Category: Nature

Remaining hopeful

My third read of the day is Today’s Edition Newsletter, written by California attorney Robert B. Hubbell. It’s a free email distributed by Substack. This resource was recommended by some guys in my weekly Fullness of Love group shortly after I learned of it through Morning Rounds by blogger Rita Clagett.

Hubbell’s theme is “A reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” He’s a tenacious attorney, passionate and partisan, though primarily focused on the US Constitution. He’s a tour de force, providing essential legal background for the day’s news. I think of him as Jamie Raskin on steroids.

Hubbell saves me an enormous amount of time by condensing important news stories with a hopeful tone. A daily dose of Richard Rohr, Heather Cox Richardson and Robert Hubbell puts my day within the context of faith, freedom and hope. Together, they help me stay oriented to life’s greatest theme: love.

Hubbell’s August 30 installment of Today’s Edition Newsletter, “A coward’s bluff” unpacks the legal issues surrounding the current investigations into Donald Trump. Hubbell referenced a new free Substack blog by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance. Hubbell ended this edition with:

As always, we have plenty of reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent.

From “A Conversation with Robert at the Los Angeles Arboretum,” with Jill Hubbell, November 8, 2020, via YouTube, about his blog that began on the day Donald Trump was elected president. The Hubbells’ daughters were devastated by the election. He writes Today’s Edition Newsletter to keep them informed and to give them hope. I’m one of many thousands of readers who eavesdrop on this resource.

Always present in subtle ways

Yesterday, I began reading Sarah Appleton-Weber’s 2003 translation of Pierre Teilhard’s The Human Phenomenon. Appleton-Weber (1930-2013) wrote: This translation is dedicated to the memory of Ida Treat Bergerer, paleontologist, journalist, and writer, who was my teacher at Vassar College and in whose home in 1952 I first saw a photo portrait of Teilhard and first heard his name.

Brian Swimme’s Foreword mentions his mid-career “search for wisdom” that directed him to Aurelio Peccei’s statement that “Our best hope is Thomas Berry.” Swimme expressed to Berry his “misery and confusion” about the destruction of the planet. Berry gave him Teilhard’s The Human Phenomenon, saying: To see as Teilhard saw is a challenge but increasingly his vision is becoming available to us. I fully expect that in the next millennium, Teilhard will be regarded as the fourth major thinker of the western Christian tradition. These would be St. Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Teilhard.

Swimme’s Foreword concludes:

…what is needed now for the universe’s unfolding story is not a new galaxy or a new star. What is needed now is a new form of human being.

Begin your study of Teilhard with the confidence that … the creative intelligence of the universe … is always present in subtle ways. … and … swooped into your life with the aim of transforming you into a power that can participate in our great work of building a vibrant Earth Community.

When Teilhard’s sculptor friend Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) sent him a photo of her bronze Elemental Man statue in 1939, he had completed his original French manuscript of Le phénomène humain. He told her that he hoped a photograph of her “Man emerging out of the elemental forces” statue would be on the frontispiece of the book, which he planned to publish after World War II ended. The Jesuit order (and the Vatican) did not allow it to be published during his lifetime. Hoffman’s statue is on the campus of Syracuse University.

Sentient beings

My engineer/scientist friend Ernie knows his way around the cosmos. He has helped numerous people grasp its history. Correction–make that our history. I objectified the universe, referring to our home as “it,” like a static thing in a museum, rather than our dynamic, evolving home. The James Webb telescope is sending us images of solar systems that are no longer existent. Lots can happen in a few billion years.

A few months ago I listened via Zoom to Ernie’s presentation about where earth fits into the history of the universe, and where humanity fits into the history of earth. My mind and my emotions were stirred when Ernie mentioned the unimaginable privilege we have to exist as sentient beings in the vast scope of the space and time represented by the universe.

Genesis 1 is a “great liturgical poem” about creation. Reflections about sentient beings are prominent in Buddhist thought. Sentience is a topic addressed by various doctors of philosophy. As I scratched the surface of this theme, I kept returning to two words, privilege and gratitude. As sentient beings, we have great opportunity to make a difference in this fleeting moment in our corner of space.

