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On this day 10 years ago:
The Birth of Humanity
I was watching the first of the new BBC series Saving Planet Earth that I'd recorded a few weeks ago. It introduced the series with a lovely journey through some of the most endangered species on Earth combined with insight in to the problems that underpin their threat. No prises for guessing that the real problem is us, humans. But one of the pieces that really caught my attention was David refering to the birth of humans. I'll transcribe the monologue below:
One of the most recent animals to evolve appeared some 4 million years ago today that animal is as significant an influence on the planet as the major natural forces that shaped it in the past. That animal is us. Human Beings.
[Looking at some early human footprints] This track of footprints was made by some of the earlist people to live on the Earth. Humanity was then in its infancy numbering only a few thousand individuals. So how did a species with such humble beginings come to dominate our planet?
For much of our history we lived like any other animal on our planet - taking what we needed from the wilderness around us. But then there came a turning point that was to lead to an explosion in human numbers and transform us into one of the most sucessful of all species.
About 10 thousand years ago we learned how to tame animals and plants and brees them to suit our own purposes. We learned how to farm.
With farming came a more settled exisytance and communities began to grow. From that point on the wilderness around us changed from being a provider to being a competitor*.
What struck me was just how this fits and, rather more, backs up my spiritual understanding of Genesis. As most of you will have gathered I'm not a Christian Fundamentalist (praise the Lord!), I believe the Bible is God's message but not his direct transcribed word, and neither is it God's comeplete message. Much of the old testament was passed down generations as stories before being written so how silly to think that God transcribed it. Further more the idea of God transcribing the Bible smacks of something sinister, and God is certianly not that*.
As my understanding goes, the first chapters of Genesis are a story. The language is mystical and I see no compromise in not taking it literally. But what I love about Genesis is that in actual fact it does tell real history! For example the ordering of the creation story is nealy correct and there are archeoplogical records of a global 'flood' across equatorial civilisations (just where humanity began). It proves that, while the sucessive passing down altered the stories, they did contain a nugget of truth. But back to my original point.
In my thinking I've come to my own understanding of how God created humans. Evolution did the work, though God was intricately involved (demonstrating the real love of God in the billions of years taken to bring us about), to bring humans from the apes. Look at the face of an orangutang and tell me you can't recognise the flame of humanity. But how I place the Genesis story is at a point where I ould say that God 'breathed' into the "bipedal ape-men" and gave them 'spiritual life'. These new humans had a relationship with God and were living in the garden of eden as it was - Earth before we fucked it up. And of couse what happened but we took the free will given and became selfish. We took advantage of the Earth given to us and began to exploit it; exploding our population and spreading across the world.
How David Attenborough fits in here is that the genesis point - the moment that God reveals himself and gives us a spiritual life (or 'humanity') - is the birth of farming. We are given free will, given intelligence, and what we do is learn how to take advantage of Eden, of the Earth, and from then on it all goes wrong. And now look at us, it's still the same only on a scale never before seen, we're still raping the Earth.
* Interestingly much of Fundamental thinking strikes me as being quite sinister. For one thing Satan gets big press. Having read the Bible through I don't remember coming across the Devil that much, so quite why he's now advertised I find concerning. Then there is the pathetic attempt to explain away the evidence for evolution, for example the flood being the demise of the dinosaurs. It me it appears striking that such explaning paints a picture of God as a great deciever. This greatly troubles me.
* David's last point echos something that I've written about here before. I've noticed, in America especially, but anywhere where farming is intensive, how our perception of nature is twisted to that of the enemy. It's after our crops - we must eradicate. We must exterminate. Proffits come first.[2007-07-22]
The Blog of Life
I'm not much one for funfairs. Not sure what it is about them, but I find them faintly creepy places. But this weekend the Histon Green has been given over for a funfair which routinely visits the village.. The little man has been seeing it slowly erected over the past few days and calling out its presence, in particular the "roundandround" which he loves. So this afternoon, when he returned from a friends birthday party, I took him off to have a look round. He walked there really well - certainly improving in his walking now - and he was quite excited to see the round and round up close. Actually that was all he wanted to see, so £2.50 later I sat him in the tiny emergency vehicle and off he went, up and down and round and round. He did the same waving and saying "bye bye" that he did on his birthday when we went to Willows Farm which gave him his first experience of merry-go-rounds. Afterwards I managed to distract him from his persistent call for more roundandround by taking him on the dogems. Perhaps that was a mistake, but for the first half of our ride he was loving it and doing most of the steering. Then things got a bit rough as we joined the fray of other cars. At this point we had our first bump, hitting another car square on the side. The collision resulted in a face-on-wheel impact and left the little guy clutching his upper lip and crying (largely obscured by the general noise of the fair) plus a dab of blood. Sadly we only just regained composure as the ride came to an end and it was time to head home for tea. He moaned most of the way home to go again on the roundandround, but I managed to ignore it and we enjoyed a dinner of garden veg spaghetti outside in the garden. Later, as we recounted our visit to the fair, the mention of the dogems was immediately described in terms of the pain caused. Oh dear, it's another case of the helmet clip when talking about Berty the pony.[2017-07-01]
10 years ago I dug up my first potato in my newly created Kitchener Allotment patch. That was during the early part of my PhD - they were the halcyon days. Now I'm living in Cambridge with a family, that's quite a change and while they are still good times, there is a small sense in which part of my longs for that past. Perhaps, on reflection, I've always been like this. Maybe I'm just one of those people. It doesn't help having less garden space these days and living in the heartland of nowheresville (i.e. East Anglia - the arse end of the UK, literally and figuratively).
I shouldn't complain, I guess. For one thing the soil here is SO much better than Soton. Gone are the plateau gravels which were the bane of my existence then. I gave up completely on a spade as it just didn't work (even when it came to digging the graves of my rabbits which took some effort). And life with a 2 year old is simply smashing. His joy and energy are a thing to behold (and then put down when I realise I am definitely not as young as I thought I was - where does he get the energy?). Watching him learn is fabulous, and something about which I keep meaning to write least I for get my experiences. Which, of course, I have. Can I remember what he was like only last year? Barely it seems.
So this post is mostly to break the silence of the past few months. Work is busy and life is busier, which is partly an excuse but also true. I'd like to promise I'll post some photos soon, but my backlog there is growing each week. So much to do.[2017-06-24]
The Blog of Photos - past 30 days
I love compost. In fact I think gardening might be a ruse for my secret passion which is composting. This is the current state of the heap. I have added a fair amount of well rotted horse poo and pigeon guano which both seem to act as accelerants and generally make the most beautiful dark material. Love it.
Sunday Fellowship: Church without the church, but also mostly just church.
When we went down to Southampton a couple of weeks ago we joined our friends for the Monthly Quaker "youth" outing to the Southampton Sunday Assembly. For those of you who don't know, the Sunday Assembly was started in 2013 as an idea to take the best bits of church such as communal singing and gathering together, but without any of the crappy religious bits that obviously makes actual Church rubbish. Here are their four point summary (see, they even shirk the three point sermon):
- We are a secular congregation that celebrates life.
- We have an awesome motto