STORY TIME

ORIGINAL INNOCENCE.  Adam & Eve                             © 2019, MeridaGOround

I love good stories.  Surely we all have some familiarity with this one.  It comes from the First Book of Moses, titled Beginnings, perhaps known more widely as Genesis. (Moses wasn’t actually the author, but he gets the royalties for writing down this oral history – although even this detail is dubious.)  My point is that facts and stories are often at odds.  

This short story has entered public consciousness, but with much accumulated baggage which simply isn’t there :  concepts such as sin, fall, apple, satan.  So, where did they come from, and how did they insinuate themselves into our story, and our thinking?  ¿Maybe that hulking clownish presence in the upper right of the image whispered them into our ears?  In the original language, a serpent is known as nacash, whisperer.  We can almost hear it hissiing,  pssst, this story is gaming you.

No, don’t run away!  Like Moses, you need courage to handle the serpent, wisely.  (Don’t grab him by the tail (tale?) or he could turn and bite you.  If you’re still convinced that those terms, sin-fall-apple-satan are in the story somewhere, you’ve already been bitten.  Have a look for yourself, using the pulldown menu  presently set at “KJV” — choosing whichever version you prefer,  as I’m unaware of any translation that includes them.  (The story is very short.)  I’m not trying to charm you, but merely awaken you from a bad religious or cultural dream.  

There’s a point to this story of the garden.  I won’t presume to tell you what it is, but will ask you to think along with my four-year-old self.  As I watched my Mom preparing meals, she would often tell me “don’t touch the hot stove.”  Why does she keep telling me this? – I wondered.  So one day, after she had turned off the flame, and turned her back, I put my index finger on the blackened metal grate.  Yeow! – I cried, and beheld a blister forming instantly.  And, of course, she said I told you not to do that, silly!  But, here’s the thing :  she did not kick me out of the house for disobedience, nor curse me with a death sentence.  Yet this is exactly what our story tells us that our Divine Parent did when the first couple disobeyed. Is rigid, uncurious obedience the point of the garden story?  I think not.

 A delightful account of the history behind this story can be found in a book by Harvard’s Stephen Greenblatt, titled The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve(I’ve linked a 4-star review by an Amazon Vine Voice, a Doctor Moss; Kindle:  $8.30, for those who want more of the details.)

For me, the contest between innocence and sin comes when Bishop Augustine and Pelagius (a saintly British monk) disagreed over doctrine, Pelagius arguing on behalf of innocence.  Well, Augustine, being a powerful church politician, won, and Pelagius’s letters were burned, and he was declared a heretic (see pp. 104+, of Greenblatt). And the world got celibacy and pedophilia.  Life might be dull without some drama, which I suppose can be a problem with nonduality (also called monism).  But I digress. 

No apple!  Nor was sex the problem in our story.  Sex is natural, and innocent, when balanced.  No marriage, either.  Back then, and for many, many centuries beyond, we simply got into the same tent together one night, and emerged in the morning as a couple.  Everybody in camp knew that we were now a couple, with major responsibilities for each other, and to the human family, the community.  Absence of ceremony didn’t lessen the seriousness, but may have kept the cost of formalities in check <wink>.  (But note that the state will declare you married by “common law” eventually, and it will divide “the stuff” of your relationship.)  ¿ Best to catch up with modern times by being real?

ASIDE.  There’s a new nonfiction book coming July 9th, titled Three Women, which may do a lot of whispering, based on my reading of a review with excerpt.  I’ve not read the book, and probably won’t. (It could be this year’s 50-Shades, also not read by me, but as nonfiction.)  The new book claims not to be about sex, but rather about desire.  Yet it seems to be selling drama and sex.  And it seems it will do much whispering.  Be alert.  If you enter the story you may burn your finger, or worse.  You might do better reading an ancient stoic, Epictetus, his Discourses, (online, or from a library) who writes about desire and aversion in a balanced and undramatic way, with short essays which will focus the mind on these topics, painlessly.  

As Pelagius argued, Adam and Eve probably would have died a natural death, anyway.  And my last shot is simply this.  When we die, we get to export only the lessons we’ve learned.  (I hope I’ll avoid touching a hot stove again. Curiosity has other tools beyond the senses, intuition being among them.)

Note: the photo above, shot in my backyard here in Mérida, is copyrighted by me, “MeridaGOround”. Contact me thru the comment section of this site to discuss usage.  But be sure NOT to include any links in your message, as my spam trap is very sensitive. So, include a “broken” email address after the @ (adding a space, which I will then mend) and I will reply to you.  Please include your real name in the comment, so I can verify that you are not a spammer.   Also, I plan to print a small, fine art run of archival prints done on rag paper, with chromogenic inks, which should be for sale later this summer; and perhaps I will attempt a painting, as well. 

