Friday, November 5, 2021

The Seventh Generation

Decisions mankind makes today are going to have long term effects.  Carbon pollution in the atmosphere takes an average of 120 years to dissipate (the scientific term is 'half life' meaning that half of it will be gone and half still remaining).  That works out to about five or six generations.  What we do today matters to descendants in a world that we can hardly imagine, and yet the Great Law of the Iroquois (The Haudenosaunee Confederacy) states that our plans should consider the seventh generation of our descendants.

How will these distant future heirs to our planet view our actions today?  What can we do to assure that their world is as safe and comfortable as it can be?  I explore some ideas on that in this video, taken as I stroll a favorite part of the Appalachian Trail.

Right now, as this is posted, Government leaders and politicians are gathered in Glasgow Scotland to discuss policies regarding reducing Carbon pollution that will have enormous consequences to our descendants.

Will we do what is right and good for them?  Or will our selfish greed prevail?  Sadly, even if all the governments agree on strong measures to reduce Carbon emission, that underlying greed cannot be fully suppressed.  Experience shows that corporations and individuals can find ways to get around even the strictest regulation.  Ultimately there could be a black market in carbon, and control of its distribution could begin to be monopolized by organized crime.  What do we do about that?  This is an issue that is barely being discussed, and yet 'when push comes to shove', it is probably the most important issue in achieving a successful reduction in global carbon emissions.

Otherwise, there's another way.  One day all the fossil carbon will be used up.  I wrote a sort of 'doomsday' poem about that possibility once, so maybe it's time to share it again:

I can only hope that our great Mother, good old Earth, chooses to be kind to us, and that we, in turn, can find our connection with Her and with the safe and sustainable great streaming current that four billion years of life has established for us.  If only we pay attention to it.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The first book God Wrote and its message of Salvation

The video starts out "God wrote a book long before man knew how to write."  In fact it has been in publication for billions of years and only the newer editions mention human beings.

Since man came along, a lot of books about the 'meaning of life,' written in man-made languages, have come along.  This one is a popular one.  This copy was given to me in 1957 by the church my family regularly attended in Wilmington, DE.  I've read it cover to cover once and am working on a second reading.

But it's a pale reflection of the better, much more complete book.  Watch and listen (not necessarily to this video, but when you're taking a walk out in the forest,) to see what I mean.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Hiking and talking: Intentions, Paths to Salvation

Jesus, as he likely appeared, based on a 2001 reconstruction by forensic anthropologist Richard Neave, for a 2001 BBC documentary.  Jesus offered men salvation through his sacrifice on the cross.  The key to the path to salvation that he taught, however has nothing to do with that act of sacrifice.  Salvation is gained only through yielding oneself and one's selfish desires (i.e. to trust entirely in Jesus and his 'father', The Lord God Yahweh).  This path is a universal one, spoken of by many diverse faith traditions, because the key that opens the gateway is the yielding to selflessness.  It is not the Master who teaches the path, or any attribute of the path.  It is an act of parting such physical concepts - sort of the way Moses parted the Red Sea - moving them all to the side, and going beyond.  Let the journey begin.

I explore some of these thoughts here.  

A peaceful path deep in the woods is the setting.  What does Salvation and Eternal Life mean and how do we achieve it?

One great way to come closer to the ideal of spiritual cleansing and connection with God/The Universe/That higher power is through the Pilgrimage. A trail in the woods, any trail, can be a pilgrimage path if you come to it with that intention in your mind and heart. It does not have to be a massive undertaking such as the Islamic Hajj or a trans-continental trek across Europe on the Way of St. James. You can find the joy and peace of that transcendent connection even on a day hike.

So here is some low-key exploring of paths.  The words ramble as my feet ramble down the trail.  Where do they lead?  Well, maybe, just maybe, by leaving aside the physical conceptions of things, you come upon, miraculously, your deeper connection to them all.

Monday, November 1, 2021

On returning from Switzerland - New plans and Inspirations

SwissMobile map of hiking trails in the area that I visited.  Look at that network!  The whole country is like this.  Red trails are the mountain trails, yellow are the 'Wanderwegs', the walking paths, considered less strenuous, and blue marks the most challenging trails, the Alpine/mountaineering routes.  Highlighted in green are the national and regional routes.  The one marked with the number '1' is the Via Alpina National hiking trail, one of seven that cross the country.  Shown below is an overview of the seven Swiss national trails, with the Swiss routes of the 'Way of St. James' highlighted in red (route number 4).  This network of trails is uniformly marked at every intersection with yellow signs, and blazed where needed along the routes.  The marking is consistent and reliable throughout the entire nation.  As I've said, this is truly a Hiker's 'Nirvana'.

