A Coming Dark Age?

The World Made Otherwise: Sustaining Humanity in a Threatened World:  Gorringe, Timothy J.: 9781532648670: Amazon.com: Books

That's the question Timothy Gorringe begins with in his book The World Made Otherwise.  He reviews various predictions that there is a coming collapse of human civilization and determines that it is likelier than not.  But he doesn't believe it is yet inevitable and hopes that a new humanism--which he presents in this book--could avert the catastrophe.  Or, at least, help us to live better through it.

One question he asks in this chapter, originally asked by David Orr, is "Why have we come so close to the brink of extinction so carelessly and casually?"

The answer he seems to find most satisfactory is Stupidity.  He quotes Karl Barth:

As one of the most remarkable forms of the demonic, stupidity has an astonishingly autonomous life against whose expansions and evolutions there is no adequate safeguard.  It has rightly been said that even the gods are powerless in the face of it.

What Gorringe seems to be aiming for are the sorts of Benedictine communities that Alasdair MacIntyre proposed at the end of After Virtue--small communities, living out the humane, life-affirming values, in order to keep "the lamps of civilization alive in the new dark ages."


A Beautiful Day

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After all of the recent heat, which largely kept us inside over the weekend, yesterday was such a wonderfully beautiful day, and I found ways to really enjoy it.

Mid-day I had a massage to work out a sore spot I've had for a few weeks.  That was my first massage in years and long overdue.  

In the afternoon I sat outside reading, some of it lying in my hammock, where I also napped.

Then I decided to take myself out for a nice dinner.  I had a martini, appetizer, salad, and dessert.  

Afterwards, I went and walked around Standing Bear Lake.  A perfectly beautiful evening for a walk and lots of people were out enjoying it--walking, bicycling, skateboarding, canoeing, fishing, rafting, picnicking, playing.  Families, couples, friends, all ages and types.  What a marvelous celebration of public space in nature.

Then I headed home to watch the movie Prey and really enjoyed that as well.


Prey

Prey (2022 film) - Wikipedia

Last night I watched Prey, the latest entry in the Predator series of films.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It might even be better than the first one (though it's sense of mystery and dread before the big reveal of the alien is hard to repeat).  

This one is also beautifully shot.  Some incredible cinematography, and not just because of the marvelous landscapes.  Even animals and humans are captured beautifully.

It's wonderful to have a major motion picture centering a Native American story and actors.  The idea of going back and placing the story on the Plains in the early 18th century was an excellent idea.


Uncoupled

Uncoupled (TV Series 2022– ) - IMDb

Over the weekend I finished season one of the new Netflix series Uncoupled, about a late forties NYC gay realtor whose partner of 17 years leaves him unexpectedly.

Now, I'm glad I had some distance on my own break-up and divorce so I could really enjoy this show, including laughing at parallels to myself.

I thought it did a great job of exploring the emotions and experiences of breaking up at my age.  Though not everything in the show has happened to me (no one has wanted to botox my butt, for instance), a number of the moments were similar to experiences I've had.

And in its more emotional moments it resonated as well.  NPH's character complains about having to enter a dating world he hates and can't figure out, when he had been happy and content with the life he had.  His ex talks about feeling like the future they had as a couple was inevitable and feeling suffocated by that, whereas NPH says that's what he enjoyed and found comforting.  These resonated with me.  And most significant was this powerful line, "Because you had a mid-life crisis, now I have to have one."


Last Week

So, last week didn't go according to plan.  The plan had been for Katie, Stephen, and I to camp and hike in Glacier National Park, but that trip fell through at the last minute (and I was even packed for it) due to changes in the Glacier entry system since we had planned the trip and had been unaware of the changes.  Thank goodness I looked before we began the long drive up there.

Anyway, I decided to add a couple of days to my high school reunion trip and visit some friends in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The entire weekend was a blast, I had so much fun.

