Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hope and Hopium Part II

Hope and Hopium, or Where are the Princess Bride & Westley When We Need Them? Part II

If you haven't read Part I, please do so before you continue.

As Paul Harvey used to say, and now for the rest of the story.

So the answer to the question is that the Princes Bride and Westley are characters in a fairy story and a movie. Though the Princess Bride and Westley may inspire - and I certainly hope they do, they cannot make a difference in the reality in which we participate.

Which leads me to discuss the difference between hope and hopium. Now some of you have never been exposed to the word hopium. It refers to the drug, a liberal placebo not a literate drug, that is been ingested by many of our allies. 

We are headed to a future that is so much darker than our present. Our present is so much darker than my childhood in the 50s and my adolescence in the 60s. If you don't get this, please, please drop me a line and explain what you are missing. 

For the first time in human history, we are actively colluding with the extinction of our species. Before, we only colluded with the collapse of particular civilization. But we've run out of space. 

Previously when a civilization collapsed the survivors moved somewhere else. We've run out of somewhere else, and we now threaten the biosphere. We have become a cancer on the planet.

I may be wrong. I would be most grateful if I were wrong. Please give me feedback that that will help you and me differentiate between hope and hopium.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hope & Hopium, or Where are the Princess Bride & Westley When We Need Them? Part I

Image result for princess bride

As someone who played soldier through much of his childhood, it's a little embarrassing to admit how much I love The Princess Bride. Now it's true that I had much more admiration for Ulysses than Achilles and was much more interested in developing cunning than brute strength.

There is so much to admire in the characters of The Princess Bride. The courage of The Princess Bride, Westley, and Inigo Montoya. The cunning of Westley. The wisdom of The Grandfather. 

On the flipside, like Vizzini, I have often been too smart by half, and as inarticulate as The Impressive Clergyman. Like Prince Humperdinck, I have overplayed my hand and come to regret it.

I would love to live in a world where virtue is usually rewarded and vice punished. I visit such worlds in fiction, but they seem further and further removed from my understanding of reality.

Though this will seem an aside, when I bought a Volvo, I suddenly noticed there were a lot more Volvos on the road. This was in the early 1970s, and Volvos may have come more popular in my community. However, I suspect that the larger cause for my change in perception was my purchase.

I do sometimes question to what degree my newly acquired sense of the evil in this world is a consequence of the ministry that has called me. Have things gotten that worse, or is it merely that my perspective has changed?

While I make no claims to objectivity or omniscience, I definitely come down on the side that says that things have become much worse and will become even worse than they are now. We are making the planet increasingly inhospitable, and we are likely to make it uninhabitable. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding My Voice, Part 2

Okay, I don't expect to have it this bad. I do know climate scientists to have received death threats, but I am only likely to receive the curses of an annoyed reader.

No, what is held me back is fear of loss of reputation and/or employment. When I worked for the federal government, I regularly attended what I jokingly referred to as one of my bosses schools of diplomacy. My sense of injustice was often stronger than my discretion.

After I retired and started to prepare for the ministry, I had peers, professors, supervisors, and the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee to please. Life became a little easier once I was in final fellowship, but the habits of a lifetime are not easily discarded.

In both my careers, I liked to observe and assess the present and to predict and to prepare for the future. That's why I became a planner in the first and a justice advocate in the second.

However, you might say that I've been a court prophet in both my careers. It's safer and more lucrative to be in the court than in the wilderness, but it's hard to be entirely forthright when part of your job description is to please royalty. Even fools, whose job it was to tell the ruler unpleasant truths that everyone else was afraid to share, sometimes had their heads chopped off. While I never worked for the Red Queen, I did have a boss who often threatened to cut me off at the knees.

Now I'm entering the wilderness, or the wilderness is entering me. No person or organization has quite the hold on me that I once felt. Because the main challenges of prophecy aren't insight: They are compassion and courage.

In the Emperor's New Clothes, Hans Christian Anderson points to how an innocent can see clearly. However, most of us do not remain innocent beyond childhood and many of us don't even have that luxury.

And maybe even encourage courage is a wrong word. Many people whom we view as courageous do not think of themselves as being so. It's not all false modesty. Sometimes the most "courageous" actions occur without thought or through a feeling of compulsion to do the right thing.

After a lifetime of semi-obliviousness, a little over 10 years ago, I came to realize how catastrophic our future is likely to be. I have spent these last years honing my Chicken Little routine. Of course, the difference between me and Chicken Little is that the air is burning, the seas are rising, and the land and water are being polluted. Yet very few want to hear a story of doom and gloom, and even fewer are willing to take effective action.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Finding My Voice, Part I

I started this blog to guide Unitarian Universalist ministerial candidates through the fellowshipping process. Much of the material here is useful for anyone preparing for an interview.

My ministry has evolved from a focus on organizational development and human resources to one that's focused on climate and environmental justice. It is taken many years for me to find my voice as an environmental justice minister.

Though I have a reputation for being quite outspoken, I have been timid and tentative in my public writing. Though most people have a great fear of public speaking, my fear has been much more of public writing. Of course, the level of discourse that sometimes appears on the web has done nothing to assuage those fears.

But I'm getting older and more ornery as environmental degradation accelerates, threatening life on the planet. Facebook has also taught me how to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous readers.

My truth is that we need to prepare for a dramatic reduction in human population if not human extinction. I have been to the stages of grieving several times and will surely go through them again, but this is no longer a time for despair (a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there). It is time for discernment and for courage.

While the scope of our crisis is precedented, the nature of it has multiple precedents which we can document going back to the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. I actually find it a relief to know that what is happening now merely a normal human pattern writ large

Ministers are taught to develop a prophetic voice. It's important to know the difference between the common understanding of prophecy and the religious understanding. The common understanding refers to Nostradamus and others who make vague predictions about future. Some of these prophets are called economists.

The religious understanding of prophecy is truth telling, especially telling truth to power. Prophets come in two varieties. There are prophets within the court who tell royalty what they want to hear. There are prophets in the wilderness who tell the elites what they don't want to hear.