Shuck and Jive

Friday, January 01, 2010

Twenty Ten

It sounds orderly, doesn't it? 2010. Twenty-Ten. It flows off the tongue. It reminds me of a model of a tractor or a weight of oil.

Perhaps during 20/10 we will discover enhanced visual acuity. We will have clarity towards our future.

I do feel differently regarding this first day of 2010 than I did on the first day of 2000. This past decade has changed me in many ways.

Things seem far more fragile now and uncertain than they did ten years ago. I was optimistic in 2000. Optimistic regarding civilization's advance and the human experiment. I used to ask the congregation I served then whether they thought the world was getting better or worse. I would push them on it. Will it be better or worse in 2020 than now? How about 2040? 2070? I was confident that we would be better. We had no choice.

I don't feel the same way today. I am not necessarily more pessimistic. I have a different view of what is "better." I think we are in for some significant changes within my lifetime (unless I die relatively young). But I am not pessimistic about it. In fact, oddly energized.

I often quote Joanna Macy:

The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world-we've actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.
I am not sure I have her faith, but I want to have it. I do believe she is correct about the Great Turning. It will happen whether we want it or not and are prepared or not. Either we will turn consciously and courageously toward sustainability or we will be turned toward much suffering and possible extinction.
The Great Turning is a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.

The ecological and social crises we face are inflamed by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits--in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.

A revolution is underway because people are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now.

Whether or not it is recognized by corporate-controlled media, the Great Turning is a reality. Although we cannot know yet if it will take hold in time for humans and other complex life forms to survive, we can know that it is under way. And it is gaining momentum, through the actions of countless individuals and groups around the world. To see this as the larger context of our lives clears our vision and summons our courage.
I have no idea how I will participate in this Great Turning. It appears that the way I currently live is in opposition to it. It is hard to imagine what this change will mean or what it will require from me and what my role as a religious leader will require of me.

I feel mostly like a weather vane, just pointing the direction the wind blows me with little advice, direction, or comfort to offer. At other times I feel comforted by the stories our ancestors told themselves:
  • Moses in the Wilderness,
  • the Risen Jesus waiting for them in Galilee,
  • Allah calling his beloved Muhammad to recite,
  • Krishna showing his divine face to Arjuna,
  • Buddha enlightened under the tree, and so on.
Sometimes the Universe story we are discovering is comforting. The vastness of it all, and the amazing wonder of life itself, and the creativity that arises unexpectedly, unpredictably from crises.

It is an adventure. This is a most exciting time to be alive. This decade that begins today could be the pivotal decade for the human species and our unique role as the consciousness of Earth.

There is no Moses in this new Wilderness.
No Messiah on this cross.
All of us are prophets.
All of us are artists.

We are the ones we have been waiting for. Alice Walker
Blessed Be.


  1. I too am looking up, John. Things are getting better fast as compared to the Dark Years (2000-2008) when we saw only a future of decay and despair.

    There will be intolerable failures, and those failures may hurt us. But the overall picture is much better.

    Thank God.

  2. captainkona

    Anyone who thinks that things are going to get better because administrations have changed in Washington has failed to listen carefully enough to The Who.

    "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

    While political means sometimes bring about good this is a secondary effect. The primary purpose of politics is to have and hold on to power. Which of course is true in the Church as well.

    Maybe things will get better and maybe not. Of course one would have to define what better is to answer that question. And there is the little problem of surprises that send us off on unexpected courses like 9/11, Vietnam (and the lessons we have failed to learn from that fiasco) and even old, old politics like the condemnations of Thomas Jefferson for his being an atheist, a lover of the French revolution and (strangely enough) his having sex with one of his slaves. (Those New Englanders played tough!)

    And there could be good surprises too: a battery that does not lose power when not in use, cold fusion (unlikely in my opinion) or even fast moving asteroids that would wipe out most of human civilization.

    So while I want the good and will work for the good, even through politics (please pray that PA will produce a couple of simple yet effective handgun laws) I know that other things may come along that will change the situation completely.

  3. You were optimistic in 2000? After the collapse of the Internet bubble and the questionable election of George Dubya?

    You're a cheerier fellow than I, I suppose.

  4. @Beloved

    It wasn't so much that the state of the world changed from 2000 to 2010 as much as my awareness of it.

  5. @Beloved

    BTW, On Jan. 1, 2000, Clinton was still Pres. and it looked like Gore was an automatic! :)

  6. Bob,

    That is called self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Things ARE better in Washington, and as soon as the Republicans get with the program, they will get even better.

    And maybe one of these days, We The People will actually live into the revolutionary concept that the folks is Washington really do work for US, and have to do what WE say, not the other way around.

  7. The event that changed my thinking wasn't really an event as such. It was an awakening on my part to Peak Oil. When the ramifications of that hit home (some time around 2005) everything changed.

    BTW, I learned about Peak Oil by watching the film, End of Suburbia although there are plenty of websites, films, books, etc. that address this. For example, Home is a film that should put the fear 'o god in ya.

    It isn't that Peak Oil (and its ramifications) is the only or even biggest problem we face, but it is big enough for me to know that we are not going to make it the way we have been making it.

    Ten years ago I was saying the world is getting better in response to the evangelicals/conservatives/fundamentalists whatever you call them who were showing us how crappy the world was BECAUSE their religious superstitions required it.

