Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Anticipating a visit with students and scholars from the Graduate Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley we went on a rampage cleaning and clearing. There is nothing like company coming to quicken the pace and motivate to get things in order. As sister in-law Mona used to cajole, "Time to lick the house, the folks are coming!"

As we decided what to show that would be of particular interest to students from Yohana Junkers "Visual Arts, Spirit, and Place in the Americas" it was Richard's book Bright Moments on the dining table that focused attention on the Buddha's final instruction — Make of Yourself a Light.

These days with the dark news from Washington DC (with climate denial, FBI Putsch on our minds, etc. etc. etc. etc.) we are keen to embrace the light and join with others who want to illumine the truth. We often think of Anthropologist Mary Douglas and her idea of pollution defiling the temple. Isn't this gorgeous planet our temple?  

The expansive and lively conversation spun near and far. The meaning of place was a recurring theme — from what it means to move from one home to another to the importance of a touch stone or work of art that one can return to again and again. And how subtle variations are discernible — when, like a drawer of beetles or birds in a natural history museum, the individual character (oil splotches, Bryozoans, bleached by the sun) of each of these cheese spreaders (or the lightbulbs) can be compared to type.

Although the prospect of finding plastic on the beach is always unpredictable —it's a leap of faith to promise a "mess of plastic." After all of the blah, blah, blah about the problem of plastic pollution, it was disconcerting when, from the top of the dune, the beach looked clean. 

Undaunted by the thought that we had made the trek all the way to the beach and there was no plastic to be seen, everyone was enlivened by the brilliance of the day and took to the task. Although there were scant few big pieces of plastic, with keen eyes and deft hands, in just a few minutes handfuls of tiny pieces of plastic and nurdles were collected. How to ever clean up this mess? The smaller the pieces = the bigger the problem.   

Whether it's off-shore oil drilling, tanker loads of crude spilling and spoiling our shores, or war maneuvers at sea, this toy soldier is poignant reminder of the true cost of plastic. Isn't it time for a war on plastic? The United Nations says, YES!

What gets us out to the beach over and over again? Is it an heroic act? Not really, it's simply the thrill we get from "being on the case," to do the tiniest action that ignites some vague inner thrill—turning on the switch. After all is said and done, we take Buddha's instruction seriously — Make of Yourself a Light.

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