Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Today I did the wash I ought to have done in Cut Bank on the last trip.  Five loads — two of whites and three of sweats and household.  It’s thirty miles.  The snow has settled and there was no wind anyway.  Roadway as dry as summer.  More traffic than I would have predicted.  The norm is meeting maybe five vehicles and being passed by three.

It’s a mostly overcast day, but the clouds are suggestive of a long sand beach with tide receding, so that there are sheens and rivulets in long curving patterns.  At the horizon there is a space of blue sky.  This is often true and I don’t know why — just a sort of blue shining blanket binding on an otherwise gray and woolly sky.  This is not the same thing as a chinook arch, which is also in the sky today but not very tall at the top of the arch.  It can sometimes reach right overhead but by then it’s usually not an arch anymore.

Two of the little households along the way have been abandoned now.  The farm yards around them are still there, a mix of fairly new metal constructions and bins, and very old falling-down sheds from when there were livestock.  Not herd cows, but milk cows and a few riding horses for the kids.  Pigs or sheep for 4-H.  Raising grain makes room for lots of ghosts.

Probably geologists could talk about the Rockies in sections, the various ranges of the cordilleras we never see unless we’re up in an airplane, and the north to south sections that tumbled a little differently according to the underlying pressures of the tectonic plates that crumpled the continent.  Some crashed sideways and some went tail over teakettle.  But it’s apparent that to the north, maybe specifically Glacier Park, is full of snow, completely white, while south of maybe Heart Butte and certainly Ear Mountain, there is not so much snow and dark patches show.  I wonder how much that had to do with the formation of glaciers.  It’s certainly relevant to summer run-off.

I’m still digesting the long article about the Cascadia subduction zone by Kathryn Schulz in the New Yorker.  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one  It reminds me again that it was geology that first successfully challenged the religion juggernauts.  On the way to looking up this url, I found an piece by Ethan Kuperberg called “Existential Riddles” that is serendipitously wonderfully off the point, and I love it.  I looked up other things by Ethan and didn’t click with any of them.  But this article demonstrated that the shift of point of view changes everything.  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/12/14/existential-riddles

Which takes me to Martin Marty’s post for today on Sightings.  “Post-Religious, Post-Spirituality Seekers.”  https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings for January 4.  This, in turn, references   Blumberg, Antonia.How Seeker Spirituality Is Shaping The World Of Publishing.Huffington Post, December 28, 2015, Religion. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/harper-elixir-books_5681b437e4b014efe0d90738.  This is where I’m going to start getting into trouble.  

Marty is an historian concentrating on American religion, with most of the emphasis on the “organized” religion, that is, the structure rather than the content: denominations, leaders, practices, the big world religions and their interactions.  But now Marty has been pondering the “nones,” the people who say on religion questionnaires, “None of the above.”  

It appears that HarperOne , noticing that this is a growing demographic, wants to sell books to those people so they’ve organized HarperElixir, a publishing branch. The name is not reassuring since it suggests a chemical solution: alchemical to make you rich, or magical to make you live forever.  Same old Christian hangups that can drive a person into a druggie corner.  Nothing about the incredible mindblowing cosmos.  Nothing about the newly understood interconnectedness of all life, geology, and meteorology on this green planet.  Nothing about the blurring line between the categories of “living” and “non-living.”  Instant salvation.  No mutation.

I think that the content has escaped the containers and it’s about time.  It’s also highly ironic and therefore interesting — even humorous — to contemplate.  When Descartes separated logic from emotion, he was trying to escape the tyranny of folk wisdom and religious self-serving — all the things that are insisted upon because they are familiar and help keep order as it has been known.  By using the scientific method, science took a great leap forward, but by denying all emotion it also emptied out the value of some of that knowledge and made concentration camps possible. 

Science became so powerful that religion HAD to organize in order to preserve its identity and effectiveness in society.   It's losing.  But one of the ways that authority gets defied is that the defiance is simply not recognized.  The big shots always use the old categories.

Now, using ever more subtle and technological perception, we are at a time when science itself criticizes science because of the newfound scientific knowledge about the truth and usefulness of human emotion, desire, dreams, art, and all the things that were a major evolutionary separation from the previous hominins.  Now we know that we DO think with our guts, that we edit out actual perception in order to form “reality,” that love is a vital form of relationship, and that human beings truly and actually are animals and ought to be proud of it.

I’ve been reading about all this for the past ten years or so, but I don’t think Martin Marty has had the chance, and the American people certainly aren’t keeping up.  They just have the scary feeling that the ground has shifted beneath their feet.  The response of many is to insist on the old ways and the easiest way to do that is to take a vote.  The majority rules.  We’re number one.  Everyone else is doing it.  This film is the best because it made more money faster.  Popularity.  "Top" this and that.  That’s the old religion — God on Top.  God IS the top.  And He loves Me.  Not you.

Quietly, here and there, they say that new denominations are forming. It’s so common that there’s an acronym:  NRM  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_new_religious_movements  But these are people with enough shared affinity to be called a group.  The real sea change is underneath.  By the time it’s “organized,” it’s been around a while.   And many of these organizations will look secular to most people, even though they are offering an ethic, a vision, a guide to life, a feeling of sacredness that’s as strong as any Abrahamic schema based on sheep. 

Many of these new coalitions will have a strong scientific frame.  Consider the "Bioneers".  Some people gather around a kind of sci-fi set of assumptions.  Think of "Burning Man."  Some are study groups like “The Edge,” or a magazine readership like "Aeon".  People cluster around “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones” whether or not they know they are looking at Joe Campbell and Mircea Eliade.  But I think they are all involved with integrating the new understanding of creation, not excluding the clear possibility that there are many creations and that they are self-generating, interacting, and a form of eternity.

But maybe the strongest element is not the high-university urban framework of thought, but rather the palpable experience of traveling over a snowy land edged by a mountain range and domed by a shifting sky. Thinking is only one way to use one’s body.  The main use is simple participation: being there and being filled with wonder.  The fact that a month’s dirty laundry is in the back has little to do with it.

With luck, this is live camera feed from just south of Valier, at the Pendroy turnoff.
No light, so daylight only.

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