Posts Tagged ‘Creation Care’

Red Rhododendrun Flowers, Spring 2010

Red Rhododendron Flowers, Spring 2010 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg (2010)

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The recent ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has reawakened in me a conundrum about evolution, the meaning of life and the ultimate end of all things. This often rises up in my mind during these man-made tragic events or other natural catastrophes.  I am left wondering, from a purely evolutionary ideal, “What’s the big deal?  Isn’t this just the natural working out of our evolutionary and natural development?”  As far as I can see, it is humankind’s evolutionary destiny as well as right to attempt to subjugate nature.

Radical environmentalists decry the abuse of nature. They claim that humans are too anthropocentric and need to have greater care for other creatures – right down to the microbial level.  They throw around the word “speciesism” or “specism” to prompt guilt among bipedal humanoids for considering our species as more important or of greater worth than other species.  As a result, they claim, our needs and selfish desires have threatened the existence of other species.  According to them, we should take more care.

This begs the question as to why it matters whether one species lives or dies – exists or ceases to exist. What moral compass guides us in our decision making to even consider the value and worth of another species however big or small?  If one argues that it is because all species are interconnected and that their survival as a species is ultimately linked to our own survival as a species, then this seems to only end in the same selfish anthropocentric concern.  When humans become concerned for other species out of worry for their own survival; it seems to only be a back door return to speciesism.

After all, the evolutionary principle that continual improvement is necessary for the survival of a species seems to me to necessitate that one species is going to survive or thrive at the cost of another. The idea of balance in nature would seem to conflict with evolution since species are ever contending for the same room and resources within a biosphere limited with both.  Not only are species at war with one other for the same resources for survival, but they are all vulnerable to disease and natural disasters.  The survival of the fittest takes on a new level of urgency and importance in such a hostile environment.

So, are not humans simply fulfilling their evolutionary destiny by exploiting to the best of their abilities the natural resources surrounding them? Can we not call the massive struggle to fight against disease and natural disasters just part of our evolutionary duty towards our own species?  Should we not consider when a portion of humanity falls to natural disasters or diseases that these adverse events are simply a part of our own struggle to survive?  And, sometimes we come out the winners and sometimes the losers?  What makes us care or have compassion for others of our own species, let alone the condition of another?

If humanity is evolved from an impersonal mass of biological material, what moral guidance really regulates our care for the rest of creation? There are all sorts of competing philosophies and religions among our species.  However, if we are the result of an ongoing evolutionary cycle, then they are all meaningless.  Humanity only finds its meaning, like the rest of nature, in its own survival and thriving.  It seems that nothing else is really pertinent to the discussion.

As such, evolution does not really satisfactorily answer the question of neither what it means to be human nor how humanity should relate to the rest of creation. Evolution, after all, is an unfeeling and meaningless force moving all species toward the final existence of one specie’s domination over all others.  Humans would be dismayed to wake up some morning to find out that the planet had been taken over by apes (as in the movie “The Planet of the Apes”) or lions, tigers or bears (Oh, my!).  Therefore, according to our evolutionary mandate, we must continue to evolve, dominate other species and, if necessary, eliminate them when necessary; right down to the microbial level.

White Wild Flowers, Deschutes River Trail, Oregon, April 2010

White Wild Flowers, Deschutes River Trail, Oregon, April 2010 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

Confidence in the evolutionary path of humans, let alone all creatures, may be misplaced if we expect some form of higher-enlightenment to guide us into empathy for all species. Thousands of years of human evolution has shown to us that nature is very brutal and humankind as much or more so.  Not even considering our survival as a particular species, we divide ourselves up according to language and cultural groups and then seek to dominate one another by slavery, war or total annihilation.  We do not seem to be overly concerned with our own survival!  Granted, we do seem to care more about those who have the same skin pigmentation, language sounds and cultural similarities, but even that is no guarantee against our warring amongst ourselves for dominance and survival.

If humankind is a higher evolved animal, then there does not seem to be too much hope for all of creation. We are bent on our own destruction, the demise of all other species and the ultimate destruction of our biosphere.  There must be a greater guiding principle for us to pursue.  There must be, somewhere, a larger purpose for existing and caring for the rest of creation.  Otherwise, we are no better off than the fruit-fly.  We hatch, live, breed and die; albeit longer than the fruit-fly’s seven days.  However, the end result is the same.

