We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Eternal Return

Lughnasa                                                                Harvest Moon

mabonLughnasa and the Harvest Moon. We are in the season of reaping what has been sown. From the first of August or so until Samain on October 31st gathering in is the main theme on the Great Wheel. The fall equinox, Mabon, is near. September 22nd. It comes with the Harvest Moon, that fluke of planetary dynamics that has lit up farm fields at just the right moment for as long humans have been farming.

No longer a Midwesterner, I don’t see the combines in the long rectangles of wheat, the corn pickers going through the tall stands of sturdy green, the hay balers saving alfalfa and timothy for feed. There are no ads here for hay rides through the apple orchards, no pick your own gardens for late season fruits. That sort of agriculture depends on rain and once past the 100th parallel, oops now the 105th as the arid West creeps eastward across the Great Plains, average rainfall becomes less, often much less than 20 inches a year.

Here fall and Mabon announce themselves in the gold of the aspen, jewel like groves set among larger stands of forever green lodgepole pine. Along the mountain streams Maxwell, Cub, Bear some dogwood flashes bright red. Low lying marshy areas turn a green gold and the cattail spikes stand proudly. Too, the mule deer and elk begin to come down from their summer fields, following food. There will be, in a week or two, the elk rut, with that strangled sound the bull elks make, a bugle. There will also be many more tourists here this week and next. The come for the jewels on the mountain sides, scenes I can see from my study window.

great wheel3The Great Wheel turns, but its turning is the original local expressing a universal. Here the golden aspen in the Midwest the great harvest machines lumbering through fields. In the Midwest stunning colors here a dichromatic palette. How the harvest season manifests depends on weather and here in the Rockies altitude. Pikes Peak and Mt. Rosalie near Bailey, for instance, have already had their first snow, passing out of the harvest season.

The expression of the season also depends on the plant species that have adapted themselves to a particular locale. One dominant deciduous tree, the aspen, makes our montane ecosystem much different from the remnants of the great woods that dominates the Midwest. Then there are the animals. Pheasants in the Dakotas and Nebraska. Elk and mule deer on the Front Range. Coordinates matter, too. Fall is different here at latitude 39 degrees than in, say, Warroad, Minnesota at 49 degrees. The other marker, the longitude, we’ve already referred to.

green knight

green knight

I celebrate the turning of the wheel, await its changes with anticipation. There is comfort, at least to me, in the regularity and predictability of the seasons. They tell me that time is not linear, that it is instead a spiral, cork-screwing its way through spacetime. They tell me that eternal return is written into the way of the universe, that even our life and its mayfly like time compared to the mountains on which I live, is, too, part of a great coming and going, a leaving and coming home. Somehow, through some mechanism now hidden to me, this life I’ve lived will matter and its significance, like your own, will revisit humanity, tempered and changed by the seasons of the universe. I suppose, in this way, we are all immortal, at least until the cold death of this cosmos. But, perhaps, even in that case, we will live on in one of the infinite multiverses, offering our harvest of human consciousness to feed other souls.

 

Ancientrails Looks Back: 9/11

Lughnasa                                                                        Harvest Moon

09 11 10_Joseph_0256-1Yes. I remember. Too well. At home in Andover, catching the news. Watching in disbelief as things that never happen happened. Passenger jets flying too low, not stopping, hitting, exploding. A feeling of personal violation and awful grief.

This was no moon landing, more like the Cuban Missile Crisis or the assassination of JFK, something too terrible to watch, yet too fascinating to stop. Would there be more? What did this mean? Who? Why? God, all those people falling. All those firefighters, police, EMT’s in the dust and smoke, as my Jesuit friends said of a comrade in Hiroshima, “…running toward the bomb.”

A young college sophomore was in his dorm or on campus or working, somewhere. He heard the news. Heard a call. A call to a life devoted to this country, one who had given him, in his mind, so much. Years later he would direct bombers over Libya, make plans to protect South Korea against the North, control fighters and bombers over Afghanistan, Iraq. Attend weapons school. Ten years plus and still a warrior, created by Osama bin Laden.

9.11The world, the blood. The thousands dead then, multiple more thousands of dead now, people still dying. Terrorism, asymmetric warfare, has succeeded. They have tested us, found us willing to do exactly what they need. Punish them, disproportionately. Easy recruiting. Soldiers for the caliphate. Break free of the capitalist West, hamstring the great Satan. And, gain glory from Allah.

It was, I think, the invasion of Iraq that made the terrorist’s argument for them. Afghanistan, no. Bin Laden was there. The Taliban sheltered him. We had a right to go after him, after those that aided him. But, Iraq? An unnecessary war, like Vietnam. In this case a war that convinced thousands of disenfranchised youth in the Middle East that death in jihad was more desirable than death by the thousand cuts of poverty and dysfunctional societies.

