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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



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January 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Al Fritsch


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Paperwhites for the New Year 2010
Fresh paperwhites for a fresh New Year
(photo: Janet Powell)


January Reflections, 2010

     For those of us who want to make a fresh start on occasions, January is the perfect time to begin anew. Now winter sets in with all its force, and that makes us wince and grit our teeth. We limit our time outdoors; we dress warmly; we take along gloves and caps and the proper footwear. When we travel, we think twice about what to bring and whether we may have weather delays or detours. However, for those who love snow and winter sports, this is really a month of a blinding white fairyland -- glistening snow cover, sparkling icicles, glorious starry skies on clear winter nights, shimmering drifts and crackling fires of the hearth. Many love January without acknowledging it. They like the hidden beauty of the landscape coupled with access to a cozy indoors.

    So you would rather be in Florida? Make the best of what you've got, and thank God for it. The showy red cardinal and bluejay add a sense of color along with the enchanting hoot of the owl. January is when tree roots start to grow, and sap moves ever so silently and slowly. Nature is coming to life in our northern hemisphere with the stirring of the witch hazel, and let's accept the times as they are. Spend it in planning for what is to come.









Tufts of snow from a January squall
*photo credit

January 1, 2010           Start the Year Anew

     Welcome to our many new viewers this year!  We strive to keep you coming by thanking God for your presence and furnishing material for your consideration.  Our gratitude extends to the continued health and resources it takes to compile, edit, install and furnish these daily reflections with interesting and refreshing photos and special issues.  Thanks must always be the atmosphere in which we move and breathe.

     The word "ecology" comes from ecos or home.  Thus we regard the comfortable and higher quality home to be the basic template of our Earth healing work.  This is the reason that subjects vary and have now run into the thousands since 2004.  However, beyond traditional ecological subjects we like to broaden the field with culinary arts, home improvement, yard management, gardening, wilderness management, personal wellness programs, communication arts as related to healing Earth, resource and personal planning, eco-spiritual subjects, models and public interest groups to imitate, homilies for special feasts, and peace and broader-based social justice issues.  None are done perfectly, but then we are not perfect healers, only sincere ones.  What begins to emerge after these "daily reflections" is that we must always strive to broaden, not narrow the environmental scope.

     Of all the insights that have emerged during the past year, the biggest is that the Internet is the easiest and lowest-cost way to spread the Word.  Websites require no studios, offices or printing shops, and the turnover from assembling to delivering information is rapid.  Provided the Internet is not saddled with governmental restrictions or privileged privatization of the system, this medium offers a democratic means where the poor can voice their views.  In essence, the Internet becomes a means of liberation quite similar to our free highway system (although a number of these are being privatized).  The Internet is a technological opportunity much like ancient Rome's road network at the time of the rise and rapid spread of early Christianity.  Using this medium well requires vigilance and constant care, lest it be misused or coopted.

     In 2010 we intend to treat some deeper subjects on a monthly sub-topical basis -- not a day-by-day or a yearly exhaustive accounting.  Some fault this method, but for busy people this may prove more acceptable, since we ought to hear a subject and let it sink in over a reasonable but not oppressive length of time.   The following subjects may be considered this year on such a basis: the commons we all share (12 different aspects), global resource use and sustainability practices, especially with respect to future generations, and special gifts to be thankful for during a particular month. 

     Prayer:  Lord, allow us to see beyond the present moment and assist others in better ways to reflect on the goodness of your creation, and in so doing to heal our wounded Earth.




A glimpse into a barnyard mouse nest (snake skins and all).

*photo credit)

January 2, 2010             Plan Ahead

     Some of us are compulsive planners.  Maybe it is the demand to establish order in our lives in a troubled and somewhat disordered world.  But planning may be demanded for other reasons.  Some of us were slow learners, and thus to succeed in achieving pressing  assignments and overcoming learning hurdles we had to plan so we could have sufficient time to complete the work.  I know people who learned fast and never ever even considered planning time. School was a breeze for them, and so they never learned planning which later life would require -- and they were handicapped. 

     Why plan ahead when we don't know what the future will bring?  That is a hard one but let's attempt an answer.  God is the author of our mortal span.  Being good stewards means seeing time as a gift, and a limited and a relatively short one at that.  We must take our responsibility seriously.   The best way we compensate for past wasted time is to use efficiently and wisely the little remaining time.  As we age and see time getting ever shorter, it is all the more reason to plan thoughtfully.

     Can't we overplan for particular occasions?  Certainly, but fewer overplan than underplan.  The Lord speaks about those who underplan, and the army is lost in battle or the house built on sand is destroyed through lack of proper siting.  Somewhere between the rare overplanning and the far more frequent underplanning is the happy medium to which we ought to strive.  That is why "tithing" time approaches godliness.  If we give time to planning, we show gratitude for the gift we have, for God mercifully gives us time, so let's make the best of it.

     What do I plan for?  Just about everything: the amount of time to allot to various projects; the amount of money apportioned to specific activities, which books to read or periodicals to order, the month and place of vacation, what to write and reflect about, whom to make special contact with this year, which and how many trees to plant, what the garden design will look like, and even how much time to give to planning itself.  We need to see that frequent small increments of planning are as important as longer term planning -- and so continual readjustments are necessary.  Don't start with "what will I do today? "  Hopefully, that is part of a monthly or yearly plan.

     Should we let others in on our planning process?  This depends.  Divide planning into that which is social (working together in cooperation with others) and that which is related to your own personal life.  Maybe the best personal planning is just before falling asleep or just after waking up.  Some will use scrap paper and pen, other a computer or electronic gadget to help plan.  Planning time may be an unexpected wait, physical exercise time or while going to or from work.  Plan for unexpected planning time.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to respect the gift of time You have given us, and to use it as wisely as we can.





A quiet winter scene
*photo credit)

January 3, 2010    Epiphany:  Question the Path to Take to Peace

     War would end if the dead could return. 

                            Prime Minister Stanley Balwin*

     The wise men from the East questioned where the Christ child  was located, for they came to bring peace offerings.  We too are searching for the Prince of Peace, and we too ask where to find the Lord, the Prince of Peace.  We have simple gift and open hearts.  But like the wise men, we too must be discerning and listen to the Spirit giving us new directions when needed so that peace will not be destroyed.  The directions we seek are simple ones:  Why are we at war? 

     Does a national threat spring from the two countries that are receiving our greatest attention -- Iraq and Afghanistan?   Certainly, terrorists from Iraq were not the same as those who bombed the Twin Towers.  Are our enemies from Afghanistan or is al Qaeda actually centered elsewhere, in Pakistan?  Are we being pushed by a combination of military weapons industries and some right wingers in the media and legislative halls?  Most likely yes, but neither is a sufficient reason to continue or escalate the fighting.  Is there a materials security issue here?  Iraq has one of the largest reserves of oil in the world, and so it is tempting to consider into whose hands that precious commodity will fall. In contrast, Afghanistan has something that threatens our security, poppies and the resulting heroin and opium.

     As individuals and as a nation we are seeking answers this year.  Maybe our questions must be of a more searching nature.  Does the very economy in which we are engaged demand military activity in which our own personnel are merely pawns and knights?  Is our economy in which military weaponry is a major component destabilizing the world?  Could we find a better way to peace through attempting to secure the essential needs of people in every land?  Do we not have the backbone to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan?  Are we a people who believe we are the police force of the world, and not yet realizing that the game is breaking us financially and morally?  

     Do we seek the help of the ultimate Peacemaker and really strive for peace now?  Do we listen to the Spirit telling us of the futility of military means and the greed of our material consumption culture?  Or do we listen to the Herods of our age?  Isn't it wise to continue the questioning throughout all of 2010?  We need some answer in time of war.

     Prayer:  Holy Spirit, show us the way to peace and help us have the courage to pursue new paths to bring this about.   

     *Reference:  Mike Ferner " Veterans' Group to Members:  Multiply Resistance by Any Peaceful Means Available,"  POCLAD, Nov, 5, 2009; Address: 1302 Waugh Dr., Suite #438, Houston, Texas  77019.






The magic of hot, glowing embers in a fireplace
*photo credit)

January 4, 2010    Realize that Prescription Drugs Can Kill

     A deeper spirituality for Earth healers involves recognizing current situations, taking responsibility for the tasks ahead, and being willing to tackle issues head on no matter how unpleasant they may be.  We in Appalachia are deeply immersed in the sin of omission, of failing to talk about what is really killing our people, especially many of our young folks.  We are simply not doing much about the drug overdosing occurring all around us.

     A while back I rode with the undertaker to a cemetery while accompanying the body of a person for whom we had just had a funeral liturgy.  The undertaker confided that this was the only one of seven funerals that week that was not due to drug overdose.  Really?  Small county, massive overdosing, little formal reporting. In the autumn the federal prison assistant who conducted me through my annual drug testing procedure required for government contractors confided that her stepson had just died from a drug overdose -- and the coroner of Owsley County (population 4,500) said it was the 38th in 2009 -- and there were still two months left.  The stats in that over-drugged county were revealing more deaths from overdoses in 2009 than would be expected from average American death rates from all causes. 

