Thursday, April 22, 2010

Holy water

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

W. B. Yeats
"Among School Children"

Earth Day. Again.

For a few generations, a small slice of humans on this planet got to pretend they rose above the wilderness, the wildness. We pretend we are immortal. We hide our dead and dying.

Wheat settled yesterday for $4.993/4 per bushel. A penny will get you 2000 individual wheat berries.

An acre in wheat will yield about 42 bushels, gross about $210 for the farmer. The farmer pays for fertilizer, for grain, and sometimes for water. The carbon dioxide and sunlight are free.

I grew wheat once on a 20 square foot plot. It yielded about a pint of wheat berries. Cost me nothing but a handful of grain.

It's Earth Day--go scatter some wheat.

We eat a lot of wheat. We chew bread, break down the complex sugars to smaller parts, tiny pieces of which finally enter our cells. In our cytoplasm, the bread is broken, and even smaller pieces wander over to mitochondria. Oxygen accepts the now spent electrons, electrons initially excited by sunlight on a Kansas plain, and we recreate the holy water that initially gave up the electrons on a sunlit wheat field.

Resurrection in a water drop. The water is broken on a farmer's field, resurrected in a cell deep within my body.

I can never claim to be a reborn Christian--that implies a singular event. I've been reborn enough times to qualify as an Hindu. I'll leave the Mysteries to the theologians, but I do like our Creation stories, even if they are internally inconsistent. Good stories focus on truths, not facts.

And in the Genesis I read, our soul is made of mud. Our soul is made of breath. We are living souls, acts of creation, and temporary acts at that. We are part of something larger.

Every breath in, oxygen. Every breath out, resurrection.


How do you teach this, this mystery of the mitochondria, of the wheat, of water that splits and combines, then splits again, using the sun's energy, so that we can go about singing and frowning and dancing and copulating and playing and growing and, yes, dying, one generation to the next?

How do we approach the mystery from the science end? How do we teach that we are just a tiny piece of consciousness in a long dance of life, and a longer dance of energy?

And if we should ever succeed in teaching this, how will we keep the children in the classroom on a lovely, lovely April afternoon?

The drawing was lifted from the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor--
there is an annual fundraiser there in my sister's name--go enjoy yourselves!

Ironically, my sister was killed by an errant self-identified Christian missionary.


John Spencer said...

Today we had students at the nearby high school do a walk-out to protest the new immigration bill. I kept thinking, "It's so arbitrary. It's just land. Why do we color it politically."

A teacher claimed that most of them were walking out just to get outside, since it's such a nice day.

Isn't that the act of rebellion in a modern society? It's the notion that those who once lived among the land can still call it home. It's the notion that political and social boundaries do not supercede the land, the mud, the source of the adobe abodes that once lined this desert. It's the notion that those who work the land are as important as those who benefit from the labor.

It's the notion that a group of kids are motivated as much by the pull of geography as they are anything else.

We believe in the lie of the forbidden fruit. Call it apple or an a-bomb, a slippery serpent or a slimy politician. We've been duped by the lie that the garden isn't beautiful and that we should ditch it to run after specialized knowledge and all so that we can determine the good and the evil.

Sorry to go political on my response. I loved this post. I enjoyed the thoughts on the Genesis story as well.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Glad to see you expand your note here as a post at your site.

Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land," as you no doubt know. What you might not know is this stanza:

As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

I cannot believe the bill. Glad to see you teaching the next generation.