9.112Will this end? Yes. Even the Hundred Years war ended. The Thirty Years war, too. If climate change doesn’t take us all down first, at some point exhaustion will set in here and over there in the Middle East. Or, maybe a reformed Islam will take root, push out the extremists who read which texts they choose and ignore the rest.

This war, what some call the Forever War, has defined a generation. Sadly. We have learned no good lessons. No home truths. We have experienced and inflicted pain, gotten no where. Might be that climate change will eventually be the enemy that binds us all together. Wishful thinking? Probably.

Anyhow, I remember. Too well.

 

 

Bao

Lughnasa                                                                  Waning Summer Moon

If you haven’t seen Incredibles 2, and you probably haven’t if you don’t have children or grandchildren in the right age range, I’d encourage you to give it a shot. It’s actually a pretty good movie. But not my emphasis here. Rather, the short before it, Bao.

Controversial. Here’s a story about it, complete with spoilers that in this case I think are fine. I’d forgotten about the controversy. I read about it shortly after Incredibles 2 came out in the middle of June, and was intrigued, as I always am by cultural disjunction, cultural difficulties. But it went into the forget pile near some neuron or another.

bao

bao

Then I saw it yesterday with Gabe. It features a Chinese mother who makes dumplings. One of the dumplings comes to life and she raises him as her child. It’s a sweet story at first, then the dumpling becomes obstinate, wants to make his own choices. Finally, in the controversial moment, the dumpling has come home with a blond white woman. He packs his bags and starts to go out the door following his woman friend. The mother grabs him, pulls him back inside. You expect some kind of tearful resolution, hugs, then the mature dumpling goes away with his woman friend. Nope. She eats him.

bao2OMG! What just happened? It was shocking and I missed the point. Sort of. In a couple of scenes after this a dumpling like son comes home with the same woman who led the dumpling out the door. I took this to mean that the woman had somehow reconciled with the dumpling and he’d grown up. The eating in my understanding was a symbol of the difficulties inherent in the moment children become independent.

bao-short-film-meaning-twitter-response-1

a link to this article

Turns out I was sort of right. But sort of not. As I now understand it, the mother actually ate the anthropomorphized dumpling. This expressed a mutual feeling of distress that Chinese mothers and their children have in U.S. culture. U.S. culture says leave at 18 and make your way in the world. Chinese culture says, live at home until you’re married and then, don’t go too far away. Though the leaving at age 18 in American mainstream culture (or, what used to be American mainstream culture), is fraught with similar issues, independence pushing away from interdependence, the expectation is that independence becomes a vehicle from which a new form of interdependence will arise. In Bao the dumpling eating shows the powerful rejection of that possibility in traditional Chinese culture, though I imagine the one-child policy in China has forced a new way of thinking in the home country.

Anyhow. Worth seeing. Always worth reflecting on cultural differences, worth learning from them. No rights or wrongs. Just differences that express the many possible responses to the ancientrail of humans in community and family and in ourselves.

And God placed a rainbow in the sky

Summer                                                                              Monsoon Moon

Stage two fireban lifted. Rains have been remarkable the last few days. We’ve gone from fire restrictions to flash flood and small stream flooding advisories. Yay. Feels safer here now and I’ll feel less worried when I leave for Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Kate and I went to a protest yesterday at the Aurora ICE detention center. The Moral Minyan sponsored it. A Moral Minyan is a local group organized through bendthearc. In Jewish practice a minyan is ten (men in the past and still in Orthodox communities) Jews together so public instead of private prayers can be offered. There were about fifty people there, perhaps a bit more. Too cerebral, too speaky, but only the second one of what the Moral Minyan plans as a monthly gathering. It needs guitars and better music, more chants, maybe some songs in Spanish.

There was one remarkable moment for a Jewish gathering.

double rainbow over ICE detention center, Aurora

double rainbow over ICE detention center, Aurora

There was brief moment of defiance when a protest leader asked those of us who were willing to block the only road into the facility. Many of the group chanted, “We will not be good Germans.” as we moved onto the drive. Maybe 15 of us were there when an ICE employee, heading home from work drove up. And began honking. Impatiently. After less than a minute, the group dispersed.

The Democratic candidate for state attorney general, Phil Weiser, spoke, as did his primary opponent, Joe Salazar. Salazar, who lost the primary, gave an impassioned speech as a Latino whose roots go back 500 years in the land now known as the United States. A young pediatrician, a woman, gave a moving speech, referencing, as did many of the speakers, the holocaust. As I wrote here a week or so ago, Renee, a Beth Evergreen member, said that as a child of holocaust survivors, she could call these detention centers what they were, concentration camps.