TOBACCO SMOKE, & MIRRORS

by Stuart Palley/EPA

Remember when ? —

the tobacco industry lied to Congress, while having 50 years of hard evidence in its files that tobacco smoke causes cancer? “Cigarette smoking is no more ‘addictive’ than coffee, tea or Twinkies.”

President Eisenhower lied to the public about a spy plane flying over Russia, instead being a weather plane that went off course?

President Johnson lied about Vietnam: “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

 President Trump lies about climate change, even tho’ 13 of his federal agencies find it real.  

#  #  #

Powerful essay linked here about the rights of children to a stable climate:

House hearings are being held during which members learned, for example, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations were last this high three million years ago when the planet was 2º to 3º Celsius warmer, sea levels were 75 feet higher and beech trees grew in Antarctica and the current rate of warming is unprecedented in over 50 million years.

Both sides of the aisle fiddle, while Rome burns!  Speak out, or choke. (see comment)

The fire of Rome, by Hubert Robert, 1771

 

ALL, or nothing

PRESENT         absent

ONE                   zero

FULL                 empty

If One is All it must include nOne.

Psalm 27 verse 4, two renderings, in English :

[King James]   One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

[mine]  ONENESS with the Divine is my quest, until i awaken to THAT present state which inhabits all of creation forever, beholding JOY, drawn by enlightened desire.

¿What do we really want?

NOTE:  Elsewhere on these pages I’ve rendered the ethics teachings of Jesus (“the sermon on the mount”) in contemporary language, consolidating that sermon, which is scattered across several gospels, into a single attempt.

 

NATURE GETS HER SHARE

Backyard figs, protected from the birds.

Fruit grows well here.  Vegetables are more of a challenge.  As a longtime organic gardener, I’ve mostly given up on veggies, buying them at the Slow Food Market, or the supermarket.  

Above we have a picture that saves some delicious fruit for the table : figs.  Until now, it has been rare that a whole fig makes it to the table.  But the birds are leery of these shinny boxes – blueberry “clam shells”– so I don’t even need to close them (although they are well-ventilated even if closed). The shallow ones, depicted, don’t easily enclose a large fig, so I simply leave them open. The deeper ones close nicely after I cut a ½” square out of the lower portion of the wall, not out of the lid, to allow for the stem to pass.   The birds prefer to dine perched on a branch, and the boxes cramp their style. Or perhaps they sense a trap.

Other fruits have been more difficult to protect.  Papayas are enjoyed by parrots and iguanas.

papaya

papaya

The leaves of passion fruit (maracuya) are devoured by iguanas.

 

Carpinteros (wood peckers) hollow out pitayas (dragon fruit).

Dragon fruit blossom and fruit, Pitaya

Doves, jays, and other birds peck holes in our annonas

Annonas, with bird

annona

My all-time favorite, the banana, is mostly safe.

banana bloom

bananas

Photo by Liz O’Neil

Citrus is mostly safe from predators, except from swimmers in the pool.

Mandarin self-portrait : fruit face with leaf lips

Note:  with the exception of the pineapple and the mobile banana, all the fruits were grown in our backyard.

VIRTUAL FRIENDS : : REAL PEOPLE

Rippin’off the roof. Jim Conrad and Victor Yam remove rotted metal from the rock hut.

People flow thru our lives, and we also touch the lives of others.  Humanity is a swarm of social members, encountering, engaging, learning from, enhancing or impacting each other.  As an amateur beekeeper, I was fascinated by swarms, which I often removed from neighbor’s yards.  Yes, we are one of nature’s few social species.  (No matter how much Team Red rails against “socialism,” all the while getting cozy with Putin, we are who we are: socialists, like it or not.)  As one of our earliest stories points out :  we are supposed to be our brother’s keeper.  Not, as one philosopher claimed : hell is other people.

The impact of the internet is much in the news of late, often being described negatively as a scourge on our species, addictive, dangerous, frightening, especially its social networks.  For me, the internet has been an amazing tool, like having Harvard’s Widener library at my fingertips. But I avoid social media, largely due to the crass way it has been monetized.  Facebook and the corporatists want to harvest and sell every detail about your life, your digital DNA.  Yes, anyone who uses the internet, even those refuseniks like me, is being tracked continually.  

But this tool is amazing, if used carefully.  I long did volunteer prison work where I would ask inmates how they would manage a tool which could put itself into your hand, start itself up on a whim, and slash anyone nearby.  (I was speaking of the human mind, which needs thorough familiarity of the controls, the owner’s manual, and safety instructions.)  