Back in Omaha last week with the heat and change of plans, I had a rather low key few days.  Mostly catching up on household chores, napping, and reading.  I finished Timothy Gorringe's expansive theology book The World Made Otherwise.  He writes about the resilience needed for us to live well as the climate changes, what values and practices must we embody.

Robyn and I have mostly finished gathering what we need for our upcoming Boundary Waters trip.

Also last week I broke the sabbatical somewhat to prepare and deliver a eulogy for Bob Vassell's funeral service.

Not sure what I will work on this week.  There are some home projects I could begin, especially since it's not going to be as hot.  Always more reading to do.  Hopefully I can get some more writing done as well.


The World Made Otherwise

The World Made OtherwiseThe World Made Otherwise by Timothy J Gorringe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What will our culture need to be like to be as resilient as possible in the face of climate change? That's the key question Gorringe is considering in this book, one of the more expansive theology books I've recently read (there's a chapter on monetary reform).

Gorringe begins by considering the state of our current crisis and what changes we can foresee. Then he discusses the humane values we need to live with resilience. Next are a series of chapters on key practices we should explore in order to live better. Finally, he imagines what a world made otherwise might be like.

View all my reviews

Watershed

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When we left on our big Wyoming trip in early July it was funny that we drove about five hundred miles before even getting out of Nebraska.  The state is simply that long.  But then I noticed something else the next day--we drove over six hundred and fifty miles before we exited the Platte River watershed.  

Back in Lent our church's worship focused on the spiritual practices we all need during this season of climate change of one of them was being more aware of our watershed and paying attention to it.  The idea that we passed Casper, Wyoming before we got out of the watershed was startling to think about.

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But then we were standing on Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park.  This bridge is near the beginning of the Yellowstone River shortly after it exits the lake and begins its beautiful, meandering flow northwards.  And my seven-year-old son asked the question, "Where is all this water going?"

And I realized the answer and said, "Well, eventually, after traveling a long distance, it will actually go past our house in Omaha because this river ends up in the Missouri River."  He seemed rather excited by this answer.  

And isn't it startling?  To be many hundreds of miles from home, three days of travel, in a landscape so unlike our own, standing over water that is part of the system from which we drink and cook and clean while back at home.

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This Week?

So, this week I've been catching up this sabbatical blogging by writing about our trip of the last two weeks, but what I have been doing this week (other than writing those blogs)?

Well, mostly unpacking from one trip, doing the laundry, etc. while also planning for the next round of trips.  I leave Friday for my high school reunion in Oklahoma and Monday for my camping and hiking trip to Glacier National Park.

So, as I went through stuff after retuning from Yellowstone, a lot of it just was set aside because I'll need it again next week.  Today I packed my clothes luggage for Glacier and tomorrow afternoon I'll get together with my traveling companions to go over our gear checklist and who is bringing what.

I've also been kid free this week, so have enjoyed some downtime.  I've napped, read, hung out with a few friends, and went to see a movie (which is a glorious experience for a parent).

But no big projects or activities to report.


Arrange for Change

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"Arrange for change" is one of the catchphrases in the National Park Service brochure on "Climate Change in National Parks."  Given that studying resilience in the midst of a changing climate is one of the research themes of my sabbatical, I saw that brochure and grabbed it.  It discusses the reality of climate change, how it is affecting the parks, and what the parks are trying to do to prevent and adapt.

Of course in middle June when the Yellowstone River flooded, I thought that my grand big summer trip might not happen.  More than a year of planning and then the effects of climate change.

Fortunately, most of the park reopened by the time we visited, but there were still the closures and the difficulties.

The most visible sign of climate change in the park is the widespread loss of forest from wildfires in recent decades.  Of course the NPS has radically altered its fire management from the philosophy of preventing all fires that dominated when I was a kid.  But you drive through vast swathes of old damage and new growth.  Of course some of this is expected, natural, and part of the life cycle of a forest, but you also know they are more frequent and intense than they once were.