     Our part of Central Appalachia has been dependent on tobacco and tobacco is considered to be a gateway to greater drug abuse.  We need to acknowledge the drug problem in all its causes, to get our country to limit prescription drugs (a major culprit) to those in proven need, to guard against abuse by people going out of state to get drugs from loosely regulated states, to stop pill pushers, and to address the lack of jobs for a young generation with little future.  The problem cannot be solved by tackling one single problem;  we need a holistic approach. 

     One of the terrible costs of our materialistic American culture is that individuals want more and more of what some regard as "good things."  A "freedom" to obtain more medicines penetrates the entire society.  This is the only developed land with televised drug advertising.  Don't forget, it is the drug taking that is being pushed: "Give my child some medicine, doctor;"  "Give me a prescription to get the purple pill."  An entire culture is becoming addicted, all for massive drug company profits.  Pain medicine is now so sought by addicts that local people here keep secret that they have had an operation or treatment, for fear that hooked neighbors will attempt to rob them.

     Invitation:  If we have the proper resources in 2010 we will work on this issue.  We invite other Appalachian groups to take up this issue in a serious way.  We need to go beyond individuals saying "No"  to drugs;  we must work with all America to cut the supply of prescription AND illegal drugs that are getting into the hands of the wrong people.   Help us to work together!   

     Prayer: Lord, show us how to tackle the drug problems here.





A rustic settling, Anderson Co., KY
*photo credit)

January 5, 2010     Resist the Expansion of Nuclear Power    

     An energy bill moving through Congress is being made hollow by the compromise proposals to include loans for the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants.  These of all things could mean that the legislation would not have solid support from environmentalists and fiscal conservatives. 

     Environmentally, nuclear energy is a mirage when it comes to reported carbon footprint reduction.  Actually, new nuclear facilities and equipment (even fuel processing) take extensive amounts of resources (steel, concrete, and carbonaceous fuels in production) to prepare materials and transport them to the site.  Nuclear is not carbon free and all technical people know it. 

     Besides, other environmental problems exist for this supposedly "clean" electricity source.  From a security standpoint, the nuclear plant is a possible target for terrorism;  the enrichment process is a constant temptation to aspiring atomic bomb proliferators; the process of mining uranium has health and safety dangers; and the spent fuel remains a containment problem for centuries into the future.  And there is also the environmental/fiscal connection.

     Fiscally, there is much to consider.  The nuclear industry dreams of building one hundred new plants in America alone by 2030.  A report was released by EnvironmentAmerica on November 15, 2009, Generating Failure:  How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming.  This report states that the building of the one hundred power plants would require an up-front investment of $600 billion -- money, which if expended on renewable energy sources, could cut at least twice as much carbon pollution by 2030.  The report noted that energy efficiency programs are already reducing electricity consumption by one to two percent annually in leading states of the Union, and the nation's wind industry is now building wind farms equivalent to three nuclear reactors per year with existing funds.  That does not count expanded construction of solar, geothermal and proper biofuel-fueled plants.

     Do we need these expensive six billion dollar power plants that will be subject to cost overruns, insurance guarantees in case of accident, and the unsure disposal of expensive waste materials?  With limited energy dollars, let's be reasonable and fiscally conservation.  Let's concentrate limited financial resources into renewable sources and energy efficiency programs.  Let's refrain from kowtowing to industrial energy dinosaurs and political special interests.  A bill containing nuclear loans is essentially a ticket to federal bankruptcy, and all legislators ought to be told and educated accordingly.   This nation deserves at least that much. 

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to avoid being wasteful in the use of all our natural and financial resources.  Make us realistic about the true needs of people acting sustainably. 





Silent Kentucky woods in winter
*photo credit)

January 6, 2010          Winter Riders

     Cars passed them by on the Daniel Boone,

     avoiding risks perhaps but leaving them cold and stiff --

     A lift-needing twosome with a third in womb.

     A flash from thumbing days sent me brakeward.

     I'll just pick them up if nobody's on my tail

     for it's not my luck playing chicken with a coal truck.


     A word of gratitude from these young Perry Countians

     coming back home. He, ex-serviceman; she, ex-waitress;

             autumn sun-belt bound, winter broke and no work found.

     I offered them fruit -- looked hungry but ate little,

     talk less; why break their thought-laced faded dreams,

     or maybe of kin with whom they'd soon be home again.


     Their silent but powerful presence made me wonder --

     there's able-bodied Joe, a stat in the labor pool of

     federal crafting, remembered only for taxes and drafting.

     There's another pregnant Mary deep in mothering thoughts

     or just embarrassed to be on the road.  Already

     too many fears and tears to enjoy her late teen years.


     Their lives like all of ours are short, precious,

     filled with unachieved goals, frustrations,

     with no pay coming for standing idle on a working day.

     What about their new one whose birth upon this Earth

     ought to be a time of joy?  Will there be a tomorrow

     with good springing from folks with threatened humanhood.


     The Hazard turn-off came up short.

     I let them out.  They said, "Thanks!" I, "good luck!"

     to soothe their need while basking in an imperfect deed.

     As I hit the gas it struck how hitchhikers move me to

     see that mine is but an inn-on-wheels,  which turned them out

       to fight the meanness of the early winter night.


     Misplaced shame?  Maybe.  I'm not the Earth's innkeeper ---

     though we might be.  I've no keys to give such seekers rest

     or jobs -- but we do. Within holds a revolutionary clue.

     How can we have much and others little?  We open doors

     to let them pass to find a livelihood in distant places

     and then sneak back, victims of economic slack.


     We offer a season's cheer, a bite to eat, a ride, a feeling

     of being satisfied.  For these riders and their unborn we need  

     to try yet untried:  to give them back their human pride.

                                       AF (Christmas, 1984-85)

      Prayer:  Lord, though I composed this for the Christmas season of exactly a quarter of a century ago, I feel it still has an element of truth today.   Teach us to be constant in hope..




Blue January skies
*photo credit)

January 7, 2010   Critique the Federal Energy Star Program

     Since 1995 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has supported an "Energy Star Program" for the construction of energy efficient houses.  On November 10, 2009, the one millionth Energy Star qualified home was so designated.  Certainly that is a noteworthy achievement, for every home built in this fashion involves a saving when contrasted with a structure of similar size built with non-energy saving materials and techniques.  In fact, some 6,500 builders in every state of the Union have built structures that are so designated by this program.  Gold stars bloom. The US EPA says that this program has been successful enough to have saved to date some $1.2 billion (over a quarter of a billion dollars in 2009 alone).  The program helped reduce some 22 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to the emissions from 370,000 vehicles).  So far so good! 

     However, like the rest of our consumption-based economy, there is another side to this building program.  Gradually over time more and more people want larger homes, and the added space is expensive terms of both building materials and the energy it takes to heat and cool these expanded structures.  If some get a star for building an energy efficient large home for two or three persons, is that really a saving if they are moving from a previous smaller one?  Granted, a comparable-sized house is more resource costly if green methods are omitted;  however a new "green" more spacious structure is really more resource intensive.  No one gets stars for down-sizing to smaller homes even less efficient ones, but larger more resource-intensive structures could get stars for using this or that conservation measure.  Stars need to be distributed for down-sizing housing.  This is the real 2010 sustainability issue. 

     Once I brought this up at a meeting that was discussing green ideas, and the room of architects/builders would not even so much as talk to me, for I mentioned less space for all Americans in every aspect: lodging, work, study and worship in less space.

The difference in mentality between gold stars and not speaking to anyone who questions the practice is exactly why the world in which we exist is in crisis mode.  We all conserve when a certain base line of extravagance is used as the measure -- but the measuring point and many of the measurements involve degrees of unsustainable activity.  If someone is said to conserve by a wasteful society's standard, is this not our cultural "fiction"?         

     A true energy star program involves space, well planned and well designed comfortable space for the following reasons: less cost, less mortgage, less cleaning, less maintenance, less furnishing of rugs, less wasted space, less heating in winter, less fire and property insurance, less cooling in summer, closer connection to others, more things within easy reach.  Of course the reduction in guest accommodation could be compensated for by camping, commercial lodging or making space in unused rooms.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us honesty in conserving resources.



winter sky
Kentucky hayfied in winter
*photo credit)

January 8, 2010       Distinguish between Needs and Wants

     We will speak much of sustainability of our way of life, our economic and political systems and Earth herself.  We know there is a connection between the way we act and use resources and what can be available to all to sustain themselves.  Here communal and elementary needs clash with individual wants.  People want freedom and need freedom; people want a good life and really need one to live as dignified inhabitants.  People want to be spiritually satisfied and need to be because of the human person.  People may want more material things (cars, boats and more spacious dwellings) and even take them from the common pool;  people do not need these, and the acquisition may run counter to others who need the resources to meet life's essentials of food or shelter. 

