Light and Our Natural Navigational Systems

Loggerhead Turtle

Photo: Benjamin Albiach Galan/Shutterstock

Barbara Brown Taylor in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark quotes an article by Clark Strand. “In this article Strand states: that the invention of the incandescent lightbulb changed life on earth in ways that most human beings remain largely oblivious to. That invention was the spiritual tipping point, he says. By providing us with good, cheap light, the light bulb allowed us to make advances in every area of human enterprise, convincing us that there was nothing we could not handle with just a little more light.”

“The only casualty was darkness—“a thing of little value,” Strand wrote, “an absence really, a blank space on the canvas of eternity that we could fill in as we pleased. Or so we thought.”

Taylor’s book has many intriguing insights gleaned from doing experiments that helped her to face concerns she experienced in the dark. In her book there is a chapter called, “Hampered by Brilliance,”  where Taylor describes a time when she and her husband were exploring the dunes on Cumberland Island when they came upon a loggerhead turtle.

Taylor shares what happened next:

“She (the turtle) was still alive but just barely, her shell hot to the touch from the noonday sun.  We both knew what had happened.  She had come ashore during the night to lay her eggs, and when she had finished, she had looked around for the brightest horizon to lead her back to the sea.  Mistaking the distant lights on the mainland for the sky reflected on the ocean, she went the wrong way. Judging by her tracks, she had dragged herself through the sand until her flippers were buried and she could go no farther. We found her where she had given up, half cooked by the sun but still able to turn one eye up to look at us when we bent over her.”

Taylor goes on to explain how her husband went to the ranger station while she put sand on the turtle’s shell to cool her down. With the help of the ranger the turtle was flipped onto her back and pulled by the ranger’s jeep to the lapping waves of the ocean shore.

Taylor goes on to ask, “But who will help her the next time?  The lights on the mainland would still be there—even more than this year, judging from the new strip malls we had passed on our way to the ferry.  When her eggs hatched, her babies would be subject to the same confusion as their mother.  What hope did the turtles have, with their navigational system made obsolete by humans?”

Baby Loggerhead Turtle

Photo: Alejandro Linares Garcia

This story has made me think about a few things.  Are we confusing ourselves and the ecosystems of the earth with too much light? If what humans are doing with the amount of light in their area is affecting the ecosystem of the creatures around it, how much longer will it take for too much light to begin to affect how humans are functioning? I began wondering if we are heading in the wrong direction in our lives from an unhealthy balance of rest due to busyness and the use of electronic screens in our lives.  Is the light of the number of screens available to you to use at any time of the day or night a good thing? Are we ever really able to turn off as humans, if we are electronically plugged into so much around us?

As I am typing this blog I have five screens of electronics surrounding me: A television screen, my laptop, a kindle paper white reader, a kindle fire, and an iPhone.  Are all of these screens and their brightness reducing abilities good for me in the long run?  I may think I’m saving time by not meeting people in person, because I’m staying in touch with them through texting and other social media forms. But am I really? The other night I was using the light of my cell phone to find my slippers. I find hospitality today means being able to provide charging cables and outlets for people so they will be able to recharge their electronics before they leave to do their next activity.  And do we even know the number of young people who willingly face time or leave Skype on all night long just to have their dating partner nearby?

I am obviously not against the use of all of the wonders of hand held or electronic devices. I am wondering if I am balancing the use of electronics with the rest I get and the other natural rhythms in my life. I mean if we all are sleeping next to an iPad, an iPhone, a laptop, or some android device, how are our lives being subtly changed in ways that we may not even realize? Are our natural navigational systems becoming confused?  I would venture to say if loggerhead turtles and their newly hatched babies are getting confused with what light to follow for their natural rhythms of life, then this is also true for humans and their young ones.

I think I need to get used to the quietness of the evening and a dark still room in a new way.

Photo found by clicking at the following web site: Loggerhead Turtle

Clark Strand “Turn Out the Lights” as quoted in Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. Harper One: Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2014.

Second photo found by clicking at the following web site:  Baby Loggerhead Turtle Photo

A Devotional Thought

The Annunciation wall panel – ca. 1933

     “Who can explain the kind of bodies in which the angels appeared to men, so that they were not only visible but tangible as well?  And again, how do they, not by impact of physical stimulus but by spiritual force, bring certain visions, not to the   physical eyes but to the spiritual eyes of the mind, or speak something, not to the ears, as from outside us, but actually from within the human soul, since they are present within it too?  For, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:  “And the angel that spoke in me, said to me…” (Zech 1:9)  He does not say, “Spoke to me” but “Spoke in me.”  How do they appear to men in sleep, and communicate through dreams, as we read in the Gospel:  “Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying…” (Matt. 1:20)  By these various modes of presentations, the angels seem to indicate that they do not have tangible bodies; yet this raises the very difficult question:  How, then, did the patriarchs wash the angels’ feet? (Gen. 18:4; 19:2)  How also did Jacob wrestle with the angel in such a tangible form?

