Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our World

About a year ago my friend Jane, unknowingly, presented me with a challenge as she gave me a little ‘world pin’.  She is part of a group about which I know only that they have created and distribute this lovely little lapel pin of planet earth with its oceans and continents.  In our conversation she casually said, “Just what is the world? . . . the world, the earth, the planet, is it all the same?”  I think I responded with something like “well not exactly”. 

I went on to expound (yes, I do do that!) about Teilhard de Chardin and his explanation of the formation of the earth’s layers that evolved over an incalculable span of time; first there coalesced the Barysphere and Lithosphere—the metal core and rocky crust; next, those layers were overlaid with the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere—air and water; which were the necessary precursors for the Biosphere—all life forms.  Over eons of time, an array of vegetation and animal life slowly appeared, advancing in form from simple to complex.  Teilhard defined that as the ‘law of complexity-consciousness’, which drives evolution to ever reach for greater intricacy and more freedom by complexifying nervous systems and increasing consciousness.  The process ultimately brought forth the rational and reflective creature—the human species.  This wasn’t just ‘another species’ but the very axis and arrow of evolution, adding a new layer to the planet.  That layer, Teilhard named the Noosphere—the thinking layer.  With thought and freedom, human choices have shaped the emerging world in which we live: a world of buildings, roads and machines; a world of languages, music and arts; a world of laws, institutions and philosophies . . .

Evolution is on-going change.  Only humans have the ability to initiate change, both within the self and in the world they inhabit.  It is imperative that we awaken to the power humanity has to determine the destiny of this awesome interacting system—our world.

Our planet is an object in a solar system that orbits the sun in harmony with other planets—Jupiter, Mars, Venus, etc.  At the planetary level it is but one of many similar objects.  It differs however, because of being surrounded by continually re-circulating air and water, thus providing what is necessary to support life.  The interaction of these elements is a unique process, fully integrated with the myriad life forms animating our earth.  Just as the Biosphere changed the planet into the living earth (fondly referred to as ‘Mother Earth’), the newest layer, the Noosphere, changed it into the world of thought and action we occupy.

Over the past year my thoughts kept returning to the challenge of that question, ‘are they the same?’  I now realize I found the question so significant because it points to the basic God/human interaction—together we co-create the world.

When I speak of God, I’m not referring to a remote Being far away in the heavens who counts sins and grants favors.  Knowledge of the nature of God is of a dimension beyond human comprehension.  When I speak of God I mean that dynamic Mystery beyond my understanding that brought order out of chaos.  I look at the known evidence of life and the magnificent balance of the uncountable elements necessary for the universe to exist—yet there it is and here we are!  So I say, “Thank you, Mystery God” and I think of the wonder of human consciousness that can seek Truth, Justice and Love and can express love, compassion . . . and hope.

The evolutionary process is still unfolding; the God contribution has been set before us, ours is underway as we explore our capacity for both good and evil.  We’re given this playground free and clear, no strings attached.  Our ultimate challenge is for the human family to learn to act cooperatively in supporting the preservation of our common home.  We can make it flourish as it was meant to, or we can destroy it by our collective violence, greed and selfish choices, so reducing it to a dead planet left empty in its orbit around the sun.

So my friend’s question about ‘sameness’ can be answered both yes and no.  Either word refers to the same whole unit, but the world comes into being thru the God/human interaction.  We’ve been given planet-earth, flourishing with life and potential; and too, we’ve been called to consciousness and freedom to do with it what we will.  Ultimately ‘our world’ is our answer to Mystery God.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

In the Dark of the Night

9/11/16 – the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States by al-Qaeda, Osama ben Laden’s Islamic extremist group which hijacked four U.S. commercial passenger planes and flew two into the World Trade Twin Towers in New York City.  The 3rd and 4th planes were destined for Washington DC; one, as planned, was crashed into the Pentagon while the last was diverted and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when passengers charged and fought the hijackers preventing the completion of their mission.  This orchestrated event caused the death of three thousand innocent people and injured six thousand others.  Among those killed were 78 police officers and 200 firefighters during rescue efforts.  TV cameras were at hand; live broadcasting of the events covered the world.

Following is my journal entry on the 1st anniversary of that event.

       9/11/2002 – it was a year ago today when the unthinkable happened—unthinkable that America could be the victim of such a profoundly horrendous surprise attack; unthinkable that human beings could be so callous as to perpetuate such a heinous act; unthinkable to consider the horror that the people in the planes and buildings must have experienced; unthinkable to realize that people round the entire planet could turn on a TV and watch the towers crumble to the ground in real time; unthinkable to calculate the degree of hatred that motivated such a morally depraved plan; unthinkable to learn that the hijackers considered it an act of worship to their god.  
       The Bible tells us that God created man in His image . . . a being with intelligence and reflective awareness capable of knowing right from wrong.  To this being God gave free will—the power to choose any path in life.

How can we reconcile this in our minds?
--a segment of a religion has so perverted the image of god so as to perceive him in terms of pure evil!
--that is contrary to the Muslim religion which, like Christianity and Judaism perceives God as the creator of order and source of all that is good.
--could awareness of the unthinkable horror of which humans are capable spur us to work together to make conscious choices for the greater good?

Animals are programmed by instinct; free will is unique to humans.  It is with that freedom we create our personal world, but beyond that, our actions affect a wider world.  We live in a closed system within a vast universe, all activity in a closed system effects everything within that system.  Whether God-given or the result of random chance, we hold creative/destructive power and our actions shape the world we occupy.

Events of the 20th and 21st Centuries have made us aware of mankind’s destructive powers:  WWI, WWII, holocausts and genocides, atomic and hydrogen bombs, world-wide terrorism—the unthinkable has happened—that makes it imperative that we recognize we all share a common humanity, thus a common destiny; planet earth is one closed interacting system.  The ‘unthinkable’ calls us to use our freedom and creative powers to actively identify and embrace values that can underpin a sustainable world.

The dream of a better world may seem impossible but consider how far humanity has come in creating a better world thus far:
--from the beginning of time most people were uneducated—after the invention of the printing press people gradually came to recognize the importance of education and now, all parents seek it for their children.
--it took until just 150 years ago for civilized society to acknowledge the absolute need to abolish slavery—and it came to be.
--the technological advances in the 20th Century connected all parts of the world by transportation and communications leading to the recognition of our home planet as one global world.
--following the ‘Great War’ leaders awoke to the need for nations to work together for their common good.  After two decades of struggle, in 1942 ‘The United Nations Declaration’ established the UN.  It’s importance and value has not yet been fully recognized because humanity’s advances are measured in centuries, not years—long term perspective is needed.
--in 1948 the UN adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.*  It has been translated into hundreds of languages—the most translated document in the world.  It is a beginning.  It identifies the values needed for a sustainable world, fundamental values, which can be embraced by all peoples, as they are not connected to specific religions, yet can be found among all the world religions.   It is the blue print for that ‘better world’—which can become a reality when adopted into the curriculum of all schools.
                                                                                                                                             (* Google it)

                  line from a song:  “Let there be hope in the dark of the night”