     We need to -- but do not always want to -- share, but by doing so we can fulfill our basic human longing for spiritual growth.  However, this longing can be submerged by material wants; an inordinate impulse to fulfill the never-satisfied materialistic allurements all about us.  A materialist finds the quest for spiritual fulfillment of little importance, since it does not satisfy his or her individual material wants.  Why share goods with others?.  However, the one who grows in spiritual ways will say, "I want what we all want, namely, the needy to be satisfied."  Want has now been transformed to a spiritual and communal dimension.  I want to share with others.

     In a material way, we are aware that material goods cannot totally satisfy; the want for more and more is always present.  Those with some goods who lack a sense of sharing will be all the more inclined to take as much as possible, since in doing so they may somehow be satisfied.  However, when this proves a false goal, the materialist is moved to strive all the harder to take, grasp on to and influence the structures of society to legitimize takings.  Here is where the materialism of individualistic capitalism and certain forms of collectivism share a misguided company; in both cases the materialism is devastating to our fragile Earth.    

     In a spiritual way, certain collective "needs" include the needs of the world around us.  A world where all basic needs are addressed is a safer world, a world less dependent on military

security. In the same manner the "wants," which are considered in a pejorative manner when regarded as selfish interests, are transformed to mean the spiritual "wants" of those desiring to advance with others in community.  This spiritual advancement requires self-abnegation so that we can acquire a public interest, the wanting of all to live in harmony.  Where revolution enters the picture is that the spiritually inclined must frustrate the workings of materialists who could destroy our Earth.  Thus  necessary action means correcting a dysfunctional economic system. 

     Prayer:   Lord, teach us to know the difference between the needs and wants of materialists and those of the spiritually inclined.  Help us to make the needed changes forthrightly.




winter at red river gorge kentucky ky snow evergreen hemlock
Winter in the Red River Gorge (KY)
*photo credit)

January 9, 2010        Consider the Shared Commons 

             They hang the man and flog the woman

               that steal the goose from off the Common,,

              But let the greater villain loose

               that steals the common from the goose.

                      (English poem about 1764)           

     As part of one human family on this Earth we share much in common, and this includes the resources needed as essentials for higher quality human life.  This fact of sharing is often overlooked.  Some individuals or cultures regard themselves as privileged and entitled to use more of the world resources than others.  But how are they so entitled and under what guise will they tolerate my countercultural question?  These people claim for themselves resources that simply belong to all and, if there is entitlement, the resources belong to those in most need -- not those with the power to hold on tenaciously to ill-gotten goods.  "Commons" means basic entitlement to what is required for the necessities of life -- and anything left over could be seen as a luxury for others.  To say such an utterance is leftist is to forget it is simply human and Christian.

     Each month in 2010 we will reflect on one or other of the elements we hold in common.  For instance, as fellow inhabitants of our Earth we have a right to healthy air.  One critic asked where such a notion of right to fresh air originated.  I wondered whether he was breathing or not.  In fact, what was inferred by the remark was that smokers have a "right to smoke" and industries had the right to "use" ambient air.  In that particular discussion the age old conflict of rights arose.  Attention turned to priority of rights, and the right to life has highest priority.  Other rights include::

     1. Water Commons      January  (Baptism, gurgling creeks) 

     2. Cultural Commons   February  (birthdays) 

     3. Air Commons        March  (breeze, wind)

     4. Productive Land    April (gardening, foliage)

     5. Wildlife, Wilderness and Forests  May  (flowers)

     6. Health & Safety    June (outdoor activities)

     7. Outer Space        July (solar energy, space)

     8. Maritime Commons   August  (vacation time, lakes) 

     9. Intellectual Commons September (new school year)

    10. Silent Space       October (getaways and enjoying scenery)

    11. Transportation     November (travel time)

    12. Communications     December (renewing greetings at year's end)      

     This preliminary listing and tentative schedule of treatment may be subject to some readjustment, but the twelve areas of the commons now found in the current draft of "Reclaim the Commons" on this website will be treated during the year.

Prayer:  Lord, show us the way to share with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and to do so with a good heart and with a deep sense of what is essential.





The Natchez Trace
A view along the Natchez Trace, Tennessee.
*photo credit)

January 10, 2010         Cherish Our Baptism

     I formed you and set you as a covenant of the people.

                                          (Isaiah 42: 1‑7))

     Christ was baptized by John the Baptist and is called to a ministry in the spirit of Isaiah.  Our own baptism was life's most important moment apart from our physical birth.  We were spiritually reborn and became a member within the Divine Family.

     Isaiah speaks of the Servant of Yahweh, and that voice of so long before has been applied to Jesus and his public manifestation or the second epiphany.  Jesus is committed to a life of bringing about change in the people, upsetting an entrenched established order, announcing justice for all the people, a light to the nations, a liberation of captives.  In a very real sense, this is a call to revolution, for the old order is no longer valid; it must be changed, and Jesus' baptism is the initiating event.

     Peter in Acts 10:34‑38 comes to a realization about his own ministry as a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, now being further extended to all God‑fearing nations and peoples.  The ramifications of this obedience to the call are hardly known, yet we return over and over to our original call, to the point of a beginning, to the catalyst that sets us on our way.  Peter recalls the beginning of Jesus's call to ministry when the Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove and the voice came from the clouds giving a divine stamp of approval.  Here Peter speaks in the name of all of us in saying that our mission is linked to that of the revolutionary call of Christ to begin a process of liberation of the entire world.  Peter becomes aware that he is part of this  liberating process, and the people say "Amen" to this.

     Jesus goes into the wilderness to be baptized by John, and thus the wilderness is the place for radical change. John, the radical in lifestyle and in proclaimed message, is the forerunner, the one who prepares the way.  Jesus forms an association with this radical and is radicalized in so doing;  his act of being baptized shows a solidarity with the people seeking to change their individual lives.  Jesus does more;  he initiates a radical change in the entire world order, and symbolizes this through the baptism event.  On our part we are radically changed through baptism into a new creature, a member of God's family.  And furthermore we are formed into a new people who carry on the making of God's kingdom as part of the Body of Christ.  When Jesus is baptized and the heavens open up, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and the divine Godhead speaks a public affirmation.   We enter the spiritual wilderness, needing to divorce ourselves from the connections with the world around us;  we open ourselves to follow the Spirit to perform deeds that will be countercultural in scope.

     Prayer:  Lord let us see the power of the grace of our Baptism/Confirmation and act accordingly to bring about change in our troubled world.






Lycoperdon pyriforme, fungus on logs
*photo credit)

January 11, 2010    Reread "The Economic Bill of Rights"   

     Sixty-six years ago, during the height of war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union message; he sought an expanded Bill of Rights.  Here are excerpts of that talk:

      This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights -- among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.  They were our rights to life and liberty.   As our nation has grown in size and stature, however -- as our industrial economy has expanded --  these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

     We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.  "Necessitous men are not free men."  People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.  In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.  We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, race, or creed.  Among these are:

       * The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

       * The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

     * The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

     * The right of every businessman, large or small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

     * The right of every family to a decent home;

     * The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

     * The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

     * The right to a good education.

     All these rights spell security.  And after this war is won we must move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

     Prayer:  Lord, give us the grace and energy needed to secure these rights, not only for our people, but for all peoples.  






Backyard finding: Unidentified mushrooms
*photo credit)  

January 12, 2010       Bear Arms, Not Ammo

     On Plough Monday, there is nothing so patriotic as the image of a patriot leaving his plough to defend his country against invaders.  Thus we conceive of the constitutional right to bear individual arms -- that others in many countries find puzzling.  Many Americans regard this as an individual right -- and responsibility.  Others look at the arsenal as the community arms bearing locus and believe that individuals will advance to that location when security is threatened.  Of course, times have changed since the Constitution was written.  Collectively we need security, for many individuals such as tots and the elderly cannot bear arms.  Nor do we want the crazies to bear arms though many have access to them.

     As a strict-constitution person, I hold that each of us has a right to own a musket -- we just do not have an individual right to the powder, since this should be in the regional armory -- along with the musket ball that can hurt someone.  The massive shooting at Fort Hood two months ago made us ponder;  how could this partly disturbed person get so much ammo to shoot over one hundred rounds in a matter of minutes?  Access to arms is a well-known fact, and we have millions in the American Rifle Association who will remind us of our defensive needs as individual people, many of whom do hurt others.  Then there are those who regard having arms in the home as a Linus security blanket, without considering that these weapons are more often misused than used properly. 

