Winter Waxing Moon
Richard Feynman, the physicist, had a technique for learning. It’s pretty straight forward in its explanation:
- Choose a Concept
- Teach it to a child
- Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
- Review and Simplify (optional)
I’ve not used it before, but I’m going to try now with reimagining/reconstructing faith. I hope that by clarifying it this way, I can further my year theme: Seeking the myth beyond reason.
To Gabe. What do you need to stay alive? Food, yes. Oxygen, yes. Anything else? A house or place to live, yes.
OK. Let’s start with food. Where does food come from? The grocery store. Well, that’s where we buy it. But where does the grocery store get the food? From trucks? OK. How about the trucks. Where do they get the food?
From farms? Right. And, gardens. And, orchards. And, the ocean. Can you guess my next question? Where do the farms and the gardens and the orchards and the ocean get the food? What’s that? Plants and animals? Right again. You’ve got this, Gabe.
Think about the animals for a minute, Gabe. What kind of animals do we eat? Pigs and chickens. Check. Cows. Check. Fish. Check. Shrimp and turkeys. Check. That’s enough for now. So. Where do the pigs, chickens, cows, fish, shrimp, and turkey get their food? You don’t know? What’s that? Grass. Yes, good. Cows eat grass don’t they? What about chickens? Insects? For sure. How about pigs? Well, some pigs eat acorns. Others eat roots, fruit, fish. Yes, fish. That seems strange doesn’t it? What about shrimp? What do they eat? They eat tiny, tiny plants that live and grow in the water. Fish? What do they eat? Some eat plants that grow in the water, some eat insects, some eat other fish and other ocean animals.
Did you notice that a lot of the food the animals eat comes from plants? Acorns, grass, roots, tiny plants that live in water? What about the rest? Insects, other fish? What do insects eat? Some do eat other insects, that’s right. Praying mantises, for example. But most insects eat plants. Grasshoppers do. Leafchewers. Some eat plant roots. Some eat the nectar, like bees.
Here’s the thing, Gabe. When you really, really look at what animals eat, even if they eat other animals, you’ll find that the animals they eat get their food from plants. That’s strange isn’t it? Does that mean we all get our food from plants? Well, yes, in a way. If the hamburger you like tastes good, it’s because the cows ate grass and corn and beans. Can you guess my next question?
Exactly. Where do the plants get their food? What an interesting question. Land based plants dig deep into the soil with their roots. Their roots take water from the soil and some other things the plant needs to live. Here’s what might seem like a weird question. What color are plants?
Green. That’s right, Gabe! What part of the plants are green? Their leaves. Right again. What? Oh, their stalks, too? Yes. On many plants that’s right. They’re green, too. Here’s the really, really weird part, Gabe. Those green leaves? They make food for the plant from sunlight and water and vitamins from the soil.
How do they do it? Even scientists have a hard time explaining it, but somehow the leaves take sunlight, water, and other things from the soil and make what the plant needs to live. Amazing, right? Sunlight, water, and nourishment from the soil. Nourishment? What does it mean? It just means anything that helps you live, or helps plants live. And you know what’s also amazing? Guess what the plants send out into the air when they’re done making food? Oxygen! That’s right, plants feed animals and they give off the thing we need to breathe to stay alive. Wow. Go, plants!
Now let’s see. Where are we, Gabe? You told me you need food to stay alive. And, oxygen. What’s that? Water. Water, too. We tracked down where food comes from, didn’t we? It all starts with plants and the sun and the soil and water. Plants get what they need from the sun, from mother earth and from the water on mother earth.
Sun. Mother Earth. Oxygen. Water. Without any of them, Gabe, you and Ruth and your mom and dad couldn’t stay alive. You’d die without oxygen which plants put into the air. You’d die without food, which plants create from the sun and water and nourishment (remember what nourishment is?) from mother earth.
When it comes to what I’m thankful for Gabe, I’m grateful for you, of course, and your family, but I’m also grateful for the sun. The sun provides us with light, heat, and now we know it also plays a key role in providing us with food. Without sun the plants can’t make their own food. I’m grateful for mother earth. She provides nourishment for the plants and through them for us. I’m grateful for the water we have to drink. Did you know it gets made good to drink by going into clouds and coming back down as rain and snow? It’s true. I’m grateful for clouds and rain and snow, too. I like fresh water to drink.
Gabe, I know you’ve been raised Jewish. That’s the religion of your mom. I don’t know how important it is to you right now, but I remember it was important enough that you didn’t like Christmas when you were five. There are a lot of religions, aren’t there? Let’s see if we can name some. Christianity. Judaism. Islam. Hinduism. Do you know that one? It comes from India. Buddhism. Taoism. You may not know that one. It comes from China. Lots and lots more, too.
I used to be a Christian, a while back. But, not anymore. What is a religion, do you think? There’s so many different ones that it’s hard to say. To me religions are about what is most important to you. What matters. It might be your relationships with your mom and dad, or Ruth, or your friends. How are you supposed to treat those close to you? It might be about animals and how you’re supposed to treat them. Do you remember when Herschel died? Your great-grandma? Your great-grandpa? Did you ever wonder what happened to Herschel and your great-grandparents after they die? Me, too. I’m not sure, but it is a question most religions try to answer.
Do you suppose a religion could be about food and where it comes from? Oxygen and where it comes from? Staying alive is pretty important. We agreed on that earlier. Right now my religion, my thoughts on what are most important, is about food, oxygen, and the things that make them. The sun and mother earth are like a god and a goddess to me. Together they make it possible for you and me to be alive. Through their children, the plants and the animals, they make possible the whole wonderful world of zebras, dogs, Ruth, you Gabe, forests, seaweed, whales, tuna, peanuts, apples, and oranges. Pretty amazing.
Think of it, Gabe. The sun, that distant star that gives us daytime, the one we see everyday, provides us with the heat and energy to live. Mother earth, the ground we walk on everyday, that holds us up, that we see in parks and farm fields and mountains, provides a home for us and nourishment for the plants. The plants provide food for animals. And animals and plants make food for us. They also make our oxygen. You just breathed some in right now.
That’s enough for me, Gabe. The sun, mother earth. Their children. Us. When I drive through the forest, I’m driving in my church, my synagogue. When the rain or the snow falls on my head, it’s a holy act made possible by mother earth through her clouds. What’s that? You don’t know the word holy?
I think of the holy as something both amazing and mysterious. Imagine all the time you spent inside your mom’s womb, growing from two cells into the boy you are now. Amazing and mysterious. Think about a plant’s leaf taking energy from sunlight, mixing it somehow with water and nourishment from the soil to create food, give off oxygen. Amazing and mysterious. Or, how about the change from winter to spring when the cold goes away. Flowers come up. Trees put out their leaves. Grass turns green. Up here in the mountains you see fawns and elk calves. Amazing and mysterious. All holy.
And here’s one more amazing and mysterious piece. You were born on April 22nd, Earth Day, a day dedicated to Mother Earth. And, guess what. April 22nd was a Sunday that year. So you were also born on the day of the week that honors the sun. The sun and mother earth. You share a special relationship with them, Gabe.