Friday, April 17, 2009

Life Unplugged

Of those who know me, when it comes to music, I am a bit of a fanatic. I admit to having almost 4,000 songs on my IPOD, and the number is always growing. I hoard music like one would photographs, each song brings back a different memory, an emotion, a feeling associated with it. For example, every time I hear Sublime, I remember the entire summer I spent listening to it; a summer with fond memories of skateboarding and jumping off reservoir bridges with three good friends. Those friends were only there for the summer, and when they left I kept their memory and the times we had in that music, and it returns to me every time I hear it. My entire life seems to have a soundtrack. My earphones are in so often that I might as well have them surgically attached. Lately though something interesting has begun; throughout the course of this semester I have change my taste in music.
Our discussions in class, the articles, and the books I have read concerning the environment have fortified many of my own personal convictions, and they have also helped me look at things from new perspectives, which has been of great value. But the most vital part of this engagement, has been the desire to once again reacquaint myself with the peaceful sound of nature, a genre often forgotten.
Think about it, just to start a conversation with someone walking from one class to the next often requires some form of sign language to get their attention, in order for them to take the headphones off. Its as if life is just a station on the radio that you listen to in between your favorite songs. For me it has not just been the memories that music can bring back, but I can also relate with the its message or the feelings it invokes. Some lyrics seem to tell your story, or share your feelings, and that can be comforting. For others, a steady and rhythmic beat helps to form a barrier from an unpredictable world; to know the words, to sing along, to tune out of reality. It can be akin to the lulling comfort of the lotus leafs described in Homers "Odyssey", which caused anyone who ate the flower or seeds to forget who they were, and their only interest was to eat more.
Odysseus had to carry his crew back to the ship, to remind them of their journey-which was return home.
Living life "unplugged," has helped me "return home" listening to the world around me; the sound of birds, of leafs, of the wind, and rain; a symphony-created by my Heavenly Father, a hymn that reminds me of his love and his omnipresence.
In one of my favorite films, the main character is going though a midlife crisis of sorts; he seems to be overwhelmed with his lot in life, and he is tired of going through the motions; he feels disconnected. In the end he finds peace, when he stops to appreciate the world around him. He concludes the film with these words, stated in calm resolution:
"there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax... and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude... for every single moment..." (American Beauty)

I invite everyone who reads this blog to stop... unplug... disconnect, to reconnect and tune in to the beautiful sound of the wondrous elements that surrounds us,... and if you do, you will feel this same gratitude. If we are grateful for what we have, we will treat it as our Father intends.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A change of heart

I must admit, I originally signed up for this class because I needed two more credit hours to fulfill my full-time student quota. However, as I have come to class and participated in the discussions and made a few discoveries of my own, I have to say I have found myself drawn in more and more. This was the one class this semester that I can honestly say I think I learned something valuable. Not to say that my other classes failed to teach me anything, but 5 years from now or 10, will I remember everything that was taught? Probably not. In religion and the environment though, there were issues brought up and opinions shared that I will not easily forget. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned over this semester was that of hope. I remember being 7 years old and painted a shirt with a world on it that said “Earth day is every day”. Sounds cheesy, but I did it on my own accord and I was only seven years old. In my third grade class we raised money to ‘adopt’ an acre of rainforest in the Amazon. Basically I am just saying that I have been aware of our environment for a long time and I have also been aware of the issues that plague it. While I am always looking for ways to improve the environment, I have been very negative about it. I felt that there was just too much wrong in the world and that there was no way humans would stop it. They didn’t want too. Everywhere I looked humans were too selfish to be concerned with things that didn’t immediately effect them. I still feel that way sometimes. When we were talking about animals, we were discussing what consciousness and reason are and if animals have it. It blows my mind that humans are so proud and snobbish to think of themselves as mortally different then an animal. We both bleed, we both need air…we are animals (as much as some people get offended by that, it is true) We have spirit that makes us different, but our bodies are made from the same crude matter. When people stop thinking of themselves as superior to everything else, then we can expect a change. That is how the Native Americans lived and Eskimos and so forth, these civilizations lived in harmony with the environment. But even though I am human and still get irked by many things, I have learned about hope. Hope is as necessary to make a change as is knowledge. Reading Jane Goodall’s book, A Reason for Hope, really opened my mind to the power of hope. It is important to realize that there are many people out there who are aware of the issues that we face, are abhorred at the conditions of certain animals and are actively trying to make a difference. These are not environmental extremists but everyday people who are making a difference step by step. These people are opening humane animal shelters, volunteering at food banks or soup lines, they are volunteers in Africa who are building modest houses for wanting people and the vast amount of people who live in remote areas and love their forests and lands and are actively taking a stand to protect them. Instead of sitting on my butt and judging others, I need to be more supportive of the good things that are going on around me and participate in making the world a better place. Not only will it be better for the world, but it will be better for my soul. I will be happier. Thank you for the opportunity to sit and listen to all of your thoughts and opinions this semester. I have really been touched. God Bless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Save the Planet, Spare the People

