How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice 2011 – Natural Abundance and the Poverty of Greed

Summer rain
Pours down like a waterfall
Seeping into eager cracks
Quenching the eternal thirst

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the Summer Solstice. I woke up early this morning to salute the sun at its rise on the longest day of the year. But like many days here in the mountains, the Earth was shrouded in damp foggy mist obscuring the sun. I drove in relative darkness to yoga class anyway, knowing with certainty that the mist would burn off in the rising clarity of sunlight.

By this time of the year, the ecstatic frenzy of spring has relaxed into the quiet lethargy of summer. A couple of wild turkey hens have come down from the woods to feast on wild raspberry bushes with a procession of poults in tow. Yesterday, I harvested several pints from the vines, and it seems correct that all the inhabitants of this land enjoy equally in the bounty. The berries are a favorite of the brown thrashers too.

At the birdfeeders, a pair of tufted titmice encourages their newly fledged offspring towards independence, but the baby persists in begging to be fed, even as it sits on the edge of the feeder.

A couple of song sparrows are getting a late start in the juniper tree next to the house. Our cats discovered the nest a few days ago and so have been relegated to the house until further notice, much to their feline dismay. Meanwhile, the summer rains come down in a deluge that threatens to swamp the flimsy little nest, but when the rains past, the parents resume feeding their now-drenched hatchlings as if nothing has happened. The tenacity of nature endures.

Out in the vegetable patch, my tolerance level for pulling weeds has been breached, just as it is every year around this time, and all hell is breaking loose in a tangle of Queen Anne’s lace, ground ivy, lambs quarter, mullein, daisies, chickweed, ragweed and my personal nemesis, crabgrass. In spite of the competition, the comestibles are bursting out all over the place, and we are enjoying peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, cabbage, carrots, squash, onions, garlic and cauliflower. The tomatoes are just coming on as are the beans, corn, melons and zucchini.

As I sit and type, a gentle breeze blows into my window carrying with it a cacophony of bird song and the myriad, nectar-sweet smells of a sun-baked summer meadow.

The natural and cultivated abundance at this moment is so overwhelming that the sterile dormancy of winter endured only months ago seems like time in another universe. But Summer Solstice reminds us that our current condition is impermanent, as this longest day also marks the beginning of the sun’s denouement. Every day hereafter will become shorter, so we must make proverbial hay while we can.

As I contemplate the meaning of increasing darkness, I struggle against my own prejudices. I want to say Summer Solstice is a celebration of the sun, which it is, but one cannot acknowledge this peak of solar activity without also accepting the coming darkness ahead. I get a lump in my throat, a flutter of anxiety in my belly about what is to come. How do we reconcile the darkness and cold? Our culture has exalted light as divinity itself and condemned darkness as evil incarnate.

The ancient Chinese believed that yin or feminine forces reach their maximum potency at the Summer Solstice, which makes sense, since fertility and abundance are at their peak in the long days of summer. As the Earth oozes fecundity, so too are people swayed by the powers of love and connection at this time, making June the traditional month for marriage. But the Chinese tradition speaks a larger truth. While light and day are considered masculine and yang, darkness and her kin the night are embodied by feminine yin. The peak of feminine power at the longest day of the year is yin collecting her forces for the long reign ahead.

Personally, the temperate winters take a hard psychological toll on my tropically reared biology. The darkness outside becomes a darkness within. I turn away from the external, curling into an insulated ball, spending days in front of the fire with books, cats and dogs, waiting. I dread the heaviness that hangs over my psyche during the long nights of winter, but I also realize the months of dark introspection are essential for my personal evolution. The insights I gain while in my hibernation create the impetus for rebirth when the sun again triumphs over the night on the Winter Solstice. Without the darkness, there is no rebirth when the light finally does shine again. Darkness is not less than light. They are equals, each whispering eternal truth, “This too shall pass.”

The sun is a great equalizer. It shines equitably on every patch of Earth, sharing its energetic wealth without bias or ulterior motive. While humans greedily collect the fruit of the sun’s benevolence, it just keeps on shining, creating new possibilities. Meanwhile, humans hoard, covet and collect out of fear, thinking they can stave off the impending darkness. But it is not the darkness that creates want and despair. The lightness and darkness of Earth are bountiful, and it is only greed itself that creates want.