    This is the Jesus is going to save us nonsense.

    Jesus is dead.

    He ain't coming back.

    If civilization or even humanity will survive the next few decades it will be up to some incredibly good fortune AND human beings making wise choices.

    So far we are betting on fortune.

    But, with Joanna Macy, I hold out hope that we are waking up and the evidence of that is that I do see people talking, critically assessing, and making some lifestyle changes, influencing local governments to

    1) Grow food locally
    2) Power homes by renewable means

    The future: got a local energy and food source?

  8. the Great Turning -
    perhaps it begins
    with each of us
    and is
    soma-deep gets past
    the head
    all the way to the gut
    our soul's ecology
    rounds the corner
    turned on the Great Lathe
    of Spirit

    submitted by a redneck who loves having a preacher who's a heretic

  9. Hey Janice! Now we got you on the right page! Thanks for that!

  10. our soul's ecology

    That is our new religion. Eco-theology...

  11. "Anyone who thinks that things are going to get better because administrations have changed in Washington has failed to listen carefully enough to The Who."

    Dr. Who?

    But seriously, folks.... Pay no attention to Pastor Bob who out of one side of his mouth approves of and signs the Manhattan Declaration which he knows to be political (and believes it is important enough to sign even knowing that it was signed by people who support the death of LGBT people), and out of the other side of his mouth believes that politics is not something we can work through. Can you smell the cognitive dissonance?

    That's OK, he can't either.

  12. Alan

    Please note that even though I said, essentially politics cannot solve all the world's problems that we still need to work through politics to try and achieve some good.

    The handgun laws are a case in point. Because of the NRA the PA Senate will not pass two simple laws:

    1. that one person can buy only one handgun a month. This would effectively stop straw buyers who buy large numbers of handguns at a time for criminals

    2. that if one has a handgun stolen or lost that person must report this to the police. Again this would prevent someone from buying a bunch of handguns and passing them on to criminals because if one of those handguns is used in a crime and the person has not reported the gun as lost he/she would be charged with a crime.

    I don't expect the results to be perfect but it would be a start. My basic ethical theory is that killing people is wrong so getting handguns into the criminals is wrong.

    And yes, I know that I haven't commented on the reasons I signed the Manhattan Declaration. I will get around to it.

  13. Nothing is going to "solve all the world's problems."

    If humans go extinct we won't have any problems to solve. Until extinction we will have politics. That is how we manage power and access to resources.

    Those who claim not to care about politics are simply enjoying the advantages of the status quo. They are engaging in rhetorical posturing because the political wind is blowing in their direction.

    Signing the Manhattan Declaration was a mean-spirited thing to do, Bob. It was politics of the nastiest sort.

    LGBT people are my family. When you seek to take away their rights, when you put them at risk, it doesn't matter how Howdy Doody friendly you are, you are hostile and dangerous.

    In the end I hope and trust that this stupid declaration will not make any difference at all regarding the freedom and responsibility of women to make reproductive choices.

    I also hope and trust that it will not make any difference regarding the rights and safety of LGBT people here or around the world.

    I trust that it will fade into the mist like many other forgotten declarations.

    But regardless of its efficacy, your signature is a reminder that I can never trust you.

  14. Amusing, though obtuse and obvious attempt at changing the topic, Bob.

    "And yes, I know that I haven't commented on the reasons I signed the Manhattan Declaration. I will get around to it."

    Why would you think that I care why you did so?

    Did I miss the clamoring hoard of people commenting at your blog asking for your reasons for signing that damned (literally) document?

    No I didn't.

    Why would *anyone* care why you stand with people who want to kill LGBT people simply for being gay?

    I'm not sure what I find more disgusting, the fact that you did so, or the fact that you think there's actually an explanation that makes such an action OK.

    Actually, now that I think of it, why pick? I think both are disgusting.

    While I agree that this abominable declaration has thankfully already been forgotten in the 24/7 news cycle, that doesn't change the fact that you not only continue to agree with it, but continue to want to defend your participation. Your participation has not disappeared, and I think (and hope) that many folks who may have, in the past, seen you as some sort of "moderate" evangelical now see your true colors.

    You should repent of it.

  15. I think this article in the New York Times is telling.

    US Evangelicals/fundametalists/conservatives whatever (Bob's kind) goes over to Uganda to teach "family values" (ie. gays are perverts) and then are surprised when death penalty for gays legislation results.

    When you sow lies about people this is what is produced.

  16. John, you wrote:

    "Ten years ago I was saying the world is getting better in response to the evangelicals/conservatives/fundamentalists whatever you call them who were showing us how crappy the world was BECAUSE their religious superstitions required it.

    "This is the Jesus is going to save us nonsense.

    "Jesus is dead.

    "He ain't coming back.

    "If civilization or even humanity will survive the next few decades it will be up to some incredibly good fortune AND human beings making wise choices."

    Please explain to me how you can remain faithful to your ordination vows as a Presbyterian minister and believe that, particularly the "Jesus is dead" bit. It sounds to me as though you might be more comfortable with the Unitarian-Universalists.

  17. Thanks for your unsolicited career advice, Fred.

  18. Pastor Bob just made a post where he removed his name from the Manhattan Declaration. Thanks, Bob!