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The biggest impacts on Yellowstone were not so visible.  They talk about how the changing climate is affecting which species of plants grow where.  The alpine ecosystems are shrinking and what had been lower altitude plants are creeping up.

Yellowstone is also in the midst of a decades long battle of fighting invasive trout that someone put into the lake or river, which led to a dramatic decline in the native cutthroat trout and the various bird and mammal species that depend upon them.  The park reports success in this endeavor, as cutthroat have rebounded 80 percent.

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While Yellowstone had been inundated with extra water this season, Grand Teton is having the opposite problem.  Jackson Lake is greatly reduced.  On the northern end there is a grassy plain where once the lake stood.  At Colter Bay the marina is sitting on dry ground.

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We were told that the lake is radically down this year because of droughts in Idaho last year.  Idaho can take a certain amount of water from the Snake River in order to irrigate potato crops.  They took everything they could last year, radically reducing the lake.  And snow melt and rain were not sufficient to replenish it.

While on our trip, the rest of the nation and most of Europe were baking in a heatwave.

Next week I head to Glacier National Park, where we all know that the glaciers are almost gone.  I'll have more to report, I'm sure, after that.


Rodeo

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We were in this glorious beautiful place to swim--String Lake--with the family from British Columbia we met at our campground, who also had a seven-year-old.  We had to leave after only a couple of hours because I had tickets for the Jackson Hole Rodeo.

Sebastian had never been to a rodeo.  Rodeos seemed to be one of the things to do in Wyoming.  I hadn't been to one in a long time, and the last few were the Oklahoma Gay Rodeo.

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But growing up I went to the county one every year.  My grandfather had roped calves--I have his lasso.  And when Dad was a kid they traveled the rodeo circuit some.  So, while I might currently have some ethical qualms about rodeo and my life really isn't in that cultural milieu, there was a sense that I have roots in that world.

The Canadian mom said she was curious to see what my reaction would be.  And I was too.

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And I had to much fun.  And qualms.  And a little queasiness at some of the cultural aspects.  But also so much fun.

Rodeos aren't quite what they were when I was younger.  Like all entertainment, it is not constant spectacle.  The loud music never stopped.  The emcee was never quiet.  There was always something to fill the gaps between the action.

Also they were wearing helmets and pads.  Definitely didn't wear that safety gear when I was younger.

Sebastian wasn't quite sure what to make of the experience.  Some of it he liked.  Some of it he didn't.  Some of it thrilled him.  More than once he'd say, "Did you know they were going to survive?"  Sometimes he cheered for the cowboy or cowgirl, and sometimes for the bull or horse (as one should).  He was quite shocked that kids had their events too.

The Jackson Hole Rodeo had all the kids in the stands come onto the field for a sheep scramble.  Sebastian really enjoyed that--racing across the arena.  He said he got close to the sheep, but not before someone else got the winning bandanas.  If he'd only been in his fast shoes instead of sandals.

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He also liked the mechanical bucking bison he rode.

But then he wanted to leave early.  Which was fine.  We got ahead of the crush of cars by about ten minutes.


Fun

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I think Sebastian was originally put out that the Old Faithful Inn didn't have a pool or a TV. But it's a magical place. With no WiFi or anything, in the evening everyone was sitting on the various levels of the grand lobby talking, playing board and card games, putting together puzzles, listening to the live music, or sitting quietly watching the geyser field. A magical experience.

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We mostly played Yellowstone Monopoly that we had bought that day at the NPS Visitor Center Gift Shop.  We also played UNO, Transformers, and sometimes just sat quietly watching.

Our two days at the Old Faithful Inn were magical, and some of the best father-son time we've ever had. Ever since I've known about this inn I've wanted to stay there and the stay exceeded my dreams and expectations.

Besides Beauty and Adventure, we also had lots of fun on our grand two week vacation in Wyoming.  We played games and toys.  Did lots of cuddling and tickling.  Raced and played tag.  Put together Lego's.  And all of this besides the swimming, hiking, rock climbing, boating, fishing, camping fun.