     When I was a kid on the farm we blew post holes in our rocky soil by the use of a third of a stick of dynamite per hole.  Obviously, during fencing time we could lack necessary materials.  Once my father called ahead and got a supply of dynamite and asked me to pick it up during the school lunch break but not to broadcast the errand around too much.  I stuck the purchase in my desk drawer until the bus took me home -- and never thought a thing about it.  What would be the reaction today?  Buyer, seller and bearer would all be in court.  The school -- if not the town -- would be in lock- down mode.  If folks get upset when a mercury thermometer is broken, what would a half dozen sticks of dynamite do to a rather overstressed school administrator today?  My own childlike response would have been, "Well I didn't place caps in the sticks to set off a charge;  we don't pound 'Nitrostat' chest pain pills."  I knew then and now that dynamite is not very dangerous, if not struck on an anvil with a hammer. 

     Yes, the borne gun is not dangerous; it is the loaded gun.  If each hunter were allowed one shot or two at most, and no automatic clips were sold, the world would be better off. The government ought to have the right to search the premises of all armed people and leave their guns but confiscate their ammo.  What about the dynamite bearers?  Maybe my youth was a little too carefree.  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to serve others; help us to make the world a safer place where all can live in peace and harmony.





 snowy day
A snowy day, looking across Reservoir #3, Lexington, Kentucky
*photo credit)  

January 13, 2010     Promote an Essential Needs Economy  

     You need a new model of economic development -- one that is based on raising people's standards of living by maintaining their natural capital, not just by converting that natural capital to ranching, or industrial farming or logging.

                               Jose Maria Silva

     A consumption-based material economy is inherently limited because the resource that constitutes the base is of a limited nature.  These materials require other resources to extract, process, transport, use and dispose of them -- and without proper safeguards this unsustainable practice can ruin the planet's environment.  In its basic form materialism is ecologically suicidal!  Thus those who profit from such a material economy take from a limited pie to which others do not have equal access, and prevent the meeting of the needs of those without access.  This is why a capitalism based on such a system is inherently unchristian and ultimately inhumane -- and another system must be developed, one where services are primary, not the goods that strive and fail to fulfill human disoriented "wants."

     Elements of such an "essential needs" economy include:

     * Meeting basic human needs of all people, namely, potable water, small farm production of essential food needs, adequate housing for all, basic food in times of natural or human-caused disaster, and primary educational and health facilities for all; 

     * Creating jobs for all people to move the world to a better quality of life with competition not based on material profit motivation but on higher-quality motivation that has spiritual and intellectual profits as a goal;

     *  Halting the disturbance of the natural environment, especially ceasing to deforest the planet;

     * Replacing non-renewable energy resources with renewable wind, solar and geothermal -- and limited use of certain biofuels;

     * Limiting the amount of resources that can be controlled or expended by individuals -- something that some regard as limits to freedom but is really the expanding of freedom to greater numbers.  Such limits could be affected by removal of tax havens, by taxes on excessive wealth and by confiscation of large-scale property holdings with redistribution to those in need;

     * Promoting educational opportunities, so that the full potential of each individual can be realized.  A growth of intellectual capital is the goal, so that all may have the power to communicate and enjoy the greater fruits of culture and life itself; and

     * Providing access to communications facilities to all, with freedom to exchange ideas and to express thoughts freely.   

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to convert ourselves from a material consumption-based economy to one that is more oriented to the spiritual and intellectual capital of our people, so that all may profit together while holding material consumption to a minimum.





Cave Run Lake, near Morehead, KY
Cave Run Lake, near Morehead, KY
*photo credit)  

January 14, 2010   Provide Health Care for All -- AND Ration?

     On the great African medical missionary, Albert Schweitzer's, birthday, it is fitting to consider the unmentionable -- health care rationing -- something like talking about underwear styles or defecation conditions.  Well let us be frank -- we already have rationing of health care.  The privileged can get the best care, best doctors, best facilities.  The poor get less care, and the uninsured can barely do more than go through the emergency doors.  Perhaps this will change with the coming health reform, but not totally.  We need to discuss health care in moral terms as something for ALL the people, not what the privileged few might expect.  We must broaden the field and confront the reality of rationing as part of the total health facility rights of people.

     Broaden the field means expand the concept of health care to all our brothers and sisters throughout the world.  Unrealistic?  Hardly so, if what we are talking about is the minimal care that would allow people to avoid preventable diseases such as malaria and many tropical diseases.  To expect to give all people from all lands the privileges of the Mayo Clinic or the best health facilities now present in this country is unrealistic.  To provide fifty  dollars for immunization and preventable malaria netting and other basics globally would take only one-sixth of the world's military budget, and that transfer of resources could be achievable through global cooperation, total security concerns and will power -- and far better ultimate security than any shield of sophisticated weaponry. 

     Rationing of health on a global level may have to be accepted, not to exclude some but rather to include all.  We hope all nations will not be able to provide basic health care, remembering that a number of these unfortunate lands, including Haiti and some African nations, have more personnel working in North American and European health facilities than in their own impoverished health facilities.  Rationing may mean returning these people (with some subsidies) to their native lands and seeing that minimal health care is provided to all.  Of course, with time the concept of "minimum" may rise and expand but to accept rationing in order to redistribute is better than to pretend rationing does not exist in its present form.  Health care like fiction is fraught with flights of fantasy.

     Health care for all may be a dream away, even after we are gone, but it is needed if we are to answer before God for all our privileges.  Some will say such dreams are too expensive, but how do you value an infant's death through a preventable disease?  Let us face it:  all have the right to health care, but we must accept that there are limited health care facilities here and now.  Making these more and more available is a realistic dream;  converting resources now used for disposable consumer products to health services is realistic -- even though it will take time.  We have to start thinking about these things before this world passes on. 

     Prayer:   Lord, teach us to be realistic and universal.





Prairie tall grasses in Winter
Prairie tall grasses in winter
*photo credit)  

January 15, 2010     Fight Hunger Here and Now

     Opulence and waste are unacceptable, especially when hunger -- the cruelest form of poverty -- continues to rise..

     (Benedict XVI's address to the United Nations World Summit on Food Security in Rome on Nov. 16, 2009)

      Food security means access to sufficient quantities of food to alleviate hunger in all parts of the globe.  Many people do not have access to food markets and adequate supplies.   We ought to become aware of facts about hunger and ways of combating it. 

     Basic facts include:

     *  According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over one billion people are hungry today, and six million children die each year of hunger, 17,000 per day, and one every five seconds.

     *  In the United States about one-seventh of the population has had to curtail eating habits due to lack of funds or access to food supplies.

     * American food pantries and distribution centers have seen the volume of people seeking assistance double during the 2008-9 financial crisis.

     * Food prices rose in the last few years due in part to the competition for limited grain supplies, and especially because of corn (and sugar) production for biofuels.

     * Food shortages do occur in parts of the world, but the total global supply of food is adequate for feeding the world's people.

     Ways of alleviating hunger include:

     * Support the UN "Billion for a Billion" campaign aimed at fighting hunger;

     * Assist groups that are helping with local small farm assistance and development, for the most secure source of food is the local community.  The UN is assisting with land, seed, fertilizers, access to markets and fair trade;

     * Call on our government to assist with road and regional transportation system development, making more locally grown foods accessible to nearby urban populations;

     * Influence youngsters to give direct donations to food aid for natural disaster victims by use of "Rice Bowl" and other programs, especially those featured as Lenten exercises starting next month;

     *  Support Oxfam America <www.oxfamamerica.org/give>

     *  Reduce food wastes at all levels from lunch rooms to home kitchens; and

     *  Eat less meat.  Promote better utilization of foods at all levels.  Direct consumption of grain is far more efficient than converting grain to animal meat, milk and eggs. 

     Prayer:  Teach us Lord to see that enough food is present, and that our efforts ought to be devoted to fair and just food distribution.





sycamore leaf
A dried American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, leaf, covered with snow
*photo credit)  

January 16, 2010  Eucharist: Memorial, Cosmic Mystery and Food

     On Religious Freedom Day we Christians consider the bonds of love drawing us together as one Body of Christ in an ever deepening Mystery of our shared Faith.   We recall the saving deeds of Christ, remember the pledge of future glory, and become nourished with food to sustain us in the troubled present moment.

     Memorial from the past:  "Do this in remembrance of me."  The Liturgy extends the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord in space and time.  The "Breaking of the Bread" (Acts 2:42; Luke 24:21) is a recall, a remembrance, a transcending event and presence of what occurred two thousand years ago and is now in current space and time;  "there and then" becomes HERE and NOW.  The Holy Land is now extended to the entire Earth; Calvary is today.  We are no longer mere spectators of an historic event; we are participants in a cooperative endeavor as members of the Body of Christ.  Christ gives himself to the Father and then to all of us.  From that historic past through the apostolic succession involving the laying on of hands, the ordained priest consecrates bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord.

