Tag Archives: community

Embodied Religion

By Jule_Berlin (originally posted to Flickr as [1]) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ponte Maceira on El Camino by Jule Berlin (via Wiki Commons) Share Alike

I continue writing about pilgrimage: embodied religion in nature. Serenity itself? Yes. There is beauty in nature, and oneness with nature that those who don’t hunt or fish or climb mountains might not otherwise access. There is beauty and peace in nature, and even fear, in nature that those who go on an evening stroll might wish to deepen or face. In deepening one’s connection to the land, one may deepen one’s connection to a transcendental God, or to the immanental god within.

And all those pilgrim symbols, from staff to cross, and pilgrim paths, within European borders do other, less obvious work. They provide a moving tableaux, a visual demonstration of Christianity as a physical presence. European pilgrimages connect European nation to nation, not undermining the all-important nationalism or nationhood, but reinforcing pan-Europeanism. There is also, surprisingly, something dark that bubbles up in pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is not only a simple and age-old act of putting one foot in front of the other, and circumnavigating a region by foot. It is also often a political act. In some cases it is, and has been, a political act for the good. Sometimes a political act against gender constraints keeping women at home. At others a political act of defiance against circumscription by Vatican authority, commanding the laity at what place, and how, they must worship.

Pilgrimage in Europe, meditative walking, may be broadening, ecumenical, and inviting. It may also be exclusive. Going on European Christian pilgrimage generally does not exclude atheists, agnostics, and seekers. In most cases, however, pilgrimage in Europe is Christian pilgrimage and excludes those of other faiths.

Today, as in ages past, it is the pluralism of Christians and Muslims living together in Europe that is being worked out. Is walking an act of territorial inscription? Probably in part, yet it is much more, and adds much that is positive to the individual and communal good. Pilgrims are certainly more than border control
agents.

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Acts of God?

Wikimedia Commons Moore, OK Tornado

Wikimedia Commons Moore, OK Tornado

Why are natural disasters called “Acts of God”? Because they, like God, are beyond human comprehension and beyond human ability to effect. This phrase is not suggest that God is evil, but rather that God is the unfathomable everything of the world and universe.

This “God language” does not exclude agnostics or atheists, who stand equally helpless in the face of tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, and volcanic eruptions. This language reflects that there is no one who does not experience or look upon the destruction of the unfathomably fearsome tornado that yesterday struck an elementary school and cut a path 20 miles long and remain unshaken.

We humans are small and fragile. There are actions we can take to avoid tsunamis and other disasters, but there is little warning. Seismologists cannot predict when tectonic plates will shift, and where old or new faults will break open, splitting the earth as we might break an orange into sections.

Above the howling winds and rushing waters, the voice of goodness, or of God, may be heard. The phrase “God is good” also means that God is the essence of goodness. There is no philosophical strain in this parent and writer who sees good in death and destruction. But above the howling, all-consuming ravaging, “a still, small voice” may, at times, be heard.

The voice I remember best from the tsunami 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan is the voice of a young woman. This 25-year-old woman who remained in her watchtower, ceaselessly broadcasting her warnings that people around her move to higher ground immediately. She kept on broadcasting her urgent message, knowing that she herself was unlikely to survive. That is the voice of god or good.

There was in Japan, and will also be in Oklahoma, anger directed at the government, and even victims, for decisions made under duress and in minutes. There could always be higher tsunami walls and stronger bunkers. Complacency is not the answer, as warning systems work well when there is time to respond, but that time is not always given to us.

Another day, I will write about my father’s childhood in Illinois. My father, born in 1930, believed that tornadoes were increasing in force and frequency due to the leveling of the landscape for farming. He held this belief long before most recognized the human impact on storms and weather. Whether or not he was correct is the subject of great debate.

This is not a day to be righteous and correct, but a time to recognize that we are all shaken, to mourn, and for some highly trained individuals, to rescue survivors. Will our donation of blood or money help? Or do we mean these donations as gesture of empathy and solidarity, as we stand, helpless and empty-handed.

It Takes a Village to Grow a Gardener

Coypu Courtesy of Wiki: Eat Your Vegetables!

Coypu Courtesy of Wiki: Eat Your Vegetables!

While I was sitting on the porch this morning, broccoli seedlings at my feet, a man arrived to repair the crumbling porch steps. We didn’t discuss the steps much.

The experienced gardener generously complimented me on how my garden was coming along. I have two cherry tomato plants, not started from seed and confess that it is not a beautiful garden. We commiserated on the difficulties of starting bell peppers from seed. Out of two sets of ten seeds, started indoors, I have one minuscule pepper plant. First I overwatered, and then underwatered the second time I tried.

When discussing the tomato plants, I explained that the tomatoes doing well thus far are Golden Globe cherry tomato plants. I have never succeeded in producing larger healthy fruit. Also an organic gardener, my morning mentor gardener suggested that a bit of lime around the base of tomato plants would be helpful against blights. The horn worms require me to be more vigilant. That means spending more time outdoors in the garden.They always seem to find the largest, plumpest tomatoes, just as they are almost ready to harvest. When I find the happily munching horn worms, I just toss them along with their bounty into the ivy or compost pile.

Robert, my mentor gardener of the day, made me more consciously aware of gardening culture. He has thirty tomato plants in his garden, and donates the surplus to his neighbors and either VFW or VVA.

Not only was Robert happy to share expertise and encourage my novice efforts, but he shares the physical fruits of his labor as well. Are there grumpy gardeners? Thus far, my efforts begun in early April have demonstrated that not only plants are cultivated in the gardening process. So, it seems, are the people tending the plants and the soil they grow in. The smell of earth, the dirt under my finger nails, and caring for the little seedlings and tender young plants will, I hope, cultivate me as well and make me worthy of this giving, sharing sub-culture.

My past solo efforts have not been very fruitful. Maybe my efforts as a novice accepting help from the gardening community will, with persistence, bear enough ripe fruit for me to share.

Beware of a woman bearing summer squash! So far, I have three surviving plants. Four of eight seeds sprouted and one poor donated and transplanted seedling was mercilessly weed-whacked. So the world may not be overrun with summer squash just yet. Is it possible to grow too many peas? The first crop is sprightly and soon ready to flower. With success comes temptation and the desire for more. It often turns out that there is a clutch of baby bunnies being raised inside the garden enclosure, so planting more may stave off disappointment should Peter Rabbit and his family come calling.

In theory, I do not object to eating rabbit. Eating wild rabbits as well as the deer that are destroying our forests here would help our threatened Sourlands survive. Eating wild boar and nutria (large rodents also called coypu, species m. coypus) that are uprooting native plants and destroying swamps in Louisiana would also be a public service. In practice, all of the above critters are quite safe from my clutches or landing in my All-clad cookware. The pots and pans will be brimful with peas, carrots, and broccoli anyway!