Category Nature

A Meditation on “Oppenheimer”

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First: the primeval fear and wonder, the fact of existence itself, the gaping at the savannas, the odd and menacing creatures abounding, the vast sprawl of the stars. Noting the deep growl of hunger, the insistent urge to sample tubers, mushrooms, fruit from the trees, the slow and hapless life forms crawling beneath our gaze.

The terror of being prey for stronger and faster life forms, with their shrieks and snarls and rumbles through the night.

Observing the helpless wails of our mates being devoured.

The seeking for shelter and haven.

The cowering.

The thinking.

The gathering of stones.

The noting of friction.

The sharpening.

The fine point, primed to stab and gouge, to ward off predators and subdue prey.

The sight of sparks.

The collecting of leaves and twigs.

Combustion.

All of it the rudiments of inquiry and physics itself.

The staggering growth of reason, tools, language, culture.

The ima...

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My War With Wisteria

Make no mistake: It’s war out there. Arduous, protracted war, in which prisoners are endured only if necessary, but their execution is preferred. In this witless zero sum game, sun and soil and water are the prizes, and brutal, single-minded purpose is the cost of pursuing them.

My name is Wisteria, and my goal is to cover every square inch of Earth.

Mind if I sidle in here underneath you for a spell?

***

Thankfully, wisteria won’t likely achieve its goal, but it will not be for lack of trying. To its no-doubt chagrin, it hasn’t (yet?) figured out how to survive and thrive in oceans or on tall chilly peaks, about which it remains ignorant. But here in the southeast, it knows all too much about surviving and thriving, having long since mastered the art of absorbing essential nutrients in great abundance after its major varieties were introduced as ornamental flowering vines from Asia in the early 1800s.

…se...

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Bodies in Motion: A Meditation

Sometimes, in the diffused light of dawn or dusk, or on foggy streets where almost indiscernible shapes begin to reveal themselves as a human being or two in motion, I will peer a little closer, catch a certain swing of arm, quickened cadence, bounce of head or forward bend and know instantly, “There’s Gene!” (Or Karen or Kate or Kelly.)

Our bodies in motion are akin to signatures, indelible gestures that mark and follow us throughout life. All our intimates (excepting the visually impaired) can spot us from the proverbial mile away.

But those signatures do share something profound in common: how badly, with what relentless intensity, our bodies seek to scrawl them across the firmament.

When he sold his camera equipment last summer, it was evident he was heading for a crossroads, the bitch of it being that none of those roads ahead had much of anything to offer him.

We commence this effort from the first m...

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What Is Sacred Space?

At this time of year when much of the world is observing events steeped in ancient lore and enchantments, what can we say about the settings and places where we perceive something as sacred? What do we even mean by “sacred space?” What qualities must any space reflect to be deemed “sacred?” Who decides what those qualities are?

Years ago, “U.S. News & World Report” ran a lengthy cover story headlined, “Sacred Places.” Its rather exhaustive list of such places contained all the usual suspects, though it was dominated by buildings and monuments.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

The Golden Temple in India.

Stonehenge, Karnak in Egypt, the temple of Confucius, the entire city of Mecca.

Interestingly, there was little said about awe-inspiring natural settings—the Grand Canyon, Mt...

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How (and Why) Do They Do That? Notes on the Murmuration of Starlings

One of my go-to lines whenever I behold some unbelievable scene of nature that I am compelled to believe because I am seeing it with my own eyes is, “That almost makes me believe in God.” In many ways, I have woven a whole theology around that sentiment, about God not as a being but as energy, not a noun but a verb, an expression, an animating essence of all things large and small, dark and light, a perfect marriage of the transcendence we strive for and the immanence that we are.

I think that may just about be it for my theologizing today. (Though I reserve the right to change my mind before I’m through turning things over here.)

It’s as if hundreds of different chamber orchestra septets were cuing only off each small group member playing the same dazzlingly fast Bach concerto, which then becomes a huge symphony orchestra spread across a vast landscape, all keeping perfect time using only an invisib...

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