Here are a few more photos from the event.

20180725_17140420180725_17221420180725_17214420180725_17171320180725_17493220180725_175304

 

Moral Minyan

Summer                                                                             Monsoon Moon

justice

Suggested to the woman who organized the immigration talk that perhaps the Beth Evergreen Social Action committee should be doing this kind of work. She passed my e-mail on to the Rabbi and to the chair of the Social Action committee. Lengthy response from the Social Chair chair amounts to, we do small things because they’re not political. Sigh. Same ol, same ol. Heard this all the time as a clergy in the Christian church, less so in the UUA. Say the word politics and you’ve touched the third rail.

Uncharacteristically, however, I intend to stay back from this conversation. I’ve got Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler and 6th grade religious school to prepare for. Perhaps the slight nudge will create a larger conversation. Hope so.

justice2

Kate and I are going to a protest at the Aurora ICE detention center next week. It’s led by the Moral Minyan*, a project of bendthearc. Family separation, though attenuated by the court ruling last week, remains a reality. Immigration is a distinctive American good, mixing our polity with new citizens from all over the world. It’s always been fraught with tension, with nativism, xenophobia, chauvinism, and, our record as a people with regard to persons of color is still miserable, but that French gift, Lady Liberty, with the poem by Emma Lazarus, represents the ideal toward which many of us strive. I believe most of us.

This notion that only a certain kind of person, usually white, can be a good U.S. citizen is racist at its core. The obvious rejoinder is the facebook meme of Indians confronting immigrants on the Mayflower. As Valentina said Tuesday night at Beth Evergreen, “Immigrants work hard. Immigrants pay their taxes, raise families.” Immigrants contribute to our national well-being and always have. In fact, immigrants created our nation.

justice obama

This current politics of meanness, of grudge-settling, of honoring foreign strongmen over our own government BY OUR PRESIDENT, the unleashing of the American id typified by the Charlotte rally and the way too many video clips of various individuals calling out persons they suspect of being “illegals” or “terrorists”, makes us all smaller. He who shall not be named is spending the capital accumulated since World War I which made this country a superpower. Shame on him.

Justice theodore-parker-bend-the-arc-email1

Parker was a Unitarian clergy, an abolitionist, and an activist who kept a loaded gun at his desk in case slave catchers showed up. Be like Theodore.

 

*In Jewish tradition, acts of public prayer require at least 10 people to gather to form a minyan.

In this moment of political crisis, we’re calling on progressive Jews across the country to gather to form Moral Minyans for acts of public protest, solidarity, and organizing as part of a national network of Jewish Resistance.

People who become leaders of Moral Minyans have a variety of skills and experience levels. We provide trainings and support for activists in our network who are organizing their Jewish community in living rooms and in the streets.

 

Choose Life

Summer                                                              Woolly Mammoth Moon

Installing solar panels, 2015

Installing solar panels, 2015

Here’s a surprisingly existential sentence from economic journalist, Annie Lowrey, “The way things are is really the way we choose for them to be,” she writes. Her new book, “Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World” (Crown),is considered as part of a New Yorker article, “Who Really Stands to Win from Universal Basic Income?”

UBI is an interesting idea, made more interesting by Nathan Heller who offers a good summary of its possibilities and pitfalls, and I recommend the read; but, I’m much more taken by that single sentence of Lowrey’s. Lowrey is, as Heller says, a policy person, so her comment in this instance refers to our economic reality. Our economic life is not a divine endowment from a class loving God, rather it is the sum of choices we make as a people, choices reflected in our laws, our deference to the wealthy, our moralizing (Calvinist driven in large part) of personal income and wealth (more, better person, less, worse person), even the choices we make as consumers. In sum we live in a created society, one that we can choose to recreate or even uncreate.

IMAG0912Why are we so reluctant to recognize that racism, sexism, homelessness, income inequality, white fear are the result of decisions we’ve made collectively and individually? I think the answer lies in ideas Arthur Brooks identifies as the bedrocks of conservative thought. Below is a portion of that article, Republican or Conservative: You Have to Choose.* NYT, June 25, 2018. Though it may surprise readers of this blog, I have considerable sympathy for these ideas.

They challenge the Lockean idea of a social contract among independent actors, a notion at best abstracted from common life. They challenge the fabric of a liberal political worldview. I agree that we are not wholly autonomous individuals. Heidegger’s notion of thrownness underlines this point by reminding us that our life begins in a particular time, in a particular place and in particular circumstances over which we had no choice whatsoever. Brooks says something similar, “…individuals emerge out of families, communities, faiths, neighborhoods and nations.” To this point, I’m with him. There are unique realities that shape us.