The giant orb that exists as the celestial center of our solar system is literally, the giver of life to Planet Earth. Waves of energy from the sun expand across Earth’s surface bathing the world in warmth and light.  The soft, reflecting and refracting waves of photons are absorbed by the leaves of green plants.  Light and water combine, creating food that feeds the plants, those who eat the plants, and those who eat those who eat the plants. The Earth and all of her organisms form a web of nourishment, upon which all life is dependent on all other life, fueled by the sun’s energy. Long after human greed has exterminated our species, this truth will continue. Light will pass to darkness and then light again.

Summer Solstice reminds us that the nature of life is not static. Life gives way to death and then is reborn. We cannot interrupt this universal truth by selfishly hoarding the riches of the Earth unto ourselves. As all things pass into the deep sleep of winter, so too will all we have meticulously coveted eventually be converted to decay. But while the sun shines, we should make the most of it. Eat, drink, make love and be joyous in the abundance of nature as the sun shines down on this longest day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What’s the point?

Mubarak is gone.  Egyptians feel a sense of reverie.
But how long will it last until some new oppressor moves in to pick up the slack? 

"Democracy" is just another word in the modern world for, 
"Let our corporations rape your natural resources."

Cuba is an island that has been shunned, and by virtue of the shunning, remains an ecological paradise.  President Obama wants to end sanctions.  
Poor Cuba.

The Eagles said, “call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.”

We allow the destruction for promises of paper dollars.
 We think this one forest, this one reef, this one wetland, what does it matter?

The one, plus one, plus one, adds up to a ruined Earth.
 Jesus was wrong.

The greedy inherit the Earth and the meek get pummeled.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anthony Weiner’s Wiener and the Pathetic Public that Care About it

For the past week, the mainstream and not-so-mainstream media has been obsessed with Representative Anthony Weiner’s wiener. As everybody now knows, Rep. Weiner sent a photograph of his underpants-clad member to a young woman via Twitter. Apparently, Rep. Weiner has a history of such behavior on social media with consenting adult females.

Weiner is a sleazebag. While disappointing, this news is not revelatory. Infidelity, flirtation, lechery and debauchery are all part of the human behavioral catalogue. By some estimates, as many as half of married men and a third of married women have cheated on their spouses. Prudent extrapolation should conclude that these statistics also apply to our elected “representatives.” Some simply have the misfortune of getting caught.

More distressing is the public and media obsession with the sexual conduct of various members of our government (pun intended). Once upon a time, sexual indiscretion was considered a normal part of the political animal. Jefferson had sex and illegitimate children with his slave, and just about every other President maintained at least one mistress. Why has the news of political infidelity now become fodder for scandal and blanket condemnation?

While members of both parties seem to be equally capable of depravity, they also seem to enjoy a particular holier-than-thou attitude when the other side gets caught with his or her proverbial pants down, as if it settles the matter that one party is sleazier than the other, once and for all.  With all the facts in evidence, I think we can now assume that almost every one of our elected officials is of dubious moral character, regardless of political or closeted sexual orientation. Since this is a settled matter, it would be wonderful if we could just agree that people’s private sex lives are private. I personally would rather rate politicians on the job they do, rather than whom they have consensual sex with.

We are currently weathering the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. We are funding and fighting in three wars. Fanatical ideologies that threaten the very foundation of our democracy are on the rise, and powerful private interests have infiltrated our government at every level. While I am impressed by the appearance and apparent girth of Rep. Weiner’s wiener, I really think our media and minds could find better fodder for contemplation.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Owning Paradise – Snapshots from the Edge of Destruction

“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit (Edward Abbey).”

Most spend lives caged in the artificial concrete and steel habitats of humanity. But instinctively, we crave a return to the source of our creation. Ecotourism venues bulge with urbanites fleeing en masse from the artificial spaces of anthropogenic construction.