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I had hoped for a grand adventure, a trip that he could remember over a lifetime.  And I think he will.

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The best day of simply playing was one we spent in Jackson, Wyoming where we rode a gondola up the mountain, did a giant maze, played mini-golf, rode the chair lift and then zoomed down the alpine slide, and (last and best of all) rode the Cowboy Coaster down the mountainside.  That provided one of the best pictures of the trip.

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NPR Interview

Our local NPR station  KIOS has a new Sunday morning interview show in the spot once occupied by Krista Tippett's On Being.  The show is entitled Lives and is hosted by my friend Stuart Chittenden.  This last Sunday, they broadcast an interview of me that we pre-recorded back at the end of May.  I talk about my faith, my coming out, the pandemic, being a dad, and my divorce and what lessons I've learned for living a good life.  It was a fun interview and fun (and a little emotional too) to listen to it.  Here's the link.


Wyoming

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I really enjoyed Wyoming. 

My only previous visit to the state was in 2017 when on a family vacation to the Black Hills we drove over to Devil's Tower.  So, I hadn't seen much of the state.

Now, there are long, really boring and really ugly stretches.  Like the drive across the high plains from Casper to Shoshoni.  But there are also so many remarkably beautiful places.

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I'd been planning this trip for over a year, and while I knew about Yellowstone and Grand Teton, I didn't know much about the rest of the state.  As I researched places to stay and things to do going and coming, it was fun to learn about more.  

And many of those exceeded my expectations.  The town of Thermopolis was a surprise.  The Wyoming Dinosaur Center there was a excellent, and Hot Springs State Park was a revelation.

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The town of Pinedale is now on my list of favorite small towns with places like Williams, Arizona, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Westin, Missouri.  We stayed a delightful 1920's motor court and while we mostly spent the time there resting and recuperating, there was so much to do that I would enjoy going back for the activities there (such as the beautiful Fremont Lake).

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One theme of the trip was seeing all sorts of other thing we could have done or places we could have visited.  Making me ponder when exactly I might go back to some of these spots in the future.

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Adventure

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I've always wanted to do more outdoors activities than I've done.  More camping, hiking, kayaking, etc.  Not having people to do it with and other life commitments, priorities, and turns-of-event have gotten in the way.  

So this two week trip with my seven-year-old son to Yellowstone and Grand Teton was a big undertaking.  I had never planned such a big and involved trip for the two of us alone with no other adult help or presence.  And I wanted to camp for a good portion of it (six nights), which involved preparations and supplies.  And we were going to a place where there is some risk and danger, which heightened the adventure (and my mother's anxiety).  

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And I did it.  I pulled it off successfully and without major incident and it was full of fun for both me and Sebastian and included some of our best father-son time ever.

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And as I watched other folks--families on their trips, seniors actively biking and hiking, young people rock climbing and backpacking, etc., I realized I simply need to do more of what I've always wanted to do.  

So, I came to a third spiritual resolution this sabbatical (I've written previously about the other two):  I'm going to engage in more outdoor activities. 

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I'm going to find the people that will do stuff with me.  I'm going to do more of it on my own and with my son.  I'm going to buy that kayak or paddle board I've been thinking about forever.  I'm just going to do it.

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Beauty

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Beauty.

That was the idea that kept repeating itself during our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton.  I kept getting overwhelmed with beauty.  Gasping, even laughing at how incredibly beautiful something was.  Delighted.  

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Some moments it struck like thunder and lightning with awe.  Some moments it was quiet and calm and I found myself resting in the joy of the experience.

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Sometimes I'd start singing.  "O beautiful for spacious skies."  "O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder."  

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Landscapes, vistas, canyons, lakes, waterfalls, valleys, mountains, wildlife, geysers, blue skies, clouds, thunderstorms, trees, flowers, cliffs, thermal terraces.

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Beauty.  Everywhere.  Overwhelming, indescribable, unimaginable beauty.  And beauty is good for the soul.

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