Category: Nature

John Cobb and Jennifer Grancio

Spiritual Bankruptcy, by John Cobb, was the focus of several posts, beginning 9/25/22. One Cobb sentence lingers with me: Being religious tends to confirm existing patterns of behavior or even those of ancestors rather than encourage drastic innovation.

I thought of Cobb when I heard Barry Ritholtz interview Jennifer Grancio, CEO of investment company Engine No. 1. Grancio’s company sees sustainability as essential for long-term profitability. It’s just common sense, but some corporations don’t think enough about the long term. It made me wonder if I helped my congregations think enough about the long term.

Cobb and Grancio come from different perspectives to share a common theme, described in Wikipedia’s article about Cobb: A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence–the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends….

Engine No. 1’s first project was Exxon Mobil, which Grancio and company believed had not addressed long term issues facing a changing oil and gas industry. They successfully elected three new directors to the Exxon board, noting … the changes it has made … including maintaining capital allocation discipline, setting more aggressive GHG emissions reduction targets, and increasing resources for its Low Carbon Solutions business unit.

From “Can Engine No 1 lead Wall Street to ‘beyond investment as usual’?” by Billy
Grider, Climate & Capital Media, April 13, 2022

After the “longest night”

What a privilege to be alive during the era of lunar exploration and the James Webb telescope! These technologies amplify the beauty of this oasis we call Earth. The ancients intuitively understood this blessing from ground level. Jeremiah spoke of the God who lights up the day with sun and brightens the night with moon and stars, who whips the ocean into a billowy froth.

Two millennia before Jeremiah, around 3200 BCE, some people built a tunnel to direct the sun’s rays at the winter solstice to a special “passage tomb” at Newgrange, Ireland, 66 kilometers north of Dublin. Today, it’s a popular, year-round tourist site. Each December, a lottery is held to allow a small group of people to participate in a special sunrise winter solstice celebration.

Newgrange is one of the more fascinating places on Earth. Several short videos provide a glimpse into this historic tribute to ancient mystical ingenuity, including a 2 1/2 minute clip from National Geographic, others from Irish Central, and an essay by Ciaran Vipond with a brief video.

From “Winter Solstice at Newgrange–Inside the Passage Tomb,” a 2 1/2 minute segment of an interview with Professor Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, by RTE, the Irish public broadcast service.

All belong

An oasis is a clarifying space. Our swirling world of competing values and ideologies generates much noise and confusion. Sabbath is a “time out” for rest and refreshment. Oasis is a physical sabbath, a sanctuary, a Garden of Eden where clarity appears.

I’m grateful for the bits and pieces of sabbath, of oasis, I’ve experienced in 72 years. Today, as I begin my 73rd year on Earth, I’m particularly grateful for finding a new sense of home, of peace on earth, and goodwill toward all people–an oasis.

I’m grateful for a faith community that doesn’t embrace conformity to culture, that seeks to be an inclusive space for persons to grow, to ask questions, and to live into their God-given, grace-shaped identity, expressed in Sunday’s prayer of confession:

God of mercy, a million times a day we have the opportunity to be gracious, to assume the best in others, to give the benefit of the doubt. A million times a day we could choose the better way, but so often we don’t. Fear and greed kick in. Assumptions and insecurities take the wheel. Comparison and critique lead the charge. Forgive us for forgetting that all belong to you. Give us the courage to love even bigger than before, and the wisdom to choose a better way. Amen.

From “Earth: Our Living Planet,” a 2 1/2 minute video by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, The SeaWiFS Project and GeoEye, Scientific Visualization Studio, November 28, 2017

Pre-winter hope

This year the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice will occur at 3:47 pm (CT) on December 21. So, daylight diminishes for nine more days until winter arrives, when daylight begins its gradual increase.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, some hot coffee, tea or chocolate can help. Even better, some hopeful news stories have appeared in this pre-winter season. Last night came word of a hopeful clean energy breakthrough in fusion technology.

Yesterday, Volodymyr Zelensky held talks with Joe Biden and with the leaders of France and Turkey, amid reports of a flurry of diplomatic activity. In his nightly video address to Ukraine, he said he expects some “important results” in the days ahead.

Yesterday’s worship service at First Church included this affirmation of faith from Sarah Speed:

We believe in a God who offers second chances and does not hold grudges. … who opens the door to new life and leaves the porch light on for us when we get lost. … who believes in us–believes that we can make a difference, that we can choose grace over comparison, love over hate, peace over war. And so we strive to live our lives in love. We strive to listen as Joseph listened, and to be the people that God calls us to be. It’s all that easy, and it’s all that hard. This we believe. Amen.

From “Is the Universe on Our Side?“, a Daily Meditation from Center for Action and Contemplation,” December 11, 2022, which includes this thought: Reality can be trusted. We don’t need to pull all the right strings or push all the right buttons. Grace is everywhere. It’s good to be here. Life is perhaps difficult, but it is still good and trustworthy at the core. (Photo by Benjamin Yazza, Albuquerque, NM.)

Breakthrough markers

In the “Future of Christianity” summit (mentioned yesterday), Richard Rohr said: To pass on anything that lasts, you need a healthy container. … Until the middle of the last century, we lived almost worldwide in tribal consciousness. It was easy to build a container because we lived and thought as members of a group.