IMAG0913But, to sacralize that unique reality, “…conservatives have always placed tremendous emphasis on the sacred space where individuals are formed.” says Brooks, serves to deny its perniciousness, its damning of so many to lives of desperation, marginalized from both economic and cultural blessings. Once we emerge in the era, the family, the town or neighborhood or rural place, the religious or areligious space gifted to us, the nation of our birth, once we are over being thrown into circumstances beyond our volition, we gain the power of choice.

It is decidedly not the case that though thrownness may come first, as Brooks says “The order comes first.” that “…individual freedom is an artifact of that order.” No. Order is neutral, neither a moral good, nor a moral constraint. If the order into which we are born nourishes lives, lifts people into their best possible existence, then, yes, let’s sustain it. If, however, the order into which we are born is itself pernicious, damning us to poor education, inadequate nutrition, a lifetime of social doubts about our worth, then we must recognize the truth of Lowrey’s wonderful encapsulation of the liberal perspective: “The way things are is really the way we choose for them to be.”

 

*”Conservatives said we…think you’ve got human nature wrong. There never was such a thing as an autonomous, free individual who could gather with others to create order. Rather, individuals emerge out of families, communities, faiths, neighborhoods and nations. The order comes first. Individual freedom is an artifact of that order.
The practical upshot is that conservatives have always placed tremendous emphasis on the sacred space where individuals are formed. This space is populated by institutions like the family, religion, the local community, the local culture, the arts, the schools, literature and the manners that govern everyday life.
Membership in these institutions is not established by rational choice. We are born into them most of the time and are bonded to them by prerational cords of sympathy and affection. We gratefully inherit these institutions from our ancestors, we steward them and pass them along to our descendants.”

Hoping for a good result

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Incheon International Airport

Incheon International Airport

Sister Mary reports high levels of security in Singapore. She’s eating lunch at a mall near the St. Regis Hotel where at least one of the principles will stay.

I hope Trump succeeds. And, if he does, I’d vote for him for the Nobel Peace Prize. If I could. With a Korean daughter-in-law and a son in the Air Force who spent a year deployed in Korea this is personal. Not to mention Mary has spent most of her adult life in Southeast Asia, Mark much of his. Peace in Korea would make the world a safer place and improve the lives of many Koreans.

Joseph bought me a chunk of barbed wire taken from the Korea DMZ, the line that separates the two Koreas, established at the end of hostilities when the armistice took hold. We didn’t make it up there though I hope to on a return trip to Korea.

20160406_152903On the ground in South Korea a vital and energetic economy has created a vibrant country with feet both in the world of Samsung and the past. Riding on buses or trains through the country side, ancient tombs dot the hillsides. We visited this palace/fort in a city near Seoul. The procession of women in hanbuk at the international airport in Incheon, with the Bottega Veneta and a moving walkway in the foreground brings the two worlds together.

SeoAh's mother and sister in Hanbuk at the wedding

SeoAh’s mother and sister in hanbuk at the wedding

So did Joseph and SeoAh’s wedding. Like all instances of American foreign policy we’re not effecting exotic people in strange lands, but real people with daily lives that focus, like ours, on family, work, hopes, dreams. Every culture deserves a chance to live its way of coping with these matters without the threat of extinction.

In spite of my antipathy toward Trump, look at the embarrassment of the G7, this is not about him, but about the future of a people who have become important not only to my current life, but to the life that will follow after I’m dead.

 

 

 

Sad. Conflicted.

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

decoration-day-190x300Memorial day. Means honoring war dead and veterans. Means the 500 mile race in Indy. Means parades.  Means heat and sticky asphalt depressing under the weight of tanks and half-tracks in small towns.

In my immediate family. Mom and Dad both veterans of WWII. Mom overseas in Algiers and Italy. The Casbah, Capris, Johan the ceramic dachshund. Dad flying liaison planes, dropping sacks of flour as “bombs” for training, ferrying Manhattan project scientists, flying under utility wires for fun, getting caught in a thunderhead, wanting to jump but unable to open the door due to air pressure.

