Friday, November 5, 2010

On balance

Theology alert--feel free to jump in....
This was inspired by Father Sean and Brother John and Reverend Scott.


We need balance in our lives. Overwhelmed? Seek balance.

An innocuous philosophy--who could possibly be against balance?

A madman in the back wildy waves hand--and (again) I get sent out of the classroom.


The light is failing. Local carbon dioxide levels will rise until late May now, when resurrected plants start reconstructing the molecules back into something we can use again next winter. CO2 and H2O, carefully bonded back together into strawberries in June, peaches in July, corn in August, wheat in the September...little left now but the kale and the Brussels sprouts.

Breathe on your hand--you can feel the moisture, the breeze of molecules brushing your hand.

If God can be found, She will be found in the chloroplast, Her heart made of rubisco, the enzyme that puts us together, the most common protein in our known universe. She carefully holds a tiny molecule of carbon dioxide, three atoms of nothing, and glues them to life.
Heart of God?

She takes her life, her energy from the sun. Three times a second, another molecule of CO2 pressed together to a molecule of life, over and over and over again.

Rubisco is everywhere, in every green leaf, and as the leaves of summer fade into fall's glory, She leaves us. We start to drown in our own CO2, waiting for Her return, as She has, as She will. (That's called faith.)

You cannot balance a lifetime. You can dance, jump for joy, cringe in fear, curl up, scream, love or hate. There is no balance for love, for fear.

A well lived life is not one where you've balanced your fears with your joys, your love with your hate.

A "well lived" life makes no sense. You cannot "lived"--you can only live, now, this moment. Either the amygdala or the cortex rules a moment. We pretend we can string together moments, we hold on to memories, to words, to pictures, to myths of eternity, and we miss the obvious.

The here and now.

And we wonder why it's hard to teach children in a classroom....


A couple of soldier flies erupted from our class terrarium last week. Unexpected. Large critters crawled out of the thin litter layering the glass bottom. The yellow bar splashed on their legs with their waspish wings and fluttering antennae screamed danger. My cortex knows they're harmless, my amygdala makes my fingers stutter when I pick one up.

The last few days a half dozen more came from the same dirt.

When I opened the top to feed my sowbugs yesterday, two flew out and headed for the window. They only live a day or two as adults, and they had been trapped for hours in the terrarium. They flew fiercely, full of desire, and crashed right into the glass.

Instinct, true. Fixed action patterns with proximate and ultimate causes. Memorize this, children, pay $87, and earn your AP Biology credit.

We never speak of desire in other creatures. Of wants. Of needs.

The soldier fly carcasses will sit on the sill until my students return on Monday. I will ask them how they got there. Then I will ask why.

We all need what rubisco gets us--we all feel desire. It's why we burn our energy even though we know December's coming.

וייצר יהוה אלהים את האדם עפר מן האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה׃
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul.

We think we're sophisticated and learned and (the worst conceit of the three) immortal. We gorge on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and forget that we are closer to the soldier flies than we are to rubisco.

I do not know who wrote the Hebrew Bible, and I do not know which of the 47 men chosen by King James translated Genesis 2:7, but there's been a huge misinterpretation of "soul" in the last few hundred years.

The soul, at least according to the Words allegedly governing the actions of the dangerously powerful here in the States, is not separate from the dirt. Our "stuff," the polymers of proteins, our layers of lipids, our DNA, our essence, is our soul.

We are mortal and finite. We are living souls, dependent on rubisco, dependent on unimaginable events in the heart of the sun, hydrogen to fusion, mass to light.

You want your children ready for the world of humans, raise them under artificial light. Keep them planted in front of monitors. Feed them impossibly perfect fruit. Keep them shod. Pump them full of music made by machines. Surround them with images of the "perfect" human, and demand they become one.

Don't talk to me about balance.

We are training our children to avoid the window pane, to stay safe, to gaze at the world outside, to create stronger panes. We don't want to see them hurt. We cannot imagine their last agonal breaths.

Me? I want my children to crash into the glass, and if they're bloodied lying on the sill, to get up and crash into it again. Again and again and again.

3 billion years of desire got us to here; a few hundred years of playing God has reduced us chasing photons on screens, practicing religion disconnected from the wiser elders who wrote texts we refuse to read, to believing we are in control.

I may be unhinged, but I am not as unbalanced as anyone who believes in balance.

The sun that sustains me has been dropping lower into the sky day by day, the plants that feed me have lost their leaves, the bees I adore have gone. I am a man of science, I have a good idea why this is so.

I am also a man of faith--faith that the sunlight will return, and that rubisco will return with it come spring.

Photos are mine and Leslie's.
The rubisco model is from Wikipedia, and is in the public domain.

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