Thursday, July 23, 2009

Polar Bear Psalm

More school projects. I wrote some Psalms for my Psalm class and here is my polar bear psalm. Its a lament, which a very dramatic form that seems to me fits with the idea of a species dying out. Be prepared though, to be sad:

Psalm of the Polar Bear -- A Lament

I know you Lord as I know the ice -
It’s crusty thickness where I hide and wait is a testament to Your goodness

I know you Lord as I hunt through the icy depths
Your Arctic waters brings me the fat seal pup and rich narwhale meat

Oh God, who thickens the ice
Why do I hear the mumble and groan of cracking ice and the singing sound of melt water?

Oh God, who brings the cold,
every day I wake to a warm southern breeze - sweet smelling and false;
I lift up my nose and long for the hard white smell of the cold north wind.

But you, oh Lord, are the keeper of the ice,
You have cared for my people and our fierce, lonely hunt.

You, oh Lord, are the keeper of the ocean,
You have filled it with seal and salmon, whale and walrus.

You have given us immense strength, oh Lord, to swim tens of miles to the summer ice.
You have given us unerring smell, oh Lord, to find the aglus where the seals come to breath.
You have given us stillness, oh Lord, to wait by the aglus for the sweetest of seal prey.
You have given us sharp tooth and claw to grab and crunch the swift and wily walrus.
You have made us fat and strong, fierce and persistent and we adore you with our every stalking move.

Why then oh Lord do we swim out from land and never find the strong carriage of an icy ledge,

Where are you Lord as our limbs ache and tremble, and our power gives out in a limitless, edgeless ocean?

Why do we grow thin on poor meals of skinny birds and hard-caught caribou without finding the succulent seals we need to fatten and grow our children.

Where are you Lord as the sweet tender wind flows out of the Southern lands destroying your faithful hunters?

How should we live

The following is a post I made for my environmental religion class. It's a little rough around the edges, but I didn't want to lose it so here it is:

I have a Catholic background and from there became a Unitarian Universalist. I have no experience with the end times. I don't like to judge other's religious expression but I am not impressed by that branch of theology. There is something spooky about it to me. There is this emphasis on the powerlessness of the individual and the irrationality and powerfulness of the savior. Your role as an individual is to be in with the powerful one. Saving means believing, and the ethical side of religion is undeveloped. The end-times theology is something both Berrys (Wendell and Thomas) have regretted because it takes the focus off of the sacred material world and puts it onto heaven.

However, oddly, I've always been attracted to end of the world stories in literature. I have a taste for science fiction and one of my guilty pleasures are stories about comets hitting the earth, and I will watch some pretty bad disaster movies! (If anyone has times for a beautiful end of the world novel, Kevin Brockmeier, "The Brief History of the Dead" is NOT a guilty pleasure but a treasure of a novel.) When I was a child I used to fantasize about being in a world without people, just walking around the beautiful Earth playing with the animals. I have no idea what that means about me. I think it might just mean that I was a middle child in a big family! I told my older brother about this old fantasy of mine and he just laughed and laughed.

Its hard to take in how vulnerable we are, we protect against it. We have a filter that tells us the past dictates the future. But anyone who has had an important person in their life die unexpectedly knows that is just a filter, things change sometimes in the wink of an eye. So will it be a comet that gets us or our terrible stewardship of the Earth? They have very different theological meanings. The comet would be entirely natural, and would mean that all our struggles were pretty pointless unless some remnant survived and then came back again (science fiction language :) ). I have a big picture theology and even I can't get much meaning out of human flowering on Earth only to be taken out by a natural cosmological event.

Having Global warming go too far has another meaning entirely. Wendell Berry says being "fallen creaters in a fallen world can only instruct us painfully in division and disintegration" . I have always regarded my Apocalyptic interests as some private expression of my psyche. The fact of it is almost entertaining in a generally positive and forward thinking person like myself. This whole global warming crisis has pushed me toward darker thoughts than usual. Some think that religion is our human response to the idea of death, that we have these interesting complex identities, that feel so real and important packed into a biological package that dies. But one of the comforts has always been that the world continues on without us. Many people believe either in an after life or reincarnation. So far my response to these dark thoughts have been to realize that I can only do what humans do. I can change my behavior a little, I can preach about this, I can maintain my hope. I don't even want to be an activist about it -- although I end up doing so out of interest and enthusiasm, I really don't think that for me activism is a response to the Apocalyptic challenge but comes more from the gut, not my heart. I think Berry is on the right track, the response to something so large is to grow a garden, to be more human, to make more connections, to be more open to friends and family.