The internet is a macro-version of the human mind.  It “knows” everything, and can find anything, but requires wisdom and caution to yield genuine benefits, at minimal risk.  (It’s important to know what we really want before we start searching, lest we regret our choices after arriving.)  Desire is a form of prayer which can be harnessed, if we are patient to distill it to its essence.  This takes much introspection.

Well, we often don’t know what we really want, but we can have a sense of an ideal.  Then we can set forth with a not-x approach :  Nope, don’t want  that.  This is intrepid, brave.  Someone has said that sin is like birds flying overhead.  We can’t stop them, but we don’t need to allow them to build a nest in our hair, either!

The point of this blogpost is about serendipity.  Yucatan, for me, has become like the land of Serendip. (Coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’.) I’ve encountered friends here, with the help of the internet  (and a dash of curiosity) with an array of interests, which I could not have imagined finding.  Many of them flowed from a bloggers conference which took place in Merida in 2011, at a fellow blogger‘s school, where she generously  hosted those who blogged.  

That was an amazing conference, where I met with some of the real people behind the blogs I was enjoying from Yucatan: Hammockman (Paul);  Marc, from An Alaskan in Yucatan, and many others.  While Naturalist Jim was not in attendance, I stopped in Piste to meet him.  None of this would have happened without the brilliant contributions over many years by those who harnessed 1’s and 0’s in the binary logic of base ten: giving us today, the internet.

Here are a few photos from Jim’s latest adventure, where he has taken up residence to continue to study nature, and write, at Marc’s rancho near Tepakan.  Marc was off in Alaska, enjoying the cool, while we had fun with  the project of replacing the roof before the rains come.  (While Victor is not a blogger, he is a good friend of Marc’s, and helps me at home, as our gardener.)   We got the roof done just in time!

Old roof. Won’t keep rain out.

Outdoor kitchen, needs cleaning. Has sink and built-into-counter wood burner.

Jim Conrad, fastening metal.

Jim snapped this one of me.

Ranch across the road from Jim’s new digs. (He’s a kilometer from road, so no boom-boom music, no traffic noise.)

 

 

 

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GOT MILK ? — ¿¿ GOT EGGS ??

GOT MILK?  Literalism is a hoot. (It’s also dangerous, even deadly.)    For Mexican readers, and others unfamiliar with this famous advertising campaign, things will become amply clear.

Anyone who has experienced attempting to speak a second language in a foreign culture knows it can be risky and embarrassing.  This morning I went to breakfast with a friend at a concina economica, in a tiny pueblo, the kitchen of which is depicted above.  He had been planning to cook breakfast, after doing a little work back at the ranch, but the eggs he bought the day before were bad.  So, we went into town.  While waiting for the cook to prepare huevos Mexicanos con frijoles on her smoky fire, Jim stepped into the tienda (a quick-stop grocery-wing of the diner) and asked the guy at the register ¿Tienes huevos?

 Of course, this is a perfectly literal translation of English.  But in colloquial Spanish he had bluntly asked the guy: Have you got testicles?  A polite phrasing would be ¿Se venden huevos aqui?  (Are eggs sold here.)  Hilarious!  We all had a good laugh.

Such are the pitfalls of translation.  Anyone overhearing construction workers catcalling to each other as a woman walks past on the sidewalk — Did you see those melons? — quickly recognizes the difference between idiom and literal wording,  the distinction between animal and vegetable, and word-play.

And so it is with biblical literalism.  Yet many are those Christians who insist that their reading of scripture is based on good renderings of an ancient language, even tho’ filtered thru other languages several times over :  Aramaic>Greek>Latin>English, for example — and therefore their opinion on the text must be accepted, bluntly.

Now, Jesus certainly never asked the woman at the well in Samaria GOT MELONS? — (the longest conversation scripture ever reports of Jesus talking with a woman) — but wait!  Did you ever notice that she came onto him, basically saying Hey baby, I’m not married (hinting “I’m available” see v.17) — yet we miss it, due to literalism.  I doubt the average pew-sitter has ever heard this preached.

Language is slippery. Yet so many are so quick to argue as if they know what scripture says, as though it were digitally mastered for us to replay the recording.  Preachers are taught to avoid controversy, as being “bad for business.”  Thus we suffer literalism, the great red dragon of fundamentalism, which portends disaster in whatever religion, sect, or denomination one cares to visit, across the globe, world without end, amen, be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc — ignoring the warning signs: HARD HAT AREA.  (My point, folks: don’t hit people over the head with bible verses; instead, let them feel your compassion.) We’ve all embarrassed ourselves; but God is patient, and SHe will forgive, if we will allow it and receive it, and live the forgiveness by standing corrected.

