here, it might be gleaned that I believe that the whole of religious experience is a rebellion against our Darwinian programming. In both cases, rebellion manifests as a pig-headed refusal to participate in systems that create death.

This parallel will be offensive to lovers of nature, but I stand by it: while it is fashionable to believe that humanity has disrupted a natural balance, that is only true on the human time-scale. Looking at ecology even on the time-frame of tens of thousands of years, and we see a constant rising and falling of species and ecosystems. There is no stability, and the instability brought by death was the agency of our evolution.

Gavin resists faith, however, even though the second promise for healing is nothing less than an absolute miracle. Symbolically, it reflects the hope of life itself, a hope that it will find some way to outgrow the disasters that humanity is visiting upon it. Along with his environmental monitoring duties, Gavin is occasionally ordered to seek out and “transmute” aerial manta rays. Physiologically, there is no concession in the artwork to biological necessity. The rays sport gills, and flutter their wings gracefully as though under water. But they fly through the air none-the-less. Obviously, the only explanation for their survival is access to some other form of energy, a form that is not channeled by the normal metabolic means.

This is the promise that I offered my sons all through their childhood. While I try not to show it, it hurts now to hear them enthuse about terraforming Mars (to which I think: “Really – invest all that energy so we can move there and screw it up?”) or spread nanoscale sensors all over the Earth (“Disrupting the digestion of the insects and worms just as our plastic refuse does that of the birds and fish?”). I do understand, of course: they must survive in a culture that abases itself before its technological avatars, because they offer the promise of complete control of the world through the use of digital technology.

But the problem, as I see it, is in seeking control.

Here’s an experience: I was working at a climate change modelling institute in 2004, back when the fossil fuel industry really began to push back against the scientific community. The ozone layer was a serious concern: the CFCs used for foam production and refrigeration catalyzed the breakdown of ozone, thereby allowing cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation through the atmosphere. While replacements had been found, the chlorine atoms at fault would remain in the atmosphere for decades.

As a physicist, I was mulling one day over the thought that neutrinos from the sun could catalyze electron emission from a neutron in the chlorine nucleus, transforming it into argon, which is chemically inert. Thinking more and more deeply about this, I visualized the neutrino field being emited from the sun, and then honed my attention on the thin shell of the atmosphere. I felt other minds joining mine, and then a frission of energy.

A few weeks later, one of the climate modelers came by after church to say: “We were pretty worried about the ozone layer, but it seems like it wasn’t such a big problem after all.”

And so I find myself a little disjointed today, juxtaposing my promise of hope against the paranoia of Gavin’s father, whose faith manifests as belief in UFOs and the hope that some higher species is standing in the wings to engineer our salvation. Neither my sons nor the authors of Puma Blues seemed ready to proclaim that we are the intervention. We are the tool by which God conquers Darwinian violence.

We just need our rebellion against death to mature into a surrender to love.

Then What are 1000 Pictures Worth?

Reports of the dimming of the star KIC 8462852 have been debunked, causing SETI to revise its claims to have proven the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. The news also caused a crash in Appalachian coal futures, as CO2 sequestration speculators cancelled orders.

One insider, speaking anonymously to avoid being labelled as a “Koch-head,” revealed “when my employers were convinced that no earthly engineering team could dig an ocean through the Rockies, they were hoping that the ETs would do the work in the course of removing the sub-surface CO2 stockpiles they were hoping to establish in New Mexico and Arizona. No ETs, no CO2 sequestration, no last-grasp strip-mining in Appalachia. Oh well, there’s always that land trade for the Panama Canal!”

More seriously: it turns out that the original study of KIC 8462852, drawing upon analysis of old photographic plates, had failed to account for differences in the equipment used to capture the pictures. By comparing the apparent brightness of KIC 8462852 to that of other stars in the plates, it was determined that the the relative brightness had not changed.

Systematic effects (related to the design of the experimental system) were also a large factor in fueling the “cold-fusion” hype that I got involved in debunking back in the ’80s.