The Way Home
Remembering The Night of Broken Glass
The Power of Toads
We Can, If We Will
Brother Theophyle & Ecology
Brother Theophyle on Fresh Water Conservation
Everything in this manifest universe is connected to everything else, and experiencing the fullness of our own beauty and bliss depends on having a direct experience of this connection. This law applies at every level of our existence. Nature is the manifest form of the Divine Mother, the transcendental ocean of beauty and bliss. To enjoy her protection, love, and care, we must live in her lap. The more we distance ourselves from her, the further we distance ourselves from divine love and protection. Exploiting nature is like abusing our own mother. Out of ignorance we fail to see that we are constantly receiving nurturance from the sun, moon, stars, air, fire, and water. We are made of these forces; they are integral to us. Even the force of gravity is a form of sentient love emitting from the heart of the planet. It holds us fast to the bosom of the Earth. Punching holes in the ozone layer is like drilling holes in our skulls. Destroying the forests is like hacking away our own limbs. Allowing the soil to erode is like ripping off our own skin.
What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree?
The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse.
In creating, the only hard thing is to begin;
a grass blade's no easier to make than an oak.
James Russell Lowell
In a plutonic universe, in which the outer is simply a reflection of the inner, or perhaps more accurately is the inner seen outerly, there is no point in changing the mirror if we do not like what we see in the glass. That is, our world and its condition are a consequence (manifestation) less of how we treat it and more of how we perceive ourselves, how we answer the question “Who and what am I?”
So then, why have a page on The Zoo Fence devoted to eco-consciousness, whose principal focus would seem to be on the outer wounds suffered by the planet and its ecology, when we make such a fuss on virtually every page of this website to demonstrate that all of the real work has to be done within?
Because as seekers it is at least hypocritical to claim to be reaching for an awareness of our True Nature, which we perceive to be infinite divinity, whatever precisely that might mean, and at the same time to be treating disrespectfully an environment which we know, or are seeking to know, is a direct manifestation of ourselves.
That is, if we are a reflection of the Divine, and our environment is a reflection of ourselves, then our environment is a reflection of the Divine. Clearly, as seekers, it behooves us to consider carefully the implications of that equation as they relate to our opinions, actions, and lifestyle.
In a word, how can we claim to be seeking to perceive the Divine in all that is, to recognize everyone and everything as sacred, and at the same time to be treating any of it disrespectfully?
To that, of course, we respond quickly (not to mention, I suppose, a little defensively) that it's others, not we, who are treating the environment disrespectfully. But in a plutonic universe, if they exist on the outer, then their tendencies exist somewhere within us; and so, at the very least, we need to rid ourselves of those aspects.
Virtually all of the Teachers tell us that the only truly meaningful way to rid the world of its ills is to Remember Who We Are. When we Realize the Truth, they insist, the world – for good or ill, always a reflection of ourselves – will reflect that Awareness and be Healed. But even as we reach for that Awakening, clearly we need to adopt positions and practices which honor that high goal. (Editor's Note: This paragraph generated the thread Know Thyself at TZF's Open Forum.)
And so this page, and the special
links page related to it.
June 24, 2001
The Night of Broken Glass
… and the Church's Silence
The Reverend William M. Bigelow
From its inception, The Zoo Fence has avoided political issues. Our visitors live in many different countries and represent a wide variety of spiritual traditions. Accordingly, politics, and especially the politics of any particular country, have seemed to us inappropriate for the website. In this regard, our motto has been the Gospel lesson, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's” (Mark 12:17). Or, more simply put, in the words of the first Guru we encountered more than thirty years ago, “No politics!”
And yet we have decided to post the following commentary. Perhaps we are moved to do so because it relates to the period in history in which we were born and grew up, and during which we first began to notice and to think about what was going on around us. Or, maybe it is because we are still inwardly struggling with the ideas of Sivak Sivaraksa, whom we heard a few months ago eloquently expound his argument for “engaged Buddhism”. Or it could be just that George Santayana's logic may be right, that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Whatever the reason, we sincerely hope that the writer is exaggerating the present danger; but in case he is not, we believe his words have a proper place on the Eco-Consciousness page of The Zoo Fence.
This article first appeared in the November 4, 2004 issue of The Ellsworth American, a weekly newspaper published in Ellsworth, Maine, which holds the copyright, and to whom we are grateful for permission to repeat it on The Zoo Fence. The author is a United Church of Christ minister serving Union Congregational Church of Seal Harbor, Maine and Union Church of Northeast Harbor, Maine.
To read an item on this general subject at TZF’s Open Forum, please click here.
Each year in early November, our church pauses in worship to remember Kristalnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, and the silence of the church when its voice was desperately needed.
Sixty-six brief years ago, on November 9 and 10, 1938, thousands of Jewish shops, homes and synagogues in Germany were looted and destroyed by leaders of the German government who identified themselves as Christian. Over those two days, ninety-one people were killed. Hundreds were injured. Thousands were terrorized, and 7,500 Jewish businesses were gutted.
Some 177 synagogues were burned or demolished, and 30,000 wealthy Jews were arrested by the Gestapo, to be released on the condition that they surrender their property and emigrate. Police were ordered not to interfere.
This marked a major escalation in the German government's persecution of Jewish citizens. How could this have happened in a sophisticated, cultured European country which identified itself primarily as Christian?
The church was largely silent. It had become a patriotic church, confusing loyalty to a nation with faithfulness to God. This anniversary reminds us of the sins of the church's silence in the face of great cruelty and injustice. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the small group of Christians who spoke out and would not cooperate with the German government, believed that to separate the church from events in the world is to lead the church into sin.
He wrote, “If Jesus was a man who suffered for others, so must the church be willing to suffer for others”.