From “Creation,” Will Vinton Studio (1981), based on James Weldon Johnson’s 1922 poem “The Creation,” narrated by James Earl Jones, illustrated by Joan C. Gratz, a 7 1/2 minute video on YouTube

Abby

After reading the latest “Trump did what?” article in Friday’s Washington Post, I ran across Cathy Free’s article, “A dog was missing. Cavers found her two months later 500 feet underground.” I don’t remember the Trump article. They all run together after awhile, but I’ll remember Abby’s story.

I’ll also remember Gerry Keene, a 59-year-old spelunker, who was exploring a cave 500 feet under Missouri. He saw Abby curled up on a rock in total darkness. She was too weak to wag her tail or whimper. Keene took a photo of the dog and climbed out of the cave to get some help.

Caver Rick Haley, 66, heard about it and went with Keene to help carry the dog out. Meanwhile word spread that a dog had been found. The two men put her in a padded duffel bag, with her head poking out, and hauled her out of the cave. Abby had been missing for two months. She’s 14-years-old.

Abby was reunited with her grateful family–a story with a happy ending. No search warrant. No political posturing. Just a lost dog and two guys with soft hearts and a love of spelunking. This week, let’s look for more stories like this. From now on, if Abby sees Gerry or Rick, I’m sure she’ll wag her tail.

From “A caving project became a rescue mission after a dog was found 500 feet down,” by Wynne Davis, NPR, August 12, 2022

Faith–the beloved community

Faith builds community, especially when the world seems to be falling apart. Faith is rooted in a deep unity that transcends race, ethnicity, nationality, time, geography, age and gender. Faith welcomes diversity. Faith moves us beyond personal preference and prejudice to embrace timeless, universal truths and realities. The beloved community, a term used by Josiah Royce and made popular by Martin Luther King, Jr., connects the vital reality of community with its most essential ingredient: love.

My friend Kathy said a couple of days ago: “Trust there is goodness in the other and look for it until you find it.” Even as we face every gone-wrongness in the world (sometimes called “original sin”), there is a prior reality woven into the fabric of the universe: “original blessing.” This abiding goodness is “known” by poets, singers, theologians, philosophers, astronomers, microbiologists, gardeners, physicists, grandparents and children–as well as plant and animal life of all kinds. Faith draws us together.

Jerusalem’s Western Wall (of the old Temple), from “The Beloved Community,” The Power of We, Interfaith Mission Service, Huntsville, Alabama

Hope

During a Friday morning conversation with friends about ever present signs of hope amid relentlessly depressing news, I decided to devote some posts to hope. In Friday’s conversation, one of my friends cited an Ian Millhiser tweet via Heather Cox Richardson: “This was a good week for the United States of America and I may be coming down with a case of The Hope.”

On Friday afternoon I learned about Select Specialty, a network of hospitals with a location on the Brookwood campus in Birmingham, where a long-time friend is a patient. The trademarked words “Let Hope Thrive” are appropriate for an extended care facility for patients with serious illness. As one staff member said, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Let’s begin this focus on hope with a reminder that life is a marathon, not a sprint. My goal is to be more diligent about looking for signs of hope, especially when evidence is to the contrary. The human community has a deep reservoir of hope at our disposal and sometimes it’s necessary to remind each other about the undying hope that is within us. How can I, you, we embody hope today?

From a virtual tour of Select Specialty Hospital, Birmingham

From Wartburg to Strunk

We plan to join some camper friends later this year at Strunk, Kentucky, named for the post office that opened in 1892 on Strunk’s Lane. (George W. Strunk owned a local coal mine.) Today the post office is on Strunk Highway (old US 27). To get there from the east or west, you’re on your own. From the north, go to Somerset, Kentucky, then south on US Highway 27.

Strunk is north of Wartburg, Tennessee, founded in the 1840s by a land speculator who formed the East Tennessee Colonization Company with the intent to establish a series of German colonies in the Cumberlands. The area was marketed to Swiss and German immigrants to the US during tough economic times in Europe. The town of Wartburg is named for Germany’s Wartburg Castle.

The Big South Fork National Recreation Area is between Strunk and Wartburg, on 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau. The Frozen Head State Park is near Wartburg and War Pigs BBQ, across from the Courthouse. I’ve begun due diligence on other destinations, including the B-4 Town Mini Mart Grill & Deli near Strunk. It helps to get out occasionally, to get a fresh perspective on the day’s news.

From Big South Fork Hiking, National Park Service