Kairos

Beltane                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

Linneaous   Flower Clock

Linneaous Flower Clock

I last posted here after a trip to Tucson, Arizona in 2014. In retrospect it’s not odd that it’s been so long since I came back to this blog. It was in April of that year, in a spirit of reflection occasioned by the long drive and the inner work of the Ira Progoff Intensive Journal retreat I’d attended, that Kate and I decided to move to Colorado. The move took over our life together and the move itself didn’t really terminate until well into 2015  when we had both adjusted to the oxygen scarcity at 8,800 feet.

A bout of prostate cancer, an increasingly painful arthritic left knee, Jon and Jen’s divorce, total knee replacement and Kate’s rough time since then has distracted me. But now I’ve returned. My passion remains creating a sustainable human presence on the earth, following Thomas Berry’s conviction that this task is the Great Work of our generation.

Chambered_Nautilus_ShellI’ve imagined that my primary contribution to this work would be political, a strategy I’ve embraced for many years. Now though I’m focused on something less political, a reimagining of faith that can constantly remind us of the reverence we owe to the earth, the sun, the mystery of life. Reimagining faith will occupy me until I’ve written a short book proposing a way to reenchant our daily life, a way to find wonder in the everyday, to locate the holy not far away or in some ritualized observance, but in the here and now.

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry scientist, wrote in a 1968 paper, ”In the end we will conserve only what we love…wiki  And so the question is how do we love the earth, the sun, the universe? They have conspired to bring us all to this moment when the survival of the human species may be in the balance. This is, after all, the critical reality: it is not the earth that is in danger, not the sun, not the vastness of our cosmos, but humanity. Our actions, unwitting until recently, have brought us to a moment of kairos: a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action, the opportune and decisive moment, as Merriam-Webster defines it.

Seasonal-roundKairos in its Greek origin is a counterpoint to chronos, our familiar and assumed understanding of time as sequential and linear: where past present and future separate cleanly and finally, moment by moment. Kairos is a sort of time when matters crystallize, when events are ripe for change, important change. It takes no special genius to see that our time is such a moment, a moment filled with kairotic potential.

Even with the spiral understanding of time that I embrace, seasons turning, pushing forward, but always returning to the same phase of life’s regularity, moments of kairos can occur. This one, when our most powerful elected official turns his back on global solidarity, when the CO2 in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million, when hottest years and biggest storms get surpassed often, when scientists suggest we have only a few decades to slow climate change (not eliminate it, but slow it), we have reached a moment of kairos. And it is our moment.

 

 

Healing Early Wounds

Imbolc                                                              Hare Moon

The gifts people carry astound me.  Tonight at the St. Patrick’s day ceremony of corned Crimapobeef, cabbage, mashed potatoes and Irish soda bread Frank brought in as a guest a friend of his Chholing Taha.  Chholing is a Cree woman who had a difficult road back to her native heritage.  At 3 she was taken from her people and adopted by a German couple who lived across the border in Niagra Falls, New York.  Why this happened was not explained to her.

She grew up full of rage and “culturally schizophrenic” walking in two worlds at once. Through a pull that seemed almost genetic she visited sweats, went to the sun dance, got an Indian name from a Blackfoot medicine man and finally did four fasts over a period of four years.  These were not easy nor were they obvious answers to her bifurcation, but they seem to have brought her to a peaceful place, a place where bitterness and anger do not dominate her.

She is an artist with terrific imagery, color and composition, part of a current generation of native artists that draw from deep within their heritage and themselves.  She dreams her works, whole, then records what she sees.

At the end of the evening she smudged us with sage that had been used in a sun dance Creeand gave us each a seeing.  She believes everything is visible, that the world is transparent and if you look, you can see.  She said Tom was comfortable with life, she saw him clad in flannel shirts and wandering the north country.  To Frank she said, brushing him as she did all of us with her eagle feather fan, “They continue to say not to worry.”

Charlie Haislet reminded her of the light in the meadow; Scott sees things at their elemental level.  To me she said I had a precise mind, able to see something small and learn much.  And that I would do amazing things.  It surprised me, brought me tears to my eyes.  It felt as if she had called my name, a name I didn’t know I had.

Her stories and her presence were, as Frank said, remarkable.

