Little Creatures

As I progress through the video series at Love Returns, I’m having more and more trouble keeping myself anchored. Time and space, life and death, nature and design: it all winds together more thickly around my mind.

At Dance Tribe on Sunday, I felt disconnected, as though some part of me was missing from the experience – or something else was in control. Half-way through, I focused intently, and found myself thinking about the phytoplankton whose shells are dissolving. While higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide warm the air, causing the most immediate threat to human civilization, they also increase carbolic acid in the oceans. This is bleaching coral reefs and impeding the maturation of phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton are the base of the oceanic food chain, and the greatest source of the oxygen gas that we breathe to fuel our metabolism.

Their message was simple: “We can’t do it any more.”

I fell into a deep-rooted grief that built until I was concerned that it would disrupt the celebration. Taking down my gear from the shelves, I headed for the exit, only to be stopped by these lyrics:

Black lives matter.
Children lives matter.
Police lives matter.
Judge lives matter.

The grief spilled over, then, and I started sobbing, face turned to the heavens. After a time, another man leaned his head into my shoulder. I finally pulled myself together, set my gear down, and went back out on the floor.

It was different. My muscle cells seemed to float as though on an ocean swell. Bones forgotten, it was all about the tissue rising and falling, until I tumbled over onto the floor.

And then the second phase: protective tissues. Lower extremities anchored firmly as though to the ocean floor, my arms and head swayed in the air, fluid, the currents of the air rolling along and around them.

The then the final phase: shells, the calcium accretions that became our bones. Joints and alignments came into focus.

In Psalms, this echo rolls back from the Messiah:

I am less than a worm.

Not less, in that moment, but of and from. They are still inside us, those simple things.

And they are dying.

In the closing circle, we were asked to state our names and offer a word that summarized our experience in the dance. I blurted out my name, but concealed that word that was presented to me.

Destruction.

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.

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.

Don’t Blame Love

In the final chapter of Love Works, the feminine personality of life, irritated by the disorder generated by the masculine personality of intellect, grabs him by the short hairs, prompting him to observe:

Choice is a bitch. Let’s hope the kids do better next time. Now, will you let go? (How does she make it hurt so much?)

It’s undeniable that the spread of life across the earth has been driven by primitive urges.

Life’s procreative greed causes ecosystems to become saturated, stunting evolutionary opportunity. The great extinction episodes of paleohistory terminated biological dead-ends, and were all followed by eras in which life took off in new directions.

Conversely, the ability to use tools requires a large brain and flexible digits, both of which limit the growth of organic armor (which traps heat) and organic weapons (which must be anchored to large bones). Thus creatures of intellect such as humans are biologically vulnerable, and so spread only when they can produce tools that overcome the weapons and armor of other animals.

Once those tools were available, however, fear and greed drove us to consume natural resources without restraint, bringing the globe today to the point of ecological collapse. Deflecting the force of these natural tendencies is the challenge we have laid at love’s door.

In the history of religion, that struggle began with the worship of the two polar opposites of procreation and death. With the rise of the hydrological civilizations, an intellectual class of priests began to envision gods with subtle ethical character. But it was really only about 3000 years ago (and only among the intellectual elite) that humanity dared to suppose the gods should be devoted to us, rather than the other way around.

Monotheism is the culmination of this process, and led eventually to the declaration that God is love. This is common to all of the great religions.

But is it to our advantage? Given that we have free will, why should we feel constrained to draw only upon love when we face challenges? When our treasurer embezzles the retirement fund, do we just shrug our shoulders? Or do we get a noose? And when the hanging is done, can’t we justify the act with the assertiong that we are loving our spouse, children and/or co-workers?

The retort to this logic is that if you had really cared about your treasurer and paid attention to her psychological well-being, you would have seen the trouble long before it manifested. But, damn, that seems like a lot of work, and didn’t we pay them to do the right thing? So we keep the noose handy, and that means that the old deities of death get in through the back door of our religions. They stay alive there, and as ecological collapse sweeps across the globe, they will appear once again to grow in power.

But, fundamentally, they are the disease. Sexual indulgence and fear of death are what drove us to exploit the natural world. That love did not have a magic wand to drive them away is not its fault. So we need to stop blaming monotheistic religions for our refusal to hew to the dictates of love. Rather, we need to double down, even as fear sweeps over us, and invest in the love that creates the strength to resist the urge to exploit the world around us.