|credit: Doris Sheppard|
A blue whale lies fermenting on the shores of Newfoundland. With a world population numbering a mere 250, it represents one of the most endangered creatures on earth.
I’ve stood under a blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling of the Beatty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver and the thing was mind boggling big. The length of two city buses, one feels the vulnerability of Jonah in its skeletal presence. These are rare, grand creatures.
This one probably won’t explode. The gasses building in its gut will likely seep out through its decaying skin. But what if it did explode? Yes, the clean up job would be enormous and very gross, but it would certainly serve as a stunning metaphor for the extinction drama our planet is currently experiencing.
The place where the metaphor breaks down, of course, is in the sound department -- while species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate, they are doing so without explosions or cymbal crashes. They disappear quietly. No explosions, just fewer chirps, croaks and songs.
If a whale explodes on a beach and there is no one around to hear it does it make a sound?
Perhaps the better question is “What sound of lament will we make as Creation’s choir loses so many voices?”
Hello Blog Chums!
I want to make you all aware of a wonderful creation care podcast series that has just come online this week. It’s hosted by a wonderful website called HomeBrewed Christianity (think theology, beer and winsome dialogue).
Yours truly lead off the series on all things Planted and A Rocha. The podcasts are about 50 minutes each and are free for your listening enjoyment (just scroll down until you see the little play button).
Go to http://homebrewedchristianity.com/
Here’s an outline of the series. Enjoy!
Episode 1: Leah Kostamo author of Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community
Episode 2: Matthew Sleeth author of Serve God Save The Planet , The Gospel According to the Earth & 24/6
Episode 3: Jennifer Butler is part of the new Christian Earthkeeping emphasis at George Fox Seminary. She is co-author of the upcoming book On Earth As In Heaven due out in November.
Episode 4: Randy Woodley with Shalom and the Community of Creation: an Indigenous Vision
Episode 5: John Cobb rang the alarm bell back in 1972 and has recently returned to the theme with Spiritual Bankruptcy: a prophetic call to action.
Episode 6: is a special surprise from new Elder Micky Jones and friend.
Episode 7: is specifically food related. How do get food on the table? What issues are related to feeding a family?
Episode 8: at the the end of each episode, we ask our guest the same 5 questions. Tripp and I are dedicating a TNT to interacting with their answers to the those 5 questions. It will be in the same format that we did the Brueggemann-Fretheim Bible Bash.
They say you should never name an animal you plan on eating. Perhaps, but I’ll say one thing: when you know it’s Shaggy on your plate, it sure adds authenticity to your pre-meal prayer. Firsthand knowledge of your dinner’s name brings you face to face with the fact that everything that feeds us—from a beef steak to a beefsteak tomato—has to die to give us life. As Gary Synder so ably puts it, “if we do eat meat, it is the life, the bounce, the swish, of a great alert being with keen ears and lovely eyes, with four square feet and a huge beating heart that we eat, let us not deceive ourselves.”
Rick Faw taught us a lot in this regard. Rick, who serves as A Rocha’s Education Director, came with his family to live at the Field Study Centre the spring after we arrived. One of the first tasks we bequeathed to him was the care of the cows, a task he gladly accepted, being a closet cow whisperer and all-around animal lover. The image that stays with me from those early days is of Rick, baby Jared on his back and a farm cat at his heels, pushing a wheelbarrow towering with hay through the sodden grass to the pasture. He’d deftly launch the bales over the fence and into the cows’ troughs, pet their foreheads while they munched, and then go on with his other farm chores. This was his morning routine.
In the late afternoons, while Jared napped, Rick returned to the fields to brush the cows. I think he really wanted a dog, or any more sentient sort of pet, but since he had cows, he poured all his pent-up pet affection into them. He’d stand out there, in the cold, in his 1980s bright blue ski jacket, and brush those cows down as if they were Arabian mares and tomorrow was the Kentucky Derby. Markku and I watched all this from our kitchen window and, I must admit, wondered if Rick was making the best use of his time. Surely he could be writing a fundraising letter or planning a talk or following up with potential interns. There was just so much to be done.
Our attitude just goes to show our lack of groundedness. Brushing the cows, by Rick’s own admission, served no practical function. Highland cattle on the moors of Scotland never get their coats brushed and they survive just fine. A few burrs and tangles in no way mitigates their enjoyment of sun, grass and stars. But then Rick wasn’t really concerned with burrs and tangles; the brushing was a way of de-stressing for Rick (and probably for the cows as well). In this way it was both an act of contemplation and even, dare I say, of fellowship. Given his bonding with these beasts you’d think Rick would have been the first of us to go vegetarian (I alone of all the A Rocha staff hold that distinction). But no, he ate the stews and roasts just like everyone else. He did admit, however, that he felt a measure of sadness when eating our cows, but for him this was a good thing, for in his sadness lay the seeds of gratitude.