Here is a video I recorded at the Cloister at Three Creeks immediately upon returning from Switzerland:

Having come out of the woods for a 'Sabbatical' from the idyllic life in the woods at the Cloister at Three Creeks, having experienced two weeks of hiking in the Majestic Swiss Alps, and then having returned to the Cloister, I was brimming with new thoughts and forming new plans.

The stationary life at the Monastic Retreat at the Cloister has brought great rewards, but these roving feet have hiked long distance trails for a decade - 20,000 miles worth, and Europe exposed me to its astounding network of connected trails, many of which have been Pilgrimage routes for over a thousand years.

It begins to feel as if the Pilgrimage will become an integral part of my ongoing quest to reveal my personal path to 'Salvation', that is Peace of Mind, and Eternal Life, which a number of faith traditions insist can be experienced during one's physical mortal lifetime. I am of that belief, and realize that I have often come close to this perfect state of being, most often when my feet are on the move, hiking through the glory of some natural setting.

Yes, a day hike can be a pilgrimage. There will be more emphasis on that. But at the same time I've gained a great deal of clarity of thought through connecting the teachings of the Judeo-Christian traditions with several more ancient ones, particularly the teachings of Lao-tzu.

Lao-tzu is said to have lived in China around 600 B.C., during the 'Axial Age' or the 'Age of Transformation'—a time when civilizations world-wide were coming to a new awareness. It was the period when most of our great organized faiths were founded.

In the introduction to his 1988 translation of the Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell writes of Lao-tzu:

"People usually think of Lao-tzu as a hermit, a dropout from society dwelling serenely in some mountain hut, unvisited except perhaps by the occasional pilgrim. But it’s clear that he deeply cared about society, if society means the welfare of one’s fellow human beings.

"Lao-tzu teaches that ‘The Master’ is one who masters Nature, not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming one with it. We find deep in or own experience the central truths of the art of living, which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be."

Well said. I believe these words reflect my experience over the past year and a half, since walking away from society and into the woods.

I now care more deeply about the society from which I sprang, about the direction it is going, and about how we can build a better future for our descendants. "I need a house" a voice once said to me; and one interpretation of that is to make our planet a safer 'Haven' and shelter for the coming generations. Many more thoughts on this to come. Stay tuned.

So ... what comes next?

One of the options I am considering for my return to Europe, as mentioned in the video is a pilgrimage from my ancestral points of Origin, via the Way of St. James, to the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela and then on another 70km to the 'End of the Land' at the Atlantic Coast of NW Spain.

I'm very unusual for an American in that every one of the ancestral roots of my family tree is found in one small area of what was once Prussia, now divided between Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northeast Germany and adjacent northern Poland.  One ancestor was born in what is now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast on the Baltic Sea coast of Russia, just across the border from northern Poland.  All these areas were part of greater Germany at the time my ancestors lived there, and they were all ethnic Germans.  My family didn't get the memo about America being a 'melting pot' of diverse cultures, though the next generation definitely trends in that direction, including Norwegians and Scots in the mix.

Here is a map of that small region of former Germany/Prussia/Pommerania where all my ancestors lived before emigrating to the US.  The map includes the local Way of St. James pilgrimage routes.

And here is one idea for a future long distance hike across Europe--following one of the many 'Way of St. James' pilgrimage routes across Europe.

Just look at that network of trails!  Each of them is marked, usually with the scallop shell symbol that indicates that it is a Way of Saint James pilgrimage route (the example below is in Poland) ...

... and each of them provides accommodation, churches of refuge, and hostels for the pilgrim along the way.  Many of these routes have been in continuous use by pilgrims for more than 1000 years.  Here is a particularly good example of a bit of well-worn trail near Fribourg in Switzerland:

The infrastructure along all these routes is astounding, and there is nothing comparable in the US.  If only ...

Well, for me a Pilgrimage is more about connecting with the living things of the wild world than about connecting with fellow humans who are rooted in the Judeo-Christian faith tradition.  We'll see how my thinking evolves, but going back to Europe to hike seems an inevitable future prospect.  

Thoughts never stand still, except when they're written down.  (That's why the written word and the recorded video, etc., are such inadequate and flawed media.)  I will be reporting how things evolve as new directions emerge.