Moderation, acceptance, open-mindedness; all these have been the themes of our discussion. Wherever our discussions have taken us these three themes reoccur. When we spoke about evolution we talked about reconciling science and religion, when we spoke about different religions we talked about accepting differences, opening our minds to new ideas, and being willing to accept the truth of different faiths. These three things seem to have been the answer to all of the conflicts of opinion we’ve run into in our discussions. Why? They’re the solution because they solve human animosity, they don’t feed it, they don’t try to repress it. Moderation, acceptance, and open-mindedness calmly and effectively neutralize human animosity.
When Francis Bacon justified tormenting the earth he was neither moderate, accepting nor open-minded. When other men said that what they wanted was more important than the earth that provided those means weren't moderate, accepting or open-minded. It’s important that people get what they need to live, but brutalizing the earth we were given stewardship over in the name of want is another thing entirely.
Moderation: as the people of this planet learn to be content with getting what they need, maybe a few luxuries, and are content with that, the waste of earth’s resources will plummet. Eating until you’re gorged, or the gallon challenge illustrate wasteful practices of the American people. We’re so used to having so much that we’ve become almost indifferent to wasting it. I’m not blameless, but I’m working on changing my ways, and I hope that as I change I can help others change too. By being moderate in thought and consumption we’ll not only be more content, but be more willing to give to our earth and others.
Acceptance: People are starving in African, as well as in America. People are starving no matter where you go, but this doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t do anything about it. In accepting something you commit yourself to taking action, or at least encouraging action. When I accept money from someone else I’m committing to using it. When people become willing to accept differences in the human race they become committed to doing something about those differences – in a constructive way. When we learn to accept each other we become able to work together.
Open-minded: When people are excessive and not willing to accept different views they become like an idea quarantine. Nothing goes in or out. While this preserves what they have, they lose more than they gain. Just as eliminating the wolves of Yellowstone caused dramatic effects in the ecosystem, getting rid of all ideas we see as not being directly beneficial cause the ecosystem of thought to degenerate. We need to keep an open-mind, a cautious open-mind, but an open mind.
As the human race learns moderation , acceptance, and to be open-minded, we’ll be able to live peaceably with one another, which will lead us to being able to live peaceably with the earth we’ve been given to live on.

So now what??

This semester we have talked a lot about the differences between different religions and their views of the environment and how they interact with nature. We almost always have compared these religions with our own and how they differ and are the same. It has been interesting to see that for the most part we share the same beliefs and ideas as the rest of the world. There obviously was one religion on the earth at one time at the beginning and different ideas have sprung up as the years have past by but they all share many similarities. If you were to put the ideas of different religions on paper without labeling them and try to compare them I think that you would have a hard time differentiating between them. I think that the reason for this is that truth is truth and the main religions in the world today all have large portions of truth with them and that is why people over generations of time have stayed with these religions and practice them today. We all believe that people have an innate ability to recognize truth and have a desire to follow truth. Many small churches will try to rise and become relevant but unless they teach truth and practice it they will not last like the major religions of the world today. We can become an example of truth to those around us as we practice truth and live it.

