Monday, March 31, 2014

Impact Reminder

For years now people have mistook Re:Vision’s Kepner Middle School Educational Farm for a dumping ground and left trash there – anything from lawn mowers that don’t work to tires, old sections of plastic fence, and empty oil drums. As countless volunteers have helped Re:Vision grow the garden’s size and scope over the years, cleaning up this trash pile always seems to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. The small patch of space with tall grasses and a few trees offers a convenient and out-of-the-way place to pile the trash for ‘later’. Well, today was later. Yesterday a team of volunteers loaded the trash high in a large dump trailer and this morning I hooked it up to the truck, checked the straps to ensure nothing wouldn’t make it all the way out to the landfill, and began the trip across town.

Have you ever been to a landfill? I know its been about three years for me. I worked landscaping through college and there were a few trips back then to carry various types of debris out to ‘somewhere else’. Every time I see a landfill, whether here in Denver, or abroad in Nicaragua or Niger (very different experiences mind you), I am struck with both gratefulness and guilt. Wonder and disgust. Mindfulness and a desire not to know.

Gratefulness that I don’t have to see the vast wreckage called a landfill every day. Guilt that my trash’s ‘away’ is here – buried beneath this dirt and littered across hundreds of acres. Wonder at the shear mass of garbage and the massive machines running around the clock to pile dirt on top of it. Disgust with myself and my brothers and sisters who are so wasteful so as to consume and throw away so much. Mindfulness that forces recognition and acknowledgment of my imperfection and the imperfection of society. The desire not to know, not to be reminded of this horrible truth the machines are working so hard to cover up – the impact we humans have on the planet is immense and undeniable.

And those dots in the sky? Seagulls, thousands and thousands of seagulls. When I was still about ½ a mile away from the dump site I could see a column of them swarming and circling hundreds of feet high. The sight made my stomach sink. It made me think of death, of vultures, of tragic imbalance.  What other creature produces so much waste that cannot be reused by another creature? What other species rips minerals from the earth and converts them (ingeniously) into products that are only designed to be useful for a few years (at best) but whose materials are toxic pollutants that take centuries to break down?

Was this what God meant when he said to Adam and Eve to rule over the Earth and subdue it? Nothing could feel further from the truth as I stood there, almost weeping at the enormity and gravity of the landfill. What would happen if every man, woman and child had to spend a few hours at the landfill each year? Would our culture begin to realize that when the trash truck comes for our dumpsters or bins, ‘away’ is actually a very real place? Would it change our behavior? Would we opt for recycling more, for composting more? For consuming less, for reusing more?

I think so.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


“Wondering is a word connoting at least three things:
-       Standing in disbelief
-       Standing in the question itself
-       Standing in awe before something
Try letting all three ‘standings’ remain open inside of you.”

“Words and thoughts are invariably dualistic, but pure experience is always non-dualistic.”
            - The Naked Now, Richard Rohr

Perhaps this is a glimpse into my soul. Maybe I’ve felt this for a long time and that is part of why I find myself so hesitant to talk sometimes. Its on my mind constantly how words cannot capture experience. I feel words cannot do justice to reality, to faith, to pain, to love, to God. I sense somehow when I try to speak or write words (yes, irony wins out as I type this..) that I must try to simplify that which can not be simplified without losing a vital piece of itself. My spirit, more accurately, my breath of life God continues to give me, mutters unclearly about everything. And perhaps my goal shouldn’t be to understand or discern clearly what it means. But instead to simply hear it. To live and be present as it speaks.

Indeed even pondering something stands in this paradox unlike ‘wondering’. To ponder means I try to put words or thoughts in order and understand or comprehend whatever it is I’m experiencing. Yet the words I choose and the conclusions they lead me to are invariably tainted with my paradigm, my previous experiences, my previous conclusions. So because words are the foundation for so much of our communication, our mutual interactions, perhaps the challenge is not to negate them, or hold disdain for them, but instead to embrace them in full light of their inadequacies. Words will never be 100% true. Only basic, un-filtered experience is true.

Though I appreciate that as broken relational beings, as humans who, in spite of being impregnated with “inherent dignity and importance” as Richard Rohr puts it, by our Creator, have chosen another direction than what God intended for us, we must use our words. We must try to capture the truth and communicate it with these imperfect tools. Conceivably this is why we in Western culture and traditions get so frustrated, angry, rageful even, when we hear others claiming to be describing the perfect, the right, the truth, using such inadequate things as words.

Just think about our political leaders, about the religious elite, about the corporate CEOs. They can hardly ever agree. And instead of accepting that this might be more due to the defectiveness of language and therefore trying to seek greater understanding, they instead fall into the same pit and pitch their own tent in the sand, claiming that it will stand the ferocious winds while those of their opponents wash away.

What would happen if we all stepped out of our tents and stood in wonder together at the sunrise over the ocean? What if we all realized our tents of posture, ego, and pride are all fleeting and fragile and staked into the shifting sands of our experiences? Would we then turn and help clear the beach of these wigwams of futility? Would we work together to dig down to the bedrock of commonality and build a structure of solid love that would stand firm in the shifting sands of time, the winds of extremism, and the crashing waves of hatred?