Bonhoeffer and a small minority within the church refused to cooperate with the patriotic cruelty that most of the Church silently joined. He was arrested in 1943 and executed at age 39; but his witness has lived on for decades, and continues to inspire many.
Where is the voice and action of the faith community needed today?
Where may that voice and action appear unpatriotic and require great courage?
What groups of human beings are we being encouraged to target with fear and cruelty today?
Bonhoeffer warned, “The church that becomes patriotic is a church in danger of losing its soul”. The church in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s was full of people praying and singing hymns, people who loved their country; but, with a few exceptions, it was a church that had lost its soul. A similar danger seems great in our land right now.
Photo by Dorothea Lange
The Eco-Consciousness pages of The Zoo Fence are about the planet's environment, the pollution that threatens its health, and the efforts necessary to redress the damage and restore balance.
Surely the most dangerous form of pollution is hatred.
The February 2002 issue of Smithsonian Magazine features a story about hatred that is at once disturbing and inspiring.
It began in September, 1957, at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The US Supreme Court had mandated school integration, and the Governor of Arkansas had chosen to resist. Nine black American youths attempted to enroll. A crowd of white students and adults responded in anger, venting hatred.
Among the black youths was Elizabeth Ekford, and among the white youths was Hazel Bryan Massery. In this extraordinary photograph, a Pulitzer Prize runner-up, the two appear, Massery (center, mouth open) taunting and jeering, Ekford (at right) exhibiting “courage and grace”.
Imagine the destruction and pain caused by that hatred, to the individuals involved, to the nation, and to the planet. And yet, awful as it was, it has been repaired. Six years after the event, Massery telephoned Ekford and apologized, and in 1997, forty years after the confrontation, the two met again at the school, in person in peace.
If they can, we can. Whatever anger and hatred each of us harbors is destroying us and polluting the planet we inhabit. We can release it, and channel that energy into healthier, more constructive directions. If we will to do so. Will we?
A character on the Public Broadcasting Service television program Foyle’s War (1:3), quotes another on the subject of hatred,
Do not go into that dark place. Fear it. Fear the embrace that awaits you,
For you must know it touches once and then will not let go.
Recently, I came across the photograph reproduced here, and it broke my heart. As
I think I have said elsewhere on TZF, I have intentionally kept current
politics off this website, and I do not intend my posting this picture
to be an expression of opinion about the war in Iraq, one way or the other.
So, please do not read into it any more than itself. Here, this picture
is intended solely to be what it is, or at least what it appears to me
to be, a haunting image of a father going off to war. For those TZF visitors
who are unable to see the image, this is a photograph of a soldier in camouflage
uniform kneeling on one knee on an airfield tarmac, a military cargo aircraft
immediately behind him. He is holding tightly in his arms a very young
girl, presumably his daughter; his arms are fully wrapped around her, as
he holds her to him. His face is turned downward, as if in deep thought,
even prayer. He is tall, and being a child, she is short, and so, even though he is kneeling, her feet are not touching the ground. She has a hand on his shoulder. We
cannot see her face, for it is behind his. Now, I fully understand that,
in the separative universe we live in and by, war is a natural feature,
inevitable and sometimes even necessary. But never pleasant. Over the decades, there have been
lots of photographs that tell the pathos and the tragedy of war far better
than any words can. To my eyes, this is one of those.
Editor’s Note: The photograph originally appeared on USAA’s website, to whom my thanks.
Salvation does not come from the sight of me. It demands strenuous effort and practice. So, work hard, and seek your own salvation diligently.
Spoken by the Dalai Lami
in Seven Years in Tibet
The Power of Toads
The oak toad and
the red-spotted toad love their love
In a spring rain, calling and calling, breeding
Through a stormy evening clasped atop their mates.
Who wouldn't sing — anticipating the belly pressed hard
Against a female's spine in the steady rain
Below writhing skies, the safe moist jelly effluence
Of a final exaltation?
There might be some toads who actually believe
That the loin-shaking thunder of the banks, the evening
Filled with damp, the warm softening mud and rising
Riverlets are the facts of their own persistent
Performance. Maybe they think that when they sing
They sing more than songs, creating rain and mist
By their voices, initiating the union of water and dusk,
Females materializing on the banks shaped perfectly
By their calls.
And some toads may be convinced they have forced
The heavens to twist and moan by the continual expansion
Of their lung sacs pushing against the dusk.
And some might believe the splitting light,
The soaring grey they see above them are nothing
But a vision of the longing in their groins,
A fertile spring heaven caught in its entirety
At the pit of the gut.
And they might be right.
Who knows whether these broken heavens
Could exist tonight separate from trills and toad ringings?
Maybe the particles of this rain descending on the pond
Are nothing but the visual manifestation of whistles
And cascading love clicks in the shore grasses.
Raindrops-finding-earth and coitus could very well
Be known here as one.
We could investigate the causal relationship
Between rainstorm and love-by-pondside if we wished.
We could lie down in the grasses by the water's edge
And watch to see exactly how the heavens were moved,
Thinking hard of thunder, imagining all the courses
That slow, clean waters might take across our bodies,
Believing completely in the rolling and pressing power
Of heavens and thighs. And in the end we might be glad,
Even if all we discovered for certain was the slick, sweet
Promise of good love beneath dark skies inside warm rains.
Pattiann Rogers, “The Power of Toads”, in Song of the World Becoming: New and Collected Poems 1981-2001 (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2001).
Copyright ©1986 by Pattiann Rogers. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions, http://www.milkweed.org
Below is TZF’s own Brother Theophyle
on the subject of water conservation.
For Brother Theophyle's take on ecology generally, please click here.
For additonal Brother Theophyle cartoons, please click here.
Editor's Note: This cartoon was inspired by a comment on the subject attributed to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.