     Cosmic Mystery of future glory:  Teilhard de Chardin had a vision of Christ's body in the entire universe as he celebrated Mass at the altar of Earth.  John Paul II speaks of a Cosmic Act that unites Heaven and Earth "permeating all creation."  Something is coming to be for those with eyes of faith;  the Kingdom comes and a future promise is occurring in our present world.  The mystery that is unfolding before our eyes gives us the thrust to carry on, to believe in a meaningful future and to act as catalysts to accelerate that future, to "look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (II Peter 3:12) 

     Nourishment is needed to bond us within divine love, and thus the sacrifice in which we participate is also a meal.  The saving task before us as People of God is so utterly important that we are unable to act without a food that is "Godself," nothing less.  A mere symbolic food would simply be a recall of past events;  a future hopeful horizon is not enough to sustain us in the present.  Nothing will suffice except food, the bond of Charity, the Lord's Body.  In this paschal banquet we are empowered with the risen Lord, renewed with a promise of ultimate glory, and energized by actual food that is Christ's person, a gift par excellence, the Sacrament of Sacraments.  "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you." (John 6:53)  Just as St. Athanasius reasoned that only a Christ, who is God, could redeem and save, so as participants in the saving act of Christ, only those nourished by divine food can so act.  Our Christian life must be a meeting of sacrifice and promise made present in Christ.  We do not act alone, but join in a community of faith, thanking God for engaging us in the work of the people.

     Prayer:  Lord teach us to come and share together in your divine work and carry your presence to the world.







View from a water's edge
View from a water's edge
*photo credit)  

January 17, 2010       Haiti and the Bonus-Takers

     They have no wine -- nor any potable water, nor food.

     Ironically, this week we heard about the Haitian earthquake; we also heard our president agonizing over what to do with a bunch of hot shots ready to take fifty billion dollars this year in bonuses for plunging the world in its current financial mess.  On the one hand, the Haitian catastrophe is called an "Act of God;"  on the other hand, bonus-taking is an act of a permissive generation of affluent "nobles" with hands in making laws for the greedy.  An Act of God is a legal term that means "a disaster that is due entirely to the forces of nature and that could not have possibly been prevented."  In secular terms, this act does not refer to divine intervention; in an extended sense, much of the Haitian tragedy in human life and injury could have been avoided by better building codes and construction -- and thus was preventable.

     In God's way of permitting things maybe the Haitian people are to be the leaders and teachers of the rest of us, and that is their invitation to go to Calvary.  Are they to make us come to our senses, and refuse to consider greed as virtuous and suffering as the result of sufferers' vices?  Should we as democratic people propose legislation to declare that bonus-takers, who have squandered the wealth of the commons, do public service for their financial misdeeds?  Should they be sent to Haiti to bury the dead or distribute food to the living?  Could they serve as assistants to building solar cookers; incidentally, these renewable energy devices in the hands of every Haitian family could halt the use of charcoal, which requires Haiti's few remaining trees.  Probably most bonus-takers would stand in the way of meaningful work; they are hardly bright enough to lead.  However, Haitians may be tolerant enough to allow them to serve the poor.

     One recent Haitian story tells of the sub-culture of street children, who gather in a base community each evening and pool resources;  they divide the fruit of their daily earning and begging equally among all the members of the base group.  From these very poor youth in a very poor nation comes a powerful lesson to bonus-takers -- and to all of us, rich and poor alike.  Is the earthquake another type of Act of God?  Wake up!  Redistribute wealth to those in need!  Be realistic!  If "bright" people have used wealth badly, get them to make restitution, not in prison, for they would not do the jail duties well.  Do public service.  Take the bonuses in taxes and make the original takers fill the jars of the world with the equivalent of life-giving water, in order for us as a family of the planet's people to celebrate together.  Mary's simple observation, "they have no wine" is where we launch into a global set of wonderful interaction of giving and receiving.  All of us working together help make world grow in mutual trust among all of God's children.  Now that IS an Act of God.

     Prayer:  Father, help us to understand how You touch our world for the better.





Photo by Warren Brunner for upcoming release with Reflections by Al Fritsch, SJ
Click here for details!

January 18, 2010     Pray for Unity:  Circles within Circles

     May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe that it was you who sent me.    (John 17:21)

       Every January a majority of active Christians pray on eight successive days leading up to the feast of St. Paul for unity among Christians.  This vocation to seek unity (ecumenism) is focused on the commitment to Christ by the over two billion in the world who call themselves Christian -- but in a broader sense this extends to all faith-oriented people throughout the world (interfaith cooperation).  The entire family of human beings and all creatures need to be drawn to ever wider  circles of unity.  

     The thrust for unity among Christians is based on the firm belief that we all share one baptism and faith in one Lord of all.  As Christians we share many other beliefs;  within a particular religious group there are ever wider circles of communities in regions, nations, continents and the world.  And to this is overlayered the circles of fellow Christians who are not of one fold, but still recognize belief in one Lord and God.  This broader circle embraces approximately one-third of the human race.  One image is that of a head of cabbage with inner cores and with overlapping looser leaves.  Such material representations suffer from their physical limitations just as much as does a three-leaf clover (the Trinity) that St. Patrick used as a teaching tool for the Celts. 

     We work in our inner core circles on mutual sharing and support in what we strive to do together -- and this takes an intimate unity of connection and well-being at a very personal level, a sacred communion of believing people.  As we move out from this we find that our unity is based on love and mutual interests that hold local communities together.  Tighter and more sharing communities are able to extend their bonding to wider communities as through a ripple effect.  As we love more, we grow from inner circles outward and embrace ever-widening areas.

      Conflict and friction can frustrate our unifying efforts.  Hatred tears the head apart with leaves flaking off and dying.  This has happened in the past, and so we are all familiar with disunity, whether at a local level or by a 9-11 type event on a global level.  Our unity prayer is for the love that the Father and Son experience.  Jesus calls us to this vocation to become one so that this unity can be the sign of what we profess, namely the unity of the God who loves us.  Building the circles of unity may be frustrating at times, but we are vowed to continue the process, knowing that this unity is possible.

     Prayer:  Lord, give us the courage to be one, to work together in love, to seek support of all, to build a better world that cares for everyone, and to work together to heal our wounded Earth.





A home-made suet cake provides a tasty winter meal
             (*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

January 19, 2010  Give Thanks for January's Blessings 

       In the middle of winter many say the hardest challenge is to find special things to be thankful for, for self-pity can become all-prevailing.  However, gratitude must again surface when temperatures fall and ice covers the walkways of life.  Finding the things to be grateful for differs with individuals, but my own individual suggestions may trigger your own listing of gifts to be grateful for in January -- and with a little reflection there are always many to consider:

     * Inclement weather, which makes us appreciate the gift of physical mobility when we can use it by getting outside more often;

     *  The bare geological forms around, accentuated by lack of foliage or by the covering of snow or ice;

     *  A star-filled night in coldest winter, which has an inviting atmosphere that summer and other seasons do not give, for we are drawn to look heavenward;

     *  The silence of a countryside while snow is falling;

     *  The newly snow-covered landscape when the sun finally breaks through, with an entire countryside filled with sparkling icy diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds of every imaginable design and pattern;

     *  The sounds of flowing water in creeks and streams;

     *  The freshness of a landscape covered with new fallen snow and the surrounding atmosphere;

     *  A hot meal, which means so much more on cold days than at other seasons, and thus we need to savor the tastes that can be brought out with creative recipes and cooking technique;

     *  A hoot owl's call making winter sounds so much more emphatic and focused than when the world is alive with nature's varied sounds;

     *  Holly bushes with green leaves and bright red berries;

     *  The long darkness that makes sleep all the more restful, with all the dreams that seem ever so much more pronounced in the winter nights; and

     *  The cardinal and bluejay that happened to remain through the winter months.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to respect all creation, even in the more silent times of the year, and to show this respect through thankful thoughts, words and an occasional smile.






A fresh-flowing stream near Franklin, TN

*photo credit)  

January 20, 2010      Defend Our Water Commons

      As mentioned earlier this month, we consider the commons from a different aspect each month.  We have celebrated Jesus' baptism and realize that each of us is saved through water -- and thus we are more spiritually inclined to save the water.  Recently, experiments of crashing a rocket into a crater near the southern pole of the moon brought forth a cloud of dust and debris that contained water, "moon water."  It was like discovering gold, for now exploring this otherwise lifeless heavenly body is at least a little less complicated with water present, for life processes require water in many ways. 

     Creeks, rivers and other forms of moving water manifest the flow of life itself.  In crisp winter weather the sounds of flowing water seem to accentuate themselves.  A gurgling stream or rushing river, even in mid-winter's rest, is the sign that new life is coming forth, although in some landscapes it is yet imperceptible. This commons of useable and potable water is a limited resource, which is all the more scarce because of expanding population and higher resource consumption demands.  In some parts of the planet free drinking water at village fountains is giving way to expensive bottled water that is obtained from soft drink-dispensing machines.  Running water in natural streams was always regarded as a common property, but this is challenged by property rights groups.  The shores or riparian rights have been claimed as property by individuals; the water rights have been allocated to large farms or corporations; more powerful forces have tapped in and drained the water for their own uses, privatizing water at a profit.

