BEFORE AND AFTER THE CORONAVIRUS
Just one month ago, my wife, millennial daughter, and I sat on a crowded Georgia beach. Now we are hunkered down in our respective homes, avoiding all non-essential social contact.
How quickly the world can turn upside down.
COVID-19 has driven home a message denied too long: the world is small, and each of us is literally our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Your decisions and actions today—and mine—ultimately impact the health of each and every person on this globe.
COVID-19 has also spotlighted the extraordinary adaptability of human beings. In the US, nine in ten are practicing social distancing. Crises can bring out the best in us.
Most of us are wondering how long the isolation and economic dislocations will last. When can we return to life and business as normal?
Normal is the last thing we should hope for.
Humanity has been living unsustainably in so many ways: ecologically, biologically, economically, and politically. COVID-19 is a wake-up call. If we return to business as usual, this crisis will seem as child’s play relative to the catastrophes that await. It is high time to usher in a new normal. Let’s start envisioning that world now.
In the new normal, health care and sick leave will be rights, so that sick people don’t continue working and infecting co-workers because they can’t afford medical care.
In the new normal, all citizens will have a guaranteed basic income so that they don’t risk eviction at every economic downturn.
In the new normal, the economy will serve the needs of people—like the stimulus package is doing—rather than people serving the needs of a rapacious economy.
In the new normal, it will be considered immoral—and illegal—for the top one percent to control as much wealth as the bottom 80 percent.
In the new normal, the virus of fake news will die out, and scientific expertise—epidemiological or climatological—will be respected and the foundation of public policy.
In the new normal, fossil fuel’s rape of the Earth will cease, and our power will come from the sun, the wind, and the Earth herself.
In the new normal, humans will live gently on the Earth, a part of Nature, not apart from it. And we will grant the Earth time to heal from deforestation, the devastation of extractive industries, and the fever of climate change.
In the new normal, we will beware the economic fallacy of perpetual growth and focus instead upon sustainable lifestyles and community resilience.
In the new normal, small communities will thrive, each with its own food production, energy generation, and greenways.
Crises sweep away our societal delusions—rugged individualism, perpetual growth, domination of Nature—and reveal what is of enduring value: family, friends, beauty, altruism, and love.
If we fail to learn the lessons of COVID-19, a world of suffering awaits. Thus far, humans may be rising to the occasion, heeding the wake-up call.
We’re on the cusp of breakthrough or breakdown. Which will prevail?
September 27th, 2013
To read any or all of Dave's posts at Huffington Post click here. Or if you prefer, these and more are available at Like the Dew.
I met Spanish priest Yago Abeledo while he was on sabbatical in the US, studying at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. For several years, Yago has tended a remarkable website: Breathing Forgiveness: Embracing the Giant Wound in the Naked Now. Yago's labor of love is dedicated to promoting healing in all its forms, particularly healing the legacy of slavery. In today's world, slavery manifests in many guises, some quite subtle. It was my great privilege to work with Yago to produce this two-part interview for the Anti-Slavery Campaign Interview Series, conducted in Spring 2013.
The interview is entitled: The Journey of Transcending Human Narcissism: Awakening to Our Real Identity. To read either or both interviews, click the links below.
Presented at Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists Fellowship, Sunday, June 23, 2013. Click here for the full text.
Science's Sacred Cows: Part I
In a 1983 address to an international symposium on Galileo, Pope John Paul II issued a stunning pronouncement:
The Church is convinced that there can be no real contradiction between science and faith. … It is certain that science and faith represent two different orders of knowledge, autonomous in their processes, but finally converging upon the discovery of reality in all its aspects …
Given centuries of animosity between science and religion, the pontiff’s epistle astounds for several reasons. First, it stresses the complementarity rather than antagonism of rational and intuitive modes of knowing. Second, it grants autonomy to both revelatory processes, implying that neither should seek to manipulate or triumph over the other. And third, it suggests that ultimate truth—so far as we can know it—emerges from the concerted efforts of external and internal explorations.
“What is consciousness if you cannot poke it with your finger?”
During a moment of classroom epiphany in 2004, Erin, a precocious honors student at James Madison University, spontaneously put her finger on science’s most perplexing question and why science was loath to take the bait.
For all their erudition, scientists are not unlike the seven-year-old who stumbles upon a toad in her path and succumbs to the temptation to poke the creature to learn something about it in the process. Indeed, experimental physics is a formalized way of poking things and evaluating the responses. In the abstract, an experiment requires three essential ingredients: energy, object, and detector. Energy is directed at the object, some fraction strikes the detector, and something is gleaned about the object from the pattern of transmitted or returned energy. Consider a familiar example: in utero ultrasound of an unborn fetus.
God and Not God
All that can be said of God is not God--St. Catherine of Siena
I once skated perilously close to the edge of religious fundamentalism. It almost killed me. Literally, not figuratively. The year I turned 30, the thought of taking my life never left me. Fundamentalism, I’ve realized in hindsight, is a straitjacket for the human soul. With its penchant for absolute certainty, fundamentalism squeezes the sap of mystery from the tree of life. And life without mystery is so dull and constrained as to be hardly worth the living.
after mastering the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity,
we will harness for God the energies of Love,
and then for the second time in the history of the world,
man will have discovered fire.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The poetic words above hint at a hopeful turn of events around the bend of humanity’s future. Religion and science, which separated after Copernicus and divorced after Darwin, may one day reconcile.
Welcome to Reason and Wonder
“I think I have a book in me, and I think that teaching this course might help me write it.”
It was the first day of spring semester 1999, and I had just uttered the statement above in front of a group of 20 honors students. The statement, as this website proves, was true. It was also incredibly naïve, as the 13-year gestation period of Reason and Wonder attests. Why did it take so long? Well, as they say in spiritual circles, it’s not the destination; it’s the journey.
Dave Pruett, a former NASA scientist, is an emeritus professor of mathematics at JMU.