     To ask questions as these, and to guess at the answers as one can, is not a useless exercise in speculation, so long as the discussion is moderate and one avoids the mistake of those who think they know what they do not know.”

St Augustine (ca. 410 CE),  Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 

Found within the daily readings of Phyllis Tickles book The Night Offices:  Prayers for the Hours From Sunset to Sunrise, page 346.

blessings to you this day,

Molly

A Christmas Wish

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When my children were young, I remember them checking the Advent Christmas Box (in the picture above).  It was a delight to see their curiosity of what was in the drawer each day. To be honest with you, as they got older I even took their groans of disappointment from what they found in the little drawer as a sign we were still communicating. I liked that they still cared about what they found, and that I was still trying my best to find something they liked. I enjoyed trying to make them happy, because at times it was a challenge to find something little that would hit the mark.

When I was young, I remember making a wish at this time of year. It came so easy to hope for something special to happen at Christmas time. What happens when we grow up?  Do we forget to make a wish?  Why does that hope go away?  Where does it go?  Does it dissolve into busyness and responsibilities?  Do we make wishes anymore? Does anyone (over 18) make a wish at Christmas anymore?

After years of nurturing my children through the holiday season, it struck me that I’ve stopped making Christmas wishes. The mysterious hope of of something happening that is not necessarily about a miracle, magical thinking, hoping for a white Christmas, (because it doesn’t usually snow in this part of Oregon), or a material item as it is a shift in how a relationship functions, a new way of seeing situations, or a moment that passes beyond my intellectual processing and taps something deeper in my senses that reminds me of the intrigue and the wonder of life.

My Christmas wish is for people to start making Christmas wishes again.

My personal Christmas wish is to find the sheer goodness in people and to in some small way share goodness with others.

If you haven’t already made a wish this year, I encourage you to make a Christmas wish.

Blessings to you

A Gray Barn

P1050819A barn found near a busy intersection on River Road. I like taking pictures of the barns in the Pacific Northwest, because they don’t make them like they used to anymore. A pole barn is much easier and cheaper to build. I wonder how long some of these barns will be standing.  They seem to be slowly disappearing.

Blessings on your day!

Molly

Books, Books…And More Books

The Littlest Angel was written by Charles Tazewell and illustrated by Paul Micich. This book was one of my favorite stories when I as a child.  I’m glad I was read to as a young person, because I have good memories of those stories.

Photo by Jon Katz

Photo by Jon Katz

I finished reading Saving Simon:  How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion by Jon Katz last month. If you want to read an encouraging story this month, Saving Simon is a great book to read! I learned that animals like the area above their noses rubbed.  I started doing this with the dogs in my life, and surprisingly they have responded positively to being touched above their noses that way. I began following John’s Blog, Bedlam Farm.com, because I love seeing pictures of Simon, the rest of their farm animals, and the fabric art work Jon’s wife Maria makes.

The book I’m currently reading is Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology: Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis by Daniel L. Brunner, Jennifer L. Butler, and A.J. Swoboda. This book is thoroughly researched with in depth details on the theological reasons why Christians need to become aware of our planet’s ecological crisis and to become a part of caring for God’s creation. The text includes practical ways to add meaning to your life by caring for yourself and the environment in your area in new ways. When I was working on a masters degree at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, I was privileged to be a student of Dr. Brunner. I was also lucky to be a classmate of Jennifer and her husband Peter in several classes Dr. Brunner was teaching.  Along with A.J. Swoboda, these three authors lead the Christian Earth Keeping Concentration at George Fox Evangelical Seminary.  This is a good read that presents compelling evidence and research to support why Christians need to become participants in caring for the delicate ecosystems of our planet.

 As I shared in an earlier post, I’m reading through Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark on my Kindle. Though I am not very far into the book, I can say Taylor has a masterful way of expressing spiritual lessons. I need to carve out a block of quiet time and a quiet space to enjoy these good books.

Christmas Back In The Day

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This is a picture from back in the day when I was a little one. I was six years old, in the first grade, and wearing an angel costume made by my mother for the school Christmas program. I loved going to school. I loved my teacher. And I loved learning. That first year of school planted a huge hunger and thirst for knowledge and learning that has stayed with me all of my life. I was so sad when that school year ended.

This picture makes me want to remind those of you with little children, grand children, great grand children, nieces and nephews, students in a classroom:  Remember to take time to love and honor the little children in your life by letting them know how special they are!  You never know the difference you make in their lives!

Less Is More

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Chocolate!

