More than twenty years ago, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháís of the United States published a statement declaring that "[r]acism is the most challenging issue confronting America" (The Vision of Race Unity). This past year has reinforced the public awareness of this truth: 59% of the nation's population believes that "our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites", compared to only 46% about a year ago (Pew Research Center). I grieve to wonder how many of the remaining 41% recognize the systemic challenges faced by African Americans, and either don't care or, worse yet, are satisfied with them.
It's Not About Me
Sam Houston Trail Park, After the Flood
The Elm Fork of the Trinity River has returned to its secondary banks at last and the Sam Houston Trail Park on the Campión Trail is once again accessible, after two months of flooding. Riding my bike there today, I managed to get a few good photos, which are posted on Google Photos. First six in the gallery are from last fall, but the rest are from today.
© Marco Beltrametti 2009, some rights reserved ( CC-BY-NC-ND ).
A social media challenge was posed, #PlasticFreeJuly: try to avoid plastic in the month of July. Taken literally, many of us would be unable to read the challenge, without the plastic of our corrective lenses. Perhaps someone, somewhere, still makes glasses from melted, ground, sand. I shudder to think of the weight required to correct my own poor vision this way.
But there is a deeper truth: the gauntlet was delivered through a medium whose human-tangible representation beamed out through melted sand, encased in plastic, with circuits embedded in plastic. Perhaps someone, somewhere, manufactures computers using naught but metals, sand, and rubber insulation. With vacuum tubes.
Faithful Call to #ActOnClimate Change
This past Friday I finally completed the "public expression" portion of the eco-theology project for the GreenFaith Fellowship. The presentation is accessible at GreenBahai.com. It addresses the following topics from an multi-faith perspective:
- Highlight key themes in religious responses to climate change:
- Love of Creation
- Love and Compassion
- Oneness and Interdependence
- Call to Action – statements and declarations
- International Action
- Awareness and Advocacy
- Taking Action
In Celebration of Laudato Si
I've spent the weekend preparing a presentation on the Bahá'í Center of Irving on this coming Friday evening.
Joining so many others in the worldwide faith communities, I am overjoyed at the Pope's encyclical Laudato Si, which came out officially just a few days ago. Although I will not be saying much about it, it is a large part of the inspiration for the up-coming presentation. And I would like to share the heart-achingly beautiful second paragraph:
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she "groans in travail" (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Racism Masquerading as Environmentalism
A disturbing thing happened at Earth Day Texas - racists and nativists showed up masquerading as environmentalists. A tweet from the Southern Poverty Law Center alerted me that anti-immigrant groups with white supremacist ties would be out at Earth Day Texas. Seeing one of their (unmanned) booths was, therefore, not a surprise. But being verbally accosted at my own booth was.
Keep reading at the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
Night Walking for Earth Hour 2015
Last night we turned off the lights early for Earth Hour, and went outside for a good long walk through the neighborhood and on the nearby Campión Trail.
The photo at right is nearly three years old, and represents one of the last good long night walks I had taken - that time at the beach in Port Aransas. While walking in Irving, TX is nowhere near as nice as walking the beach, it was still delightful. We saw no fireflies - too early, if they're out there. We saw and heard no owls, as I had hoped. But the tree shadows from a bright half-moon, overcoming the city glow, was magical in itself. This suburban dweller, overcome by too many street lights, had forgotten about the beauty of moon shadows.
Eco-spiritual Integration: Three Texts
"Fragmentation" often describes our personal lives. Through accident or design, we carve out separate spheres of being: family, work, school, sport, public policy, and so on. When we are healthy, we work toward unifying these through consistent expression of our values. The other extreme becomes hypocrisy.
The long-term tension between science and religion often reinforces that tendency toward fragmentation. Practicing and acting on a traditional Western mechanistic worldview while espousing divinely-grounded spiritual values is not intrinsically hypocritical. But, for me, it is a very limiting experience. In the integration of these two worldviews we find them strengthening each other. Spiritual principles can shape our research methods (viz animal experimentation), and scientific research can shape our application of justice and equality (seeking climate justice, for example).
Birdsong and Rustling Leaves
Birds were not my friends as a child. For some reason birdsong in my backyard was an annoyance. I knew how to distinguish a handful of birds from one another, but they simply held no fascination. Reptiles were much more interesting. In hindsight, I think it was the call of the Northern Cardinal – possibly awakening me in the early hours – that caused my mild disdain. So how did I arrive at this point where birding brings me such joy?
Nature-lovers often speak about transcendent moments, occasions where some experience moved them to a profound awareness of life, the universe, and everything in it. For some, these are timeless minutes, forever memorable, forever inspiring. All of the senses align in memory, and perhaps a bit of wisdom descends in epiphany.
My transcendent moments are not so strong; perhaps that is from a weak sense of smell. Or perhaps because I seek out a low level extraordinary at every turn: the senses are not so overwhelmed in these daily moments, as the ordinary passes beyond rationality. These peek experiences do exist however, and as I sift through the shoebox of memory, two stand out at very different scales.