Joseph, now a major, serving longer than either one. A weapons officer. Calling a B-1 bomber to overfly North Korea during his deployment there. Directing bombers over Libya during the elimination of Qaddafi’s regime. Meeting SeoAh in Seoul, spilling coffee on her. Training flights, check rides, top secret security clearances. Now considering what his next career move might be. Could be part of any action in Korea.

weapons school graduation

weapons school graduation

And me. In the struggle against the Vietnam War, before Iraq and the forever war in Afghanistan our stupidest military intervention. Embarrassed now at the fact that I took some of my anger out on U.S. military folk. They act under orders and we need them for defense. They don’t choose where they fight. The evil bastards were the McNamara’s, the Cheney’s, Bolton’s, Wolfowitz’s. They were war mongers, playing out their racist, jingoist fantasies with the lives of my son and others like him. Let me say that again. Bastards.

I remember all of this on Memorial Day. The great sadness of rows and rows of crosses decorated with flags. Speeches made in cemeteries where lie those sacrificed to Ares. War planes flying over head, bands playing America the Beautiful, the National Anthem. Old women with sashes and young children waving small flags. The colors marching on before.

memorial day casbahConflicted. Glad beyond words that the Nazi’s dream died and at the hands of some of us, my parents included. Glad that Korea, South Korea, remained free so Joe could meet SeoAh, who grew up in that same Korea. Glad that we are strong, able to defend our homeland. Wary, but sometimes proud, that we can intervene on behalf of others. Angry that we too often spend lives and treasure in pursuit of one ideology or another, ideologies held by crass men like Trump and his kind. The Bannon’s and the Pompeo’s. There is no clear yes, no clear no, only a muddy world in which bad things happen to good and bad people alike.

Yes, I remember. On Memorial Day. These things.

 

Way Back in the Promised Land

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Into Denver yesterday, saw Jerusalem, the I-MAX 3-D show. (see below)

Qumran, Cave 4 By Effi Schweizer - Own work, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org w index.php curid 3089552

Qumran, Cave 4 By Effi Schweizer – Own work,

When it finished, I left Kate on the museum’s third floor at the entrance to the Dead Sea Scrolls show and went down to find the other members of Beth Evergreen, 25 in all, who had signed up for this adult education event. Russ Arnold, Rabbi Jamie’s brother, came along and answered questions, offered commentary as we toured the exhibit.

The exhibit has actual physical artifacts from a tw0-thousand year span of time that includes Romans, very early Israelites, Christians and several other civilizations like Assyria, Persia, Tyre. In addition to scroll fragments and painstakingly reconstructed earthenware jars, among them actual jars in which scrolls were found, there were Roman mosaic floors, Tyreian silver coins, glass vessels, oil lamps, an altar fragment from an early Israeli home altar, and ossuary caskets like the one found a few years ago with the name Jesus written on it.

scroll exhibit case

scroll exhibit case

It was, unfortunately, a Sunday afternoon and the exhibit overflowed with visitors, making staying with any one object or group of objects a challenge. A very large circular case, maybe thirty feet across. housed the main attraction, the fragments themselves. All of these fragments were from Cave 4. They were tiny, some only a few square inches, and the Hebrew was also tiny. They must have used very small writing implements and had very good eye sight.

The fragmentary nature of these scrolls are the result, Russ said, of the lending library, circulating library purpose of Cave 4. The speculation is that these scrolls were on wooden shelving, there are brackets in the wall though the wood is long gone. When the wood decayed, the scrolls fell to the floor where they were covered in bat guano and layers of dust. Though this did serve to preserve them, it also meant they suffered from more decay and deterioration than the scrolls found in the earthenware jars.

Dead_Sea_Scrolls_013-1Some of the more complete scrolls may have been the equivalent of library reserve. They could also have been retired scrolls which, like Buddha statues in Southeast Asia, are never destroyed. This visit left me wanting to know more, to return to the show before it leaves during the week for a quieter and lengthier visit.

While we were there, Kate got a phone call from Hal Stein wondering if one or both of us would like to be put up for election as board members for upcoming terms. Since I’ve already agreed to develop a curriculum for the religious school, sixth and seventh graders, I told Kate I wasn’t interested, but I hoped she would be. “You’re smart, have management skills. You’d be perfect.” She called Hal later and told him to put her name in.

Afterward we picked up Ruth from her mother’s. She’s out of school now, two weeks ahead of Gabe and a week ahead of her mom and dad. On Wednesday she heads up to Estes Park for a YMCA camp.

A long but satisfying day.

 

Next Year

Beltane                                                                      Sumi-e Moon

Kate and I went in early to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science so we could see the IMAX 3-D show, Jerusalem. This is an astonishing piece of film-making, packing in lots of history, contemporary scenes and with an emotional charge gained by using three young women, a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim as narrators for much of the film. If it’s near you, I recommend it highly. Here’s the trailer.

Official Trailer – Jerusalem: Filmed for IMAX® and Giant Screen Theaters from JerusalemTheMovie on Vimeo.

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