Know Your Numbers

Winter                                                            Seed Catalog Moon

I’ve finished the first two lessons and the first week of Climate Change in 4 Dimensions. There is so much here already.   First is how simple the proofs are for the reality of climate change.  And how they might be difficult to believe at first.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the best example.  It’s expressed in ppm’s or parts per million.  At its pre-industrial revolution norm it was around 280 ppm’s.  Now, if you check out the latest ppm data from Mauna Loa on CO2 Now, it was at 396.1 ppm.  That’s parts per million.  Here’s a graphic to make it harder to grasp CO2′s significance:

atmosphere composition

 

How, any sensible person might ask, can such a tiny, tiny portion of the atmosphere create problems?  Here’s the answer.  Nitrogen and oxygen, the major components of earth’s atmosphere are transparent to sunlight coming and going.  That is, they don’t impeded it in either direction.  CO2, methane, water vapor, and nitrous oxide, these last three in even smaller ppm’s than CO2, are transparent to sunlight coming into the atmosphere.  They let it get through.

They are not, however, transparent to infrared energy transmitted back out into space.  Their relatively homogenous presence over the whole globe, due to the mixing factor of the winds, means that their effect is felt worldwide.   Their amount of opaqueness is sufficient to force back to the lower atmosphere and surface of the earth infrared energy.  If you want a brief summary of these mechanism, go here.*

 

 

*Here’s what all scientists agreed they knew by 1988

To stay at a constant temperature, the Earth must radiate as much energy as it receives from the Sun. We receive this energy mostly as visible light which warms the surface. Being much cooler than the Sun, the Earth radiates most of its energy as infrared rays. A calculation using basic laws of physics shows that a planet at our distance from the Sun, emitting the same total amount of energy as it receives, will have a temperature well below freezing. Then why is the actual average surface temperature higher, about 14°C? Infrared radiation beaming up from the surface is intercepted by “greenhouse” gas molecules in the lower atmosphere, and that keeps the lower atmosphere and the surface warm. The radiation that finally escapes is mostly emitted from higher levels of the atmosphere, levels that are indeed well below freezing (-18°C, for details see the essay on simple models).

The nitrogen and oxygen gases that make up most of the atmosphere don’t intercept infrared radiation. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2). The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was observed to be rising rapidly, and the only reasonable explanation was that this was due to the enormous emissions from human activities.

A rather straightforward calculation showed that doubling the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere… which would arrive in the late 21st century if no steps were taken to curb emissions… should raise the temperature of the surface roughly one degree C. However, a warmer atmosphere would hold more water vapor, which ought to cause another degree or so of warming. Beyond that the calculations got problematic. Cloudiness was likely to change in ways that could either enhance or diminish the warming, and scientists did not understand the complex processes well. Moreover, humanity was emitting ever increasing amounts of smoke and other pollution; again scientists were not sure how this might affect climate. Only better observations and computer models could attempt to project the outcome.

Tribes of the Great Wheel

Winter                                                        Seed Catalog Moon

There are, it seems to me, many tribes interested in the same field of knowledge and, if Wheel-of-Year-by-OZ.jpgI may call it that, spirituality, that Great Wheel hopes to represent.

Here are a few of them; there are no doubt more:  organic gardeners, permaculturists, organic farmers, consumers of organic foods, gardeners, biodynamic gardeners and farmers, grass fed beef folk and their like, the slow food movement, the local food movement, CSA farmers, CSA consumers, food co-op suppliers, workers, members and customers, folks like the International Ag Labs folks, beekeepers, maybe bird watchers, the back-to-the land remnant and environmentalists of many stripes.

Yes, many of them overlap, share members.  Even so, a sizable number of folks in the U.S. belong to one tribe or another.  I intentionally use the word tribe because these movements are often insular and purist, dedicated to their way and the path it suggests.  And that’s fine.  Why not work hard at what you believe?

Here’s what I hope.  I hope Great Wheel can be a gathering spot for folks of like mind, but perhaps not of like method.  I hope it can be a place where the commonness of our vision gets honed, those overlaps get celebrated, the essential vision sharpened.

The work of the late Thomas Berry, in particular his small book, the Great Work, holds out the promise of that common ground.  At least I think it does.  He says the Great Work of our time is the development of a sustainable human presence on this planet.  I believe all the tribes I’ve mentioned here can at least agree on this as a primary goal, if not the primary goal, of all of our work.