Another interesting theme that we didn’t talk about in class much but was talked about much more in this blog is the need for balance. We all recognize that the earth is being abused at a rate never seen before in its history and things aren’t getting any better. We all want to help and do better than we are currently doing but I think we all realize that chaining ourselves to trees or breaking into animal labs or becoming a vegetarian isn’t a reality for us. (except for our teacher) I wonder what our level of commitment is to the environment and because we don’t value nature we use the crutch of “balance”. Now before anybody gets offended I am probably more guilty than anybody when it comes to this. I am probably the most selfish in this group when it comes to the environment as I like to live in a society that always tries to better my situation without thought of the consequences that I might have on the environment. I would be yelling louder than anyone that we can’t protect everything in the world so we should focus more on other things and balance our lives. I’m just saying that maybe, although most of us think it is crazy to chain ourselves to trees and free animals in labs, we just aren’t committed enough to take action. I’m not proposing anything radical but maybe we can individually decide on things that we are going to do better. Not ideas but actions that we can take individually or show to others that will make a difference. As I write this I am probably the last one who is going to actually take some action and change my lifestyle because I like how my life is but I recognize that I can do better. And although I can promise our teacher that I will never go vegetarian because I love love love meat there are other things that I can do that will make a difference.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Can We Strive to Become like Christ and Still be Ecologically Aware

Can we live our lives sympathetic to the needs of the environment in which we live while our eyes look to heaven?
Gordon D Kaufman’s article, wherein he seems to blame Christianity for a lack of awareness of ecological matters, due to some false sense of entitlement that we receive through the knowledge that we are formed in the image of God, states “the traditional Christian understanding of humanity in relation to God, with its powerfully anthropomorphic God-image, tends to obscure and dilute, in Christian faith and theology, ecological ways of thinking about our human place in the world.” He further argues that nature becomes an enemy of God when evolutionary and ecological issues come to the forefront. These ideas seem to stem from some notion that we cannot become one with God and the environment, but rather the closer we come to connecting with God, the more ‘idolatrous’ we become. He believes that Christian religion is more focused on the human problems, such as “despair, anxiety, guilt, death, meaninglessness, sin, injustice, and so forth.”(Kaufman 149, 155)
In class last Monday Dr. Peck brought up the subject solipsism, which is exactly what I believe is the essence of Kaufman’s argument.
So I ask myself, can we strive to become like Christ and still be ecologically aware?
I share Thomas Berry’s view that “if we lose the environment, we will lose our sense of God as well”.(Haught 276) Joseph F Smith is quoted as saying “men cannot worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon his creatures…. Love of nature is akin to the love of God; the two are inseparable.” And in Mosiah we learn, “how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”(Smith 201)
I cannot imagine a God of love and mercy, who would turn his back on his creations. Thus it is in my opinion that if we strive to become more like Christ, who is one with his father, we must reverence his creations. I also believe that we are truly in preparation of becoming creators ourselves, and thus it is important that we learn what it means to be righteous stewards.
The Lord has put forth many symbolic rituals to help us understand the important covenants that we make. He does them in a way that we can relate with, or in other words he speaks to us in “our own language”. In order to do this, he must understand the human nature. So if we are to be stewards, we too should learn to understand and be sympathetic with the elements of nature so that we can execute righteous dominion.
While I will agree that it is often our inclination to be anthropomorphic in our perceptions of the world around us, and that that may lead us to be insensitive to the eccentricities of the natural world; I cannot conclude that in our efforts to become like God, that we will be turning our backs on the environment.

"all things unto [the Lord] are spiritual" (D&C 29:34; see also v. 35)

(Haught, John F."Christianity and Ecology" Reprinted from The Promise of Nature. pg 276)
(Smith, Joseph F, cited in George B. Handley, "The Environmental Ethics of Mormon Belief," BYU Studies 40, no. 2(2001): 201.)
(Kaufman, Gordon D. "The Theological Structure of Christian Faith and the Feasibility of a Global Ecological Ethic" Board of 148-161)
The Book of Mormon

Monday, April 6, 2009

Applying Current Revelation

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints179th Annual General Conference was replete with messages of hope and endurance through our trials, but underlying these central messages was an admonition to us all: prudence. More specifically, I would like to center my comments in conjunction with the messages given to us by Elder Robert D. Hales and Elder Dallin H. Oaks. Elder Hales’ message was one riddled with the reproach to avoid excess, and Elder Oaks pleaded with the Saints to extend service.