But this … began to fall apart. We made too many friends, we met too many holy and healthy people outside of our container. Consciousness itself has moved beyond tribal consciousness in many parts of the world. … Pope Francis talks in a universal, nature-based, natural religion, psychologically and anthropologically astute. There’s no reason to reject that if you’re healthy. There’s no reason to react against that.

There are clearly those who want to hold onto their tribe and that’s okay. I had my tribe most of my life. I dressed like my tribe. I don’t need that over-identification anymore, and I dare say none of this group does. But we don’t hate it, do we? We don’t laugh at it. We don’t reject it. It’s quaint, and sweet, and nice, and good. But, it’s over.

Brian McLaren responded that Pope Francis wants his message to communicate with Catholics, but he wants to communicate more broadly, which can be an example for us: Going forward, we’re continuing some old tribal identities but we’re also trying to transcend them. Rohr said, We’re doing both: the particular and the universal.

Can we live authentically rooted in our particular tribe while connecting universally with others as we affirm our common humanity and embrace the best principles of our various faiths?


Piranha politics

Continuing yesterday’s post … Independent Angus King caucuses with the Democrats. That’s my position. In 2020, I contributed to Doug Jones’ senate reelection campaign and to Joe Biden’s campaign. When Alabama traded Jones for Tommy Tuberville it was like the Yankees trading Aaron Judge for me,

My 2020 contributions put me on Democratic email lists coast-to-coast. It’s a diverse party with close-knit computers. “Every Democrat has asked for your help and you haven’t responded.” This year I’ve made one gift, to Doug Jones’ Right Side of History PAC. The endless requests are numbing.

Donald Trump’s fundraising tactics are well-known. Republican appeals are as intense as Democrats’. Once labor intensive campaigns are now capital intensive. Costly TV ads and the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision have made public servants and office-seekers continuous fund-raisers.

With apologies to the Piranha, today’s urgent fund-raising feels like being surrounded by a school of Piranha. It’s a dehumanization and commoditization of democracy. Many potentially great leaders quit, disillusioned by the central role of money in politics. The soul of the nation is up for sale.

From “Piranha,”

The gift of time

This morning I awoke with an appreciation for longevity. The privilege of accompanying relatives and friends through the latter stages of life has taken away my fear of old age. I’ve been inspired by those who have proactively exercised their agency deep into old age.

Later this morning I was part of an Old Testament discussion with some thoughtful, insightful souls, which included conversation about this quote from Erich Fromm’s You Shall Be As Gods:

…the Sabbath is the expression of the central idea of Judaism: the idea of freedom; the idea of complete harmony between humanity and nature, harmony among humans; the idea of the anticipation of the messianic time and of humanity’s defeat of time, sadness, and death.

My friend Marnie was intrigued by “humanity’s defeat of time….” Maybe Fromm meant freedom from the tyranny of time. We feel pressed. It may seem we have not enough time. We hurry, turning Highway 280 into the Talladega Speedway. Sabbath helps us recognize and prioritize the gift of time.

From “The Ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos–the difference?Greek City Times, August 14, 2022


Life, as I experience it, consists of multiple layers of reality. Each layer requires some of my/our attention all the time, and at times one layer will require a larger-than-usual share of my/our attention. At present, family ties are forefront as we help my aunt relocate to her new home.

Football, the stock market, current news events, myriad urgent pleas from Democrats for money, helping church friends understand the current trend toward congregationalism, thinking, writing, teaching, participating in several groups, email, phone calls–will resume and find a new balance.

For now, my consciousness of several layers is cursory and fragmented–bits and pieces of reality not in sharp focus at the moment. We all experience this disruption when illness, natural disaster, or some major life change occurs (childbirth, divorce, grief, job relocation, new residence, etc.).

My current fragmentary moment gives me great respect for my aunt’s inner strength and her ability to “hold it together” as the glue of memory becomes less reliable. We talk about family a great deal. I repeat her stories and sometimes she says, “I don’t think I know that story.” It’s re-membering.

As the world demands pseudo-certainty, I find humor and healing in that each of us is, all of us are, trying to hold it together. I’ll reflect on a few swirling fragments–one by one– in coming posts.

A hurricane has a way of re-ordering the various “layers” of one’s life. From “Three Ways to Build Back Smarter After Hurricane Ian,” by Elana Shao, The New York Times, October 3, 2022

Warriors’ Path

The more I learn about American history, the more I realize that I dont know very much. Our next-to-last camping destination on this trip was the Warriors’ Path State Park near Kingsport, Tennessee. It’s named for a warrior and trading path that was in use for centuries by Native Americans in the Virginia and Tennessee region. It was a path used by wildlife and by Cherokee in the south and Shawnee in the north who were hunting wildlife for food.

The full scope of the The Great Warriors’ Path extended from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The path’s history reminds me of early European settlers and their descendants (such as Daniel Boone) who led the great European migration westward from Virginia, North Carolina and other eastern colonies. The history of interaction between Europeans and Native Americans includes periods of strife and periods of peaceful coexistence.

As we ponder the natural beauty of this region, I acknowledge the injustices visited upon the original inhabitants of his land by our European ancestors. On this day, I choose to focus on stories of gentleness and neighborliness. Our checkered history motivates me to work for justice and reconciliation. The need is pervasive. Every culture has its stories of virtue and less than virtue.

I’ve done a little reading about justice initiative related to the native people of Australia. I want to put my weight behind “the arc of the moral universe,” which is long, but “bends toward justice.”

From “Native American History on the Appalachian Trail: 9 Iconic Places,” by Kelly Floro, The Trek, October 12, 2020