       We have a right to water for life itself;  we also have a responsibility to refrain from returning "used" water in poor condition to the environment.  Horror stories about polluted water abound: in the 1960s the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland caught fire;  India's sacred Ganges is becoming a sewer, downstream from a host of untreated sewage sources; some of China's major rivers are now laced with heavy pollutants; in Appalachia "straight pipes" leading directly into the creeks dump sewage into waterways in the hope that "dilution is the solution to pollution."  Rivers are drying up before they reach the ocean (e.g., the Indus, the Colorado, the Yellow, and the Rio Grande).  The Jordan is a brackish streamlet before it reaches the Dead Sea.  Livestock in large numbers pollute flowing streams;  fertilizers and pesticides pollute running streams and aquifers.  Motor boats add petroleum products and emissions to the water bodies in which they operate.

     The almost endless listing of ways in which water is contaminated makes us all the more aware that aggressive ways must be devised to ensure good drinking water for all and a plentiful supply of this precious resource for irrigation and commerce.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to use our more precious resources wisely and to ensure that potable  water is accessible to all.





Sugarberry tree, Celtis laevigata
*photo credit)  

January 21, 2010               Hug a Tree?

     On National Hug Day some have asked, did you ever hug a tree?  "Come on, be honest about it," they will say.  My response requires qualification even before the answer.  I do hug trees as part of practical -- and not emotional -- purposes.  Yes I have hugged people to show affection -- and the same for certain animals that do not bite.  Please understand why I occasionally hug a tree. 

     The entire length of my arm span (each arm stretched out to the full extent is six feet within a half inch;  from each of my middle finger tips to the elbow is almost one foot and a half or eighteen inches;  each outstretched hand from middle finger tip to wrist is eight inches and each little finger to its first joint is one inch, and to its major knuckle joint is two inches.  Now, the foot length, the "step," the "pace" and the stride"  will really bore you.  All in all, without the use of our own body's measuring instruments, many of us compulsive counters would be terribly frustrated on a number of occasions when lacking mechanical tools. 

     Back to National Hug Day.  I have been able to measure the girth of a tree to within an inch of accuracy by the initial hugs and tugs that it takes to move from point to point.    Believe it or not, I measured one tree in central New York near Albany that took three six-foot "hug spans," plus more measurement of body parts as well to determine the massive circumference (almost twenty feet) -- and now I forgot what kind of tree it was.  The mode of measurement is a sure thing; retention by an aging mind of what gets measured is more problematic.  However, the fact that I measured the tree is a sign of respect and love in its own way -- and we established its girth.

     Some notes of caution.  Measurements come in many proximate ways, and thus "hands" (for measuring horses) is one of the multitude of old English measuring systems, all based on some common sense general measurement.  Remember your own body part will differ from mine, so I suggest that you develop your own system with the aid of a ruler or yard stick.   You may want to go international and put your length measurements in meters, and that is all the better.  Or you may want to always carry around a measuring tape and that is commendable.

     Back to hugging.  Many people and animals certainly deserve an occasional embrace.  We seem to forget that an occasional hug may be all that it takes to get through the troubles of our world, so think of others and their needs.  I am unsure of the plants of this world, for they are far less sensate.  However, these plants know to some degree whether we appreciate them, but our appreciation need not be so expressive as a hug.  It is hard to hug a clover or a blade of grass.       

     Prayer:  Lord I think You hug this universe with your broad embrace.  Teach us to love in the best way we can and to show it,  especially when others are in need.






Winter morning
*photo credit)  

January 22, 2010     Anticipate the Climate Toll

     In a recent British Broadcasting Company interview a renewable energy researcher stated in despair that the Earth is already on an irreversible route to destruction and there is no remedy possible.  He said we should have acted sooner.  His pessimistic conclusion is itself part of the "climate toll."  Publicly saying that it is too late, especially among articulate and sincere people, creates an atmosphere of disbelief and negativity.  Such lack of faith in the future can result in a variety of escapists launching into all sorts of perverse behavior.  That is at a time when their own energies are so utterly needed in saving our troubled Earth.

     Some of the most recent United Nations' reports state that the Greenland ice sheet is melting far faster than had been predicted even eight years ago.  If the entire sheet were to melt in the next several decades, the oceans would rise by nine meters or about twenty eight feet.  There would be a lot of flooded coastal areas including several Pacific and Indian ocean nations.  Talking about global warming in the middle of winter tempts us to say -- "bring it on."   However, that is just a temptation, an escapism in itself.  The actual climate change is  a frightening possibility.

     An article dealing with the European heat wave of 2003 in the Swedish publication ";Acid News" (December, p. 9) said that during the month of August, 2003, the heat wave killed 14,802 in France, some 4,200 in Spain and Italy, 1,300 in Portugal, 1,400 in the Netherlands and 2,050 in the UK.  The article went on to say that the summer of 2003 was the warmest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere.  And normally relatively cool Europe was totally unprepared for it.  Such an extreme wave did not repeat itself, nor did the extreme of the hurricane season of Katrina.  However, extremes are not the telling point even when severe heat waves and natural disasters continue year after year.  The problem is the pattern and the average rise in temperature of oceans and land.  This pattern is what concerns the researchers on climate change, not the particular news of one or other disaster.

     We know that climate change affects the most vulnerable parts of the world and thus sufferings are in store for us this year though we do not know where or how severe.  The poorest people lack escape routes, adequate food and shelter and other aspects of a higher quality life.  Natural disasters are costly but can hardly be avoided.  However, changes can be made to alleviate some of them if we do not throw up our hands and say it is too late.  We can stop the deforestation, launch a renewable energy economy, move the most vulnerable away from the flood zones, and conserve the limited water supplies.  The world needs our concerted efforts, and people can change in time of crisis, but we must have faith in the future. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us concern about the least of our brothers and sisters in this time of climate change.  Help us to combat sterile pessimism by a realistic path to sharing resources.







Fox sparrow, Passerella iliaca
             (*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

January 23, 2010      Speak Up for Renewable Energy

     On National Pie Day we ought to consider reslicing the energy pie so that we come more quickly to a sustainable energy economy.  The U.S.  Energy Information Administration shows this slicing is occurring at a rapid speed with a movement towards a renewable energy economy.  In the first two-thirds of 2009, renewable energy sources -- hydropower, biomass, geothermal, solar and wind -- accounted for 10.45% of net U.S. electrical generation.  Hydropower accounted for almost two-thirds of the renewable energy supply.  During a comparable eight months of 2008, renewables accounted for 9.42%.  During this period total electrical output dropped by 4.90% with the major source of the drop attributable to coal that fell by 12.6% in that time span. 

     The fastest growing of the renewable energy sources is wind, which increased by 60% for August 2009 over August 2008.  Much of this expansion is in higher quality wind areas, but due to rapidly improving wind generating equipment, even areas of moderate wind quality are showing substantial increases.  Minnesota, a moderately endowed wind state is now fourth among U.S. states in wind generated electricity.   This has made obsolete a U.S. Renewable Energy Map we were generating here, because differences in quality are diminishing due to better wind generating equipment.  Another factor that has been somewhat overlooked in the past is the immense offshore wind potential on the eastern Atlantic Coast.  Some estimate that within three decades the Northeast offshore wind farms could supply enough gigawatts of electricity to the traditionally energy deficient Northeast to allow the region to be self-sufficient if not an energy exporter.

     In addition to the drive towards capturing wind, much recent effort is being made in geothermal in California and much of the West, in solar energy in the South and Southwest, and in the research into biofuel alternatives such as switch grass and non-food cellulosic plants and wood waste.  Small-scale hydropower plants are either being reopened or installed through federal economic stimulus package money moving to various states at this time.  The high costs and dangers of nuclear power plants have made many electric companies refocus attention on renewable energy sources.  Solar is far behind the surge for wind electric generation.  In fact, the global demand for solar cells dropped by one-sixth in 2009, though remaining a strong 4.6 gigawatts.  Sales are expected to rebound this year with an up to ten percent increase over the slow 2009.

      The renewable energy future is bright, even if climate change legislation is only inching through Congress.  Improved transmission systems now being constructed will allow renewable energy to be more easily transferred from sources to points of use. 

     Prayer:  Lord, You renew all things.  Help us who seek to heal our wounded Earth by promoting renewable energy, which is far less polluting and more fulfilling in moving this world forward.