Throughout the semester, we have discussed the concept of stewardship. We have established the fact that God never intended us, His children, to do whatever we want with anything we can get our hands on. In truth, God has given us the responsibility, much like that of men and the priesthood, to take care of all things within our circle of influence and this includes the land that we live on, the people we interact with, and the other various forms of life. I personally do not think that the truths we learn in the temple being centered on the Creation is happenstantial. There is something centrally important in this setting: things that hold eternal significance and truth never change and never will. This teaching can be applied to the LDS perspective of avoiding excess. Like Elder Hales said, excess can be in the areas of food, debt, and addictions. When we choose to let ourselves focus on satiating or gorging the natural man, we are essentially trading in a portion of our agency for these items- we are exchanging our own divine worth, how sad. This can be, and should be applied to how we treat the wonderful earth God has provided for us to live on. It is in this frame of mind that I now ask myself and others to think about this: “Do I magnify my existence by giving more than I take from the earth, or do I chose to trade in my time and talents for things which have no eternal value and take away the chance for others to enjoy the necessities I enjoy?” The earth is not only our mortal, temporal home but it is also our eternal destination- we need to care.

In the spirit of Elder Oaks talk, I now turn to the cause of our wasteful and excessive sickness of consumption- entitlement and lack of service. Entitlement presupposes that whatever that “right” is that we are entitled to is owed to us regardless of what we have done or don’t do to “deserve” it. Something does not come from nothing. It is in the prideful supposition of entitlement that people ravage the earth in search of shiny things and supporting excessive diets. Service is the cure. When we spend time serving others we are able to more appropriately view our own current circumstances, to see how blessed we truly are and to be grateful. Our gratitude enables us to find joy in our daily lives and we tend to turn less to satiating exhorbant wants of the natural man that may deplete our beautiful home.

I have a long way to go, and I know that nothing will happen unless I start today and continually try to improve each and every day after that. We all make a difference, and in the end it is all that we do that determines not only who we are, but where we will be- I want to stay with the earth.


As the title of the blog denotes this is my last blog entry. I have enjoyed writing my views on religion and the environment and reading everyone’s blogs as well. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs and writing your comments in support or disagreement. Like Dr. Peck says heated discussion is healthy. I have struggled on what to write about in this concluding blog. I want to share my views on the class and our discussions in class and how it has made me a better person. I have enjoyed the episodes of Star Trekk and the Simpsons. As a quick side note I think we should end the semester by watching Ferngully the movie. Anyways, It has been interesting to listen to the different viewpoints of individuals in our class. I am glade that individuals spoke up about what they believe in and have passion for. I do not think that there is ever a clean cut answers to questions regarding the environment or religion. Studying the different religions has shown me that the environment is a part of all the different beliefs in the world. This tells me that the environment should be well taken care of if everyone practiced what they preached. To me sometimes it is the extreme religions that care most about nature and the environment. I do not think that it is the healthiest to be extreme but some time extreme situation require extreme measures of treatment. I try to reflect back to many lessons learned from all the different religions. Sometimes the primitive religions show a great appreciation for nature then do the more affluent religions. It might be because primitive religions were so infused with their surroundings that there is not difference. I feel that we have to make an effort to while primitive religions no effort is made because it is ingrained in the society. I am happy to see that the LDS community is really making an effort to step up our policies on the environment. I was listening to the news in my car and a report come on about our advances in the downtown salt lake construction and how we are implementing dramatic environmentally conscious practices. It saddens me to know that the world does not think that the LDS community is environmentally friendly. We should be the most environment conscious people because we know the truth about the future of the earth and its state in the eternities. I think that individuals can make differences and we should one person at a time try to change our bad habits or in better words make our weakness become strengths. Thanks again for the blogs and opinions. It has been great.