NB: Anyone wishing for a fresh reading of scripture might look at The Message, by Eugene Peterson; or at Rabbi JesusAN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY.

 

 

 

¿¿ Who Crucified MOTHER EARTH ??

In the Moonlight, by Albert von Keller. 1894. Oil on canvas: 150 x 100,5 cm,   (Wikimedia commons.)

Nearly 2000 years ago a devout Jewish heretic was hanging on a cross, put there for the crime of loving too much.  Some accounts say the Romans nailed him up there ;  others, that the rulers of the Jewish Temple had arranged it.  

Even tho’ I didn’t yet reside on this planet, I know it was me, a Christian heretic, who required it — due to my reluctance to deny myself the false pleasure of being my own god.  (Clearly, I’ve failed, but as I’ve matured somewhat, I’ve come to think of pleasure as a counterfeit of joy.)

It’s GOOD FRIDAY again, and humanity is asleep in its dreams of technology-as-savior.  Many of my Christian friends are in utter denial that Earth’s climate is changing rapidly, and have elected someone who has ordered  removal of the few safeguards America had cobbled together to delay us from snuffing ourselves.  Yes, friends, global warming is very real, as you can assess with you own eyes, by watching this one-minute satellite animation of 25 years of arctic ice declining in a blink of geological time.  (Heed the evidence of your eyeballs instead of Limbaugh’s lies!)  Remember :  the industrial revolution is only ~200 years old — so 25 years is a long portion of that! Prior to our harnessing of carbon energy, the COlevels had remained mostly steady for 10,000 years.  200 years ago they were about 280 ppm ;  today they are over 400 — preparing to cook us like planet Venus, accord to astrophysicist Adam Frank.

We are crucifying our Mother.  Some of you, who will accuse me of deifying Nature, have deified a man who would be shocked to find himself to have been designated as God-in-the-flesh — by Emperor Constantine, (“the Great Decider”) who wasn’t even a Christian until decades later on his deathbed, when he accepted Christ.  Yet the divinity of Jesus has been “settled doctrine” since the year 325AD.  Kids, he was a man who accepted the dangerous assignment of teaching us of our divinity, but not to invite us to worship him, or into our current thinking that we have a right to ruin Creation thru wasteful living, by claiming to be our own God-in-the-flesh. He was a man who came to teach us we are all divine, when and as we discover that obedience is freedom.  “Oh, but I couldn’t possibly be like Jesus — please excuse me from your heresy, sir.” Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me, said he.  We must each do our own thinking, rather than letting church bullies decide such momentous things for us.

So, how to change course?  (Is it even possible?)  Twelve-step programs tell us we must admit our addiction.  Yes, my name is ____ and I’m addicted to carbon, soot, darkness.  But rather than distracting ourselves by attempting to minimize our addiction with a smaller carbon footprint, we need to step up to calling for policy changes that bring us a radical recovery thru energy conversion.  Light, instead of carbon.  The apostle John summarized his experience of Jesus in a single, short sentence :  God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  But that sounds so naive!  Could it be true?  What about the holocaust, and birth defects?  

Look, no matter how thin you slice the baloney, it always has two sides.  And the problem of evil is no different.  So, what’s the flip side of that?  (Glad you asked.)  ¿How about the problem of the ideal?   And what is the ideal of sustainable living on the planet we’ve been given?  I will not hasten to answer, but I suspect it has something to do with light — seeing it, being it, loving it.  Yes, Jesus did say I am the light of the world.  But he also said you are the light of the world.  Yeah, you!  And me, too. All of us together, no outsiders, not even Judas!  He stretched out his arms and welcomed us all into the Father’s creation, our walled garden.  Love her. Protect her.  Rescue her.  We’ve been blessed with a gift of dominion.  Let us not trample, but walk here gently.

Part 2 : January Journey to Chiapas

Stay tuned !    (Above, a textile item from the textile museum in San Cristóbal de las Casas.)

Chiapas Slideshow

Thanks to fellow traveler Ann, who is a teacher-educator specializing in literacy issues near Santa Barbara, we’ve now got an update of our Chiapas tour with Marina Aguirre.  It will play as a slideshow from the cloud.  After clicking the boldfaced line above, double-click the smaller word Chiapas in the panel which next appears.  Be patient, as it may take a short while to download.  You may then need to click the word PLAY.  Click RETURN to see each new slide.  (No audio.)

NOTE:  Part One may be found here.