There are so many places where I can find really delicious tasting chocolate in the area. We had company at our house over Thanksgiving Break.  With my preparation time running short, I bought some Dove brand chocolate, dark chocolate and peppermint bark, to have around for my guests and me. It is very tasty chocolate. Then I read the bottom left hand corner of each package, and I realized 5 pieces of chocolate adds up to 200 or more calories.  I began to wonder if I really needed chocolate, and I realized I could probably live with out it. I have nothing against chocolate or Dove chocolate in particular, but in an effort to live life with less this month, I’m not going to buy anymore chocolate for myself. I think less will be more in this case, and I think I will survive if I don’t have some tasty chocolate bite to nibble or to hand out to others for a dessert.  I’m thinking I could even donate the money I would spend on buying chocolate to a local charity.  With the chocolate that is left, I think I’ll spend more time admiring it than devouring it.

I’ll let you know how it all works out (-if it works out)!

A Season to Admire

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It’s December and I’ve been thinking about how I would like this festive month to go.  I recently stumbled upon this quote in an article:

 “It may be that vice, depravity, and crime are nearly always, or even perhaps always, in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at.”  Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Since I first read this quote, I have not been able to get the thought of admiring the beauty all around me and not over indulging in it -out of my head. With the season of Advent and the frenetic energy of events that happen in the month of December, I have been wondering if there is a way to interact with all that is happening by admiring it, enjoying the beauty, not consuming (or over consuming) my way through it.

These thoughts of admiring and not consuming came from an interview I read regarding Barbara Brown Taylor. Taylor is an author, a gifted speaker, and one of the top 12 preachers in the United States (Baylor.edu). She is a world religion professor and Episcopalian Minister, and in this article she is asked a series of questions about one of her books, An Altar in the World. The article with the interview of Taylor is called:  Material Faith: An Interview with Barbara Brown Taylor by & ; the article can found by clicking Here.

This is the interviewer’s question and Taylor’s response that jogged my attention:

The Other Journal (TOJ): Much of the pain we just spoke of is the sort associated with mortality; its coming and going is largely outside our control. Over the course of its history, the Christian tradition has run the whole spectrum of material engagement, from the well-known extravagance of Middle Age Catholicism to the sometimes deliberately severe asceticism of some monastic and mystic traditions. In your opinion, is there an appropriate place for Christian asceticism today, and if so, what might this particular stream of the Christian tradition have to teach us—particularly those of us who find our home in a culture of excess?

Barbara Brown Taylor (BBT): That is an exciting question, because it is one that not many people ask. I think I started to address it earlier, by talking about how important it is to limit the amount of time we spend sitting in front of screens. Although living in a culture of excess can bewitch us, it can also offer us regular opportunities to say, “No, thank you,” which is the spiritual equivalent of lifting barbells. The French mystic Simone Weil once wrote about how important it is to be able to regard something beautiful without having to devour it. In Waiting for God she wrote, “It may be that vice, depravity, and crime are nearly always, or even perhaps always, in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at.” To learn to look at things instead of devouring them is to discover how quickly the feeling of deprivation can turn to liberation instead. Every time I say no—to more stuff, more speed, more activity, more food—this great big space opens up in my life. If I can remember how free I feel inside of that space, then I can sometimes even resist filling it back up again. I have never been part of a church that supported me to do that in community, but I can imagine how powerful it might be.

So yes, I think there is an appropriate place for Christian asceticism today—especially because we live in a culture of excess. If the church is meant to embody an alternative way of life, then what better witness could there be than a community that decided to live on less in order to live more richly? That sounds like the kind of truth that could make people free.

I found Taylor’s thoughtful answer and Simone Weil’s words to be full of salt landing in just the right places in my being to challenge me to want to try a new way of going through Advent. Weil’s words are so thoughtful, because they make me think about what I am consuming and why I am taking these things into my life.  If I am consuming out of despair, theft, envy, greed, compulsion, am I really edifying myself?  I can’t be filled up or satisfied on things that won’t really be good for me.

This year, I am going to practice the spiritual discipline of restraint by enjoying all that is around me by not devouring nor over consuming the food, the events, and the festivities. I want to admire all of the beauty in the sights, the shopping, the tasty food, the music, and the people around me by taking them in through my senses in a new way. I don’t want to objectify them nor over consume them, but truly enjoy the activities, the people, and the adventure from a new place of admiration and restraint. I want to change my thinking from “I need to experience all of it, until I’m completely full” to “I can enjoy the portion of food I have. I can be happy with the time I have with the people I care about; it is enough. I don’t need more” I want to stop thinking of how I can get ‘more’ out of something.  I want to be happy with less. Or even better,I want to learn to be happy with what I have. Over the month of December, I want to develop a peaceful acceptance and satisfaction with all that I do get to experience.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I was interested to learn Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book is out, and it’s called, Learning to Walk in the Dark. I’m reading it on my Kindle. Though I am not very far into the book, I can say Taylor has a masterful way of expressing spiritual lessons.

Top Quote from: Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Craufurd (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1951), 166.

Baylor Names the 12 Most Effective Preachers, February 28, 1996, found at the following website:

https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=1036