As a small child, I remember lying outside on the lawn of my South Florida home, framing windows with my small hands of a world without any human-made contaminants. In Dade County suburbia, this was no small feat. Blocking out the power lines that then stretched the length of every street, the asphalt grid of the roads and the cement block houses that appeared at predictable quarter-acre intervals as far as the eye could see, usually restricted the finger-shaped snapshots to expanses of sky and cloud with a carefully-selected canopy top of a favorite tree.

In adulthood, I continue the tradition. Now armed with a digital SLR and a variety of lenses, I can manipulate a view the outside world to create an unspoiled paradise in my imagination with photographs. I love to capture beautiful things, flowers, birds, vistas devoid of the human stain, frozen in the perfection of time and place. I cherish the images, the memories they hold and the beings within them, but I also realize my collection of wonders is but an illusion and my love of the two-dimensional flawlessness, a form of denial.

Next to the myriad shoreline birds, stately pelicans and diving terns inhabiting the salt pond is a town dump deliberately obscured from the reach of the camera lens. I once tested the pond water, and it came up positive for Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Poor birds, poor fish, poor invertebrates living in toxic sediment at the bottom of the pond and infected with the residues of man’s negligence. Who knows what toxic stew contaminates the fragile tissues of these beloved beings? How many fly away only to die quietly off at sea from a toxic meal of chemical and plastic?

I encounter a yellow-crowned night heron, roaming in a tidal marshland, oblivious to the destruction that will soon besiege her home when it is dredged and scraped clean of life to make a marina for the million-plus dollar yacht toys of the obscenely rich. What happens to the bird when the dredging machines arrive? Does she hunker down on her nest hoping the nightmare will pass? As the scooping bucket of the giant machine inches its way closer and closer, does she must make the impossible choice to leave her progeny and save herself?

In the snapshot, she is frozen in time, perfect for my delusion to remember a ideal, happy time when once an unspoiled spot of the Earth existed.  Little bird fly free, away from harm. But there is nowhere else to go.

Here is a magnificent specimen of Conocarpus erectus or green buttonwood, growing on the edge of a natural channel. For hundreds of years, this venerable being has survived, growing on a substrate of solid limestone rock, buffeted by tides and storms, drought and flood. Like a salty old sailor with weathered and leathered skin, a story of tenacity is told in the twisted, stunted form, resilience against all odds, except one.

Shortly after the snapshot was taken, bulldozers came through and ripped clear, root from rock. Hundreds of years of determination, wiped out in a few hours. Now a condominium marks the spot where the ancient sentinel once stood. What did it feel? As primordial roots were pried loose from solid anchoring, did the tree resign itself to death? Or, as salt and sun hardened branches broke and crumpled under mechanical blades, did the tenacious tree cling, relentlessly to the last shreds of existence until the last connection to Earth was cut? Beauty shattered. To what purpose?

People see the water, the sky, a perfect expanse of verdant land, and they want to possess it, thinking possession will fuse them to the wonder of existence. But the act of possessing destroys the very object of desire.

The people who park their boats in the marina look out at a landscape they have no connection to other than complicity in the crime of its destruction. They will never know the heron or how she once stealthily made her way through tall grass, ambushing lizards and bugs.

The condominium owners will sit on their balconies, stare out at the view and be satisfied with their monetary achievement. But all their money cannot replace the carelessly discarded soul that once marked the boundary of “their” land. Paper money and paper deeds, secured by superior military acuity, trump thousands of years of evolution, of belonging.

The Western notion of ownership is a genocidal crime against nature. The white man stole North America from the Indians with guns and germs, then stole the land again from all its other rightful inhabitants, justifying the action with words on paper, ownership. Always, it comes back to words and dollar signs on paper, as worthless in nature as parched sand to a dying man in the desert. We contrive to steal whatever we want from countless, endless souls, who have no access to or interest in our meaningless paper justifications.

The Earth has been appropriated by virtue of an arbitrary system, created by humans. We earned it. We bought it. We own it, but what about the autonomous beings that do not consent to being owned? What does our ownership grant? Once we have driven the original inhabitants from the land, we end up with yet another human altered landscape, the very type from which we crave escape.

I keep my gems, my snapshots, remind myself of what is important and share them with others with a silent prayer the world will one day embrace the relevant too. I will continue to compose fragments of beauty and truth, living in denial and hope that one day external reality will match the images within the frames.