Barnyard grasses
*photo credit)  

January 24, 2010     Initiate Twelve Types of Liberation

     He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives.  (Luke 4:18)

     Today, we hear the Word and we pronounce it as Jesus did when reciting the passage from Isaiah the prophet.  We too are to bring liberation into the world in which we live in several ways:

     Peer pressure:  Many are bound by what others require and think and say.  Thus assisting others may require us to go counter to such strictures, for many want us never to act except in the precise way they want us to behave;

     Demanding expectations:  Some chart our lives for us and when we do not conform they exert pressure.  We need to prepare them for what the Spirit moves us to do and say;

     Material wants:  In being like Christ we desire fewer material goods and thus greed can be reduced;

      False witnessing:  We are often forced to say that each must be an individual, but we are expected to accept how others act even though we totally disagree;

      Living extravagantly:  We need to free ourselves from the interior demands to dress like others, eat like others and do the same things as others (lawns, types of vehicles, forms of entertainment);

     Unhealthy practices:  Stress, wrong foods, smoking, drugs, and other bad habits can be avoided through the liberation resulting from self-abnegation and radical sharing;

     Busyness:  By valuing silence, less travel, physical exercise, prayer and meditation we can make an abrupt change from the occupational stress that can chain us down;

     Meaningless suffering and sacrifice:  When we enter into Christ's life to the full we see that our sacrifices are a participation in his and gain energy in this cooperative venture;

     Failure to speak:  Sometimes we must speak and this can be risky and costly -- and yet it must be done for others' benefit;

     Fantasy world:  Too many live a life of make-believe;

     Feeling old or worthless:  Aging can become an opportunity to see that each thing we do has infinite value; and

     Failure to engage in the environment:  Each of us must see that we live in a troubled world, and that our actions affect all other creatures to some degree.

     Prayer: Lord, You are liberator; make us liberated.





Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata
*photo credit)  

January 25, 2010      Imitate the Conversion of St. Paul


              Paul was a fanatic and saw persecution of Christians as the only approach to holding onto his strongly held beliefs.  If others did not follow, they were to be beaten or killed.  His conversion should be a sign to the rest of us that such procedures do not work.  Paul's conversion occurred while traveling, namely by being struck from his horse.  He was changed from a persecuting world traveler to a persecuted one.  However, the new hardships that he willingly undertook for Christ were endured while using many creative ways to travel and communicate with others. 


              Paul's ministry involved a transformation that worked well with the technology of his day.  The Roman road and letter system was worthy of good use and Paul took advantage of it.  Roman roads were well-paved, relatively secure, included rest stops and lodgings, and included well-guarded and constructed bridges and portals.  Because the system was excellent for travel and communication, Paul's message was able to go out to all the world - a message of love and non-violence, a message of urgency and conciseness.


              Today we are to leave our ways of violence (misuse of resources) behind, and to bring a message of peace as well to all people.  Our system of communication is fast and relatively safe. In a matter of moments we can reach listeners in distant lands at low effort and low cost -- far less effort and cost than even Paul had to his advantage.  The Internet is our new Roman Highway.  This Daily Reflection here is sent to almost 110 countries each month (with 845,000 monthly hits).  Many times in the past decades when constructing public interest reports, I wondered how would that word could ever be sent so it could be received by a world audience.  My first bout with mainframe computers at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 1960s and early 70s pertained to chemical research;  we never even imagined personal communication over wider distances.  Even during much of my four-decade-old public interest career when personal computers came into vogue, we never thought that a global Internet was possible.


              Today, we need to consider again the zeal and raw energy of Paul, and attempt to repeat to a small degree the work that he performed while inspired by the Holy Spirit. The age is right for spreading the Good News, and the Spirit moves us.  Many say the Internet is distracting, a waste of time, according to some, and a temptation to fill one's mind with the wrong things.  But where sin abounds so does grace, and so we must see this as a grace-filled moment in which we can respond to God's call to follow in the footsteps of Paul.  Our conversion is to see the opportunity that is here and now to spread the Good News.  This is the acceptable time;  this is the moment of salvation.


              Prayer:  Lord, give us courage similar to that of St. Paul;  give us the foresight to see the opportunities that are present;  help us to respond to these with fullness of heart.  












An old hickory tree against a winter sky
*photo credit)  



January 26, 2010     Comment on Enlightened Self-Interest


     Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everybody thinks of other people's interests instead.  (Philippians 2:4)


              My essay of December 17, 2008 showed my disagreement over the concept of "enlightened self-interest" as conceived in today's world.  Some challenged my view and noted that the concept was first used in 1835 by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America.  What Tocqueville apparently mentioned is an enlightened regard for oneself as an agent to assist others within the community or civic association.  I cannot fault such an understanding but regard that as part of the broad "public interest."  Thus the sacrifice of time and property for the sake of the greater good, knowing full well that all including oneself will benefit from such a sacrifice, is a public -- not a selfish -- deed.  Tocqueville was really contrasting the American and the French civic mentality of his day. 


              Rather, in a modern understanding, the "self" is contrasted to the "public interest" and refers to the autonomous individual attempting to make his or her self apart from others.  This is the total ego-oriented subject devoid of relationship or personhood with respect to others ("all for me, and me for me").  In fact such an egotist is separating the self from community and acts for his or her interests alone; enlightenment is making an appearance of being cooperative, but is primarily interested in self.  However, when some people speak of the "self," they may refer to family, small community or even a region or nation, and this goes far beyond the purview of the individual self.  I would not object to this broader self, for actually the person so acting in a local society is conforming to the principle of subsidiarity, that is, acting at the lowest level of organization in which satisfactory results can be achieved.   Enlightenment enters into communal activity -- but that is hardly the "self," except when using the term loosely to mean what is "proper," namely, my home, my town, my country, or my world in which I identify myself.


               We are enlightened through insight, and so this is an invitation seldom solicited.  Send your comments on this subject to our website.  Regard the battle as between self-centered activity and the public interest.  We can observe selfless saints, fallen heroes and sacrificing caregivers;  their lives refute self-centeredness, even when in many cases it was a painful learning process.  By giving up self we gain all, including the elevation to a noble selfless state.  With Jesus this takes a plunge of faith.  While self-interest in contrast to public interest leads to greed, selfishness, social disruption, and loss of a sense of commons and democratic process, public interest leads to total fulfillment including the self. 


              Prayer:  Lord, keep us public spirited; help us to sacrifice for the good of all, and thus ultimately gain self worth.












Cardamine douglassii, purple cress
*photo credit)  


January 27, 2010          Take Responsibility


               If you don't work, you don't eat.  That is an invitation to take responsibility -- and that is often lacking today in the world of many rights but few duties.  Some say openly that the lack of collective or individual responsibility is destroying our planet -- and ourselves.  I note in various instances with the very young that when they are asked whether they are sorry for their wrongdoing they hesitate in bewilderment.  They had never confronted personal responsibility in their lives.  But that does not hold just for the young;  most adults would say that wrongdoing is on the part of others, and that they are never to blame. 


              Our troubled Earth suffers from lack of taking responsibility, from denying the problem, excusing ourselves and escaping to something nicer.  Failure to take responsibility is destroying ourselves and our planet.  Climate change is the result of the privileged class feeling comfortable in consuming what belongs to all, both the present and future generations.  Simply buying off our wrongdoing such as exotic travels, by "caps and trade" or carbon offsets is shifting from personal responsibility to escapist techniques.


              Some expend energy for self-indulgence.  Others who are at the service of society may calculate their individual resource expenditures (e.g., fuel used) against themselves.  Coast Guard cutter operators serve a regional, national or global defense system.  Thus the resources they use ought not to be attributed to them but divided among the public served.  That is precisely why individual statistics on resource use are so imprecise and even verge on being meaningless except for crass resource wasters.  Both expenditures and responsibilities become muddled.


              Now back to the question of taking responsibility.  We prefer to do superficial acts (recycling bottles) and to forget the big picture.  A democratic society is NOT one that allows individuals to do as they please (and freely waste resources as they choose);  a democratic society must force change in behavior, especially when the conduct of the wrongdoer highly affects others.   We must take a middle ground between voluntary individual responsibility that a few do well and a totalitarian state that forces all to act in lock-step.  The middle position is to take positive steps to force behavioral change from a collective standpoint and not allow wasters to continuing destroying our Earth.  Prophetic people such as suicidal terrorists can be terribly wrong.  What they are right about is that individuals seeing the need for a collective suicidal activity (wasteful consumer expenditures cause climate change) must speak openly for meaningful change. 


              Prayer:  Lord, teach us to take responsibility, not only on an individual level as practicing believers in the future, but as citizens who are witnesses to the truth.  This is risky, for violence can be raised against us as it was for Jesus.


















 Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) crossing
*photo credit)  


January 28, 2010   Observe Road Safety Practices


              Yes, I sometimes drive too fast, and after dark, and allow myself to be distracted, -- but I'm one of the last earthlings cell phone-free.  All things considered, all of us on the road -- drivers, riders, bikers and walkers -- need to be careful, for one million unfortunate people a year and three thousand of these this day will die in 2010 from road accidents.  In most countries of the world such accidents are the number one cause of the 15-29 year age-group death rate.  Statisticians tell us that 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries, meaning that safety has a long way to go when more and more motor vehicles are added to already-crowded highways and byways.  Furthermore, it is expected that the road deaths especially in these nations will double to two million by the end of this decade.