If we are only the sum of an evolutionary process, then the conundrum it must answer or deny is, “Why should we care?” The logical conclusion is that we should not care or that the question itself is meaningless.  Then, why do we feel this tension and need to care for our own species as well as other species as part of our human consciousness and being?  What drives us – most of us anyway – to be empathetic towards the vulnerable, whether other humans or other species?  I think the answer must lie somewhere deeper than just bio-chemical evolution.

Is it possible that humans, as well as all of creation, is endowed with something greater than just chemical interaction? Do our existential questions stem from something that lays latent within all of us?  Is it possible that something we cannot see or measure actually is the cause and guidance creation’s existence?  Could our concern, broadly speaking, for the care and well-being of all creatures point to something imparted to us at the nexus of our beginning?  I think that an affirmative answer to these questions guides us to a more reasonable conclusion for humanity’s care and concern for the rest of creation.

Of course, this is a jump into the unknown and unexplained. It is a “leap of faith” of sorts.  However, our faith so far in what we have been able to observe, measure and reduplicate does not seem to be adequate either.  The hard sciences do not help us too much with existential questions.  They require their own “leap of faith” of sorts for us to connect the dots.  So, the question then becomes, do we keep them in two isolated spheres or do we attempt to bring them together to find meaning and answers?

The answer to that depends upon who you listen to in philosophical and scientific circles. The simple answer is that evolution at any level – biological or social – does not adequately address such questions.  To solve such a large conundrum, we must turn to larger answers beyond what we can see, hear and touch.  It may turn out that our very existence lies beyond the physical world.  The evolutionary conundrum answered by what is least expected in a world of physical sciences.  It may just be wrapped in mystery.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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I live in an area where there are a lot of well-to-do people, especially retired well-to-do people. It is interesting watching many of them in the twilight years of their lives.  Some find really purpose and meaning with their lives.  I know many that volunteer at the local food banks.  I was talking to one lady last night who had spent most of the day reading to elementary school aged children and was going to do so again today.

One of the big questions in our American culture as one nears retirement is the question of “quality of life.” Retirement communities sell their time-shares boasting the quality of life they offer to potential members.  Everything from senior travel excursions to activities at the local senior centers offer to improve one’s quality of life.  This is selling short, I believe, the whole idea of “quality of life.”  It is selling out to the idea that the American twin-gods of Comfort and Convenience are the altar at which we should be worshiping when we approach the end of our lives.

There is a potential for larger impact in one’s retirement years than one may expect. The freedom of time and the possibility of disposable income could increase one’s footprint upon bettering society and leaving a more promising future for the next generation.  Whether it involvement in a Creation Care organization or project, volunteering at a local school or after-school program, helping at a homeless shelter, clothing or food bank, or giving time and energy to one’s place of worship, there is a lot of life left in life; too much life to only give away to golf courses, cruise ships, bingo and shuffle boards.

Yellow Flower, June 2007

Yellow Flower, June 2007 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

As I was driving through one of the retirement neighborhoods in my area, I could not help but notice the well-kept yards and gardens. Personally, I think this is a great way to get out-of-doors and exercise.  Then, something caught my attention that jerked me into reality.  An elder lady had a shop-vac out and was vacuuming her driveway!  Of course, I had to slow down and do the looky-loo thing.

Sure enough, she was cleaning her driveway with a shop-vac! I suppose it beats sweeping.  However, in this part of the state of Washington, in the Spring-time one only needs to wait for the next windstorm to come through and clean up the place (or pile it against the back fence, which in itself is also a convenience as it puts all the neighborhood garbage and desert tumble weeds in one easy-to-get-to location).  In any case, it is a pointless effort.  Then, the reality of what I saw dawned upon me.

I can only surmise that this particular retired person was bored. Why else would one waste their time vacuuming a driveway (and it wasn’t a small one, I might add).  There was nothing more important to do with her life or her time!  She and her husband, who was standing nearby watching (probably waiting his turn), needed a place more important to give their time and energies than cleaning their driveway with a vacuum.  The well-manicured lawn and gardens revealed that they were taken care of already.

Of course, witnessing this geriatric exercise in futility touched my funny-bone deeply. I’m suddenly wondering to myself if that is something I will find myself doing in another 25 years.  Lord, please, I hope not.  I hope my neighbors get annoyed with me because my yard and gardens never quite look right.  I hope that my drive way goes unswept; let alone unvacuumed.  Why?  Because I hope that I’ll be too busy giving my life to more important things that will last beyond my lifetime and into eternity.  Otherwise, if in another twenty-five years you happen to pass my house and see me out vacuuming my driveway?  Please call hospice.  It’s time to put me asleep.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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