              Congestion is not the only cause of road accidents.  People, especially younger drivers,  show off their skills and take risks; some take alcohol and other drugs while attempting to drive;  still others speed, fail to maintain their vehicles and disobey existing road rules; still non-drivers simply walk to and from work or market or school on unsafe roads.  Furthermore, the local and regional governments are distracted by other problems and negligent with respect to road and motor vehicle maintenance and regulations.  When the United Kingdom cracked down on driving practices the nation was able to cut road accidents in half.  


              Oh my, let us get to the nitty-gritty!  What needs to be done?  We travel too fast, too far without breaks, and we travel too close to the car in front of us.  We become tired and impatient and drowsy.  We all need to drive within the speed limit, observe signs, use proper signals, know when we are too old or infirm to drive, avoid eating while driving, or smoking or drinking, or using a cell phone, or texting messages, or writing letters, or becoming distracted.  Yes, we need to take responsibility for the safety of the roads, for many depend on us for their own safety.  All of this may demand greater observance on the part of troopers and cops. 


              Roads are a blessing: a movement away from the curse of isolation; a portal to the outside world; a gateway to distant places; a means to marketing products and obtaining necessities; a path to vacation and sightseeing; and a means of getting to work or school.  Roads are good, but the many little crosses sprouting along the side of them remind us that roadways are places of death and injury, and turned over vehicles, and flashing lights, and ambulance sirens, and ruined dreams.  The smooth highway to greatness can lead to an accident with its dire consequences.  It only takes a second and a crashing sound -- and then all of life flashes before the mind.  The picture is unclear; it always is.


              Prayer:  Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life.  Move us to see and use the way clearly, to be truthful and honest with our limited abilities when on the way, and to value our own and the lives of others so highly that we will drive safely at all times.














Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) and morning doves (Zenaida macroura) at winter bird bath
*photo credit)  


January 29, 2010    Redefine the "Privilege" of Offsetting


              It's not that there are too many Chinese and Indians in the world;  it's just that too many of them want to be like us. 

                              Anonymous barstool pundit


              Some folks prefer to continue in their luxurious ways.  The privileged, those born into a land of bigness (financially and militarily), are able to inherit power and thus have access to those of influence.  Often in the mistaken name of democracy they retain their privileges through absence of good regulations and fair taxes.  In truth, the "they" are really "we" with our literacy, spare time, computer base, security, protective laws, and ability to freely communicate, which are privileges.  If we are  privileged, let's take the responsibility to share these with the underprivileged in the rest of the world.


              Carbon offsetting is a guilt offering for the privilege of using some resource.  It may involve buying potential forestlands and then proceeding to pay someone to plant saplings;  these plantings will take a hundred years to offset the fuel used (and carbon footprint) for attending a conference of some sort.  Passive attendees certainly have little to justify such travel when the information gained could have been learned by clicking on Internet sources -- though socializing has intangible benefits.  However, the offset trees can be damaged, die, be eaten by goats or struck by opportunistic diseases that kill entire species or sub-species -- elms, pines, hemlocks, dogwoods and American chestnuts.  Furthermore, a future, highly down-sized culture may decide to cut the trees for firewood.  There's no guarantee the offset will pay off, only the irresponsible hope that excess use of resource will be offset through someone else's responsible action.


              Yes, we are privileged and let's be frank about it.  However, part of our privileged duty is to help make the world better. We need to be Passover people, passing over privilege for the sake of the duty of looking at a world of critical needs.  In accepting the privileged power to make change in meaningful ways, we give up self interests for the greater whole.  We move from unsustainable ways to more sustainable means that provide good food, housing, health and education for an entire global population.  Thus we can redefine offset as accepting the privilege to serve others in ways that allow all to share a better world.


              The one who offsets in order to continue wasteful and unsustainable ways of living is expending precious time and resources that should be spent by an involved citizenry working to "force" change upon the system.  How much longer will it take to heal the planet due to such callous offsetting?  We need to work fast and move towards new solutions, not give guilt offerings.


              Prayer:  Lord, don't stop us from planting trees, only from planting trees so others can waste our limited resources that ought to be used as part of essential services.













Icy winter scene in Kentucky
*photo credit)  


January 30, 2010     Can We Halt Climate Change?


              A solid spirituality must confront reality, no matter how adverse, directly. Now that the hype, proposals, promises and basic agreements related to the Copenhagen Conference have been discussed, we wonder aloud whether we can succeed in the future. 


              Over twelve years ago, the Kyoto Conference gave noble goals and international agreements.  However, in the intervening years between the two conferences several facts emerged: from 1997 to 2008 carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuel increased by 31%; average global temperatures during that time span increased by 0.4 degree; glacier melting in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America increased; average ocean levels increased by one and a half inches.  Add to this the increase of one new Chinese coal-burning power plant weekly and others as well, along with a rapid increase in the coal-burning practice (predicted to rise from 41% to 44% of total global fuel sources by 2030).


              An awareness of global disaster has emerged in the 1997-2009 span.  Unfortunately, in a classic case of denial, in the immediate period leading up to the Copenhagen Conference those Americans believing that a climate crisis was occurring decreased from the 70+% level to 57% of the general population.  This denial is even more ominous than the depressing physical practices cited above, because without an awareness of need to act, nothing will occur.  Too often, people deny troubles or try to excuse themselves or to escape when they are so confronted.  Spiritual insight to act corrodes with the materialistic onslaught.  There then develops the mutually assured destruction we have talked about earlier.


              The answer for people with faith in the future is that the reality of growing difficulties must be confronted and addressed forthrightly.  This means we are to humble ourselves to accept our service role in changing the world around us.  We cannot go alone, so we must join with other people of faith into a single praying and working community willing to get our hands dirty.  WE must know the HERE and NOW.  The WE are people who are willing to work; the HERE is to be present to the conditions; the NOW is to regard this as the acceptable time to act.  


              The only way we can reverse current trends is to move rapidly from a consumption-based economy to an essential needs-based economy, where the basic needs of all are being met with the resources now used for a false global military-based security.  This new alternative economy places emphasis on spiritual, not material, profit;  it means that efforts are needed to counteract the allurement of Western materialistic values on the emerging nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America;  it means that the vast divisions of wealth in the world are to be eliminated and redistributed to those in need.   


              Prayer:  Lord, we pray that we might have the light to see, to buck up our courage, and to act to address the global crisis at hand.












Unidentified fungal growth found in backyard grassy habitat
*photo credit)  


January 31, 2010     Support Hometown Prophets      
                                         (Luke 4:21-30)


              Hometown folks are not necessarily hostile; they simply know us -- or at least think they do -- all too well.  In fact, my hometown is a wonderful and beautiful place to which I enjoy returning when time permits.  However, Jesus leads us to discover there is a way of looking at a "hometown prophet" through an honesty that many of us shrink away from for a host of reasons: a hometowner's perceived lack of credibility; known past indiscretions on the part of that individual;  a perception that the individual is no better than the stay-at-homes or is still immature;  a familiarity that breeds contempt. 


              Why did the talk by Jesus raise such ire in his hometowners?  Remember, he is really saying that the home place is not privileged, but that salvation and concern reach out to all people of good will, not the audience alone.  What Jesus challenges is the special privilege of the home place or culture or social status, and he challenges the residents by showing that the home town qualities actually extend out to a greater number of people.  His examples are that Elijah, the prophet, was sent to a widow in Zaraphath in the land of Sidon; Elisha, the prophet, cleansed Naaman the Syrian.  Salvation is for all, and local loyalties are best served by sending some of the town's sons and daughters out to other places.  That message is difficult for some (the prophets) to make and many (the residents) to understand and accept. 


              Loyalty is best served when the local people support their own in giving to a greater world that which they cherish so much.  This may be asking much, but there is more.  Some are better able to give what we cherish and to do so without referring to the home town.  Generosity is demanded on the part of all and that is often wanting.  The prophet sent is saying far more than the average resident wants to give or share with others -- and this may result in criticism -- or even violence shown to the one going forth.  Those who stay at home may resist the one going away and speaking.  "He doesn't speak for me," is one refrain.  But in fact, he ought to speak for the home place for it makes life easier for him -- and what he gives he at least owes in part to his local community. 


              If we do not support those sent,  we will be opposing them at least implicitly.  Negativity hurts.  Giving moral support allows the home town to be part of the process.  Just as in the athletic or entertainment fields, the pride in a home town son or daughter is an affirming gesture, so ought it be for prophets as well.

         Certainly some folks go off the deep end, and the hometowners must make the proper distinctions.  But there are many who do not have home support when it is highly needed.  Let universal love take effect here; extend love to all, not just a few.


     Prayer: Lord, help us to see the good in those near and far, and do not allow us to disparage others who strive to do good.



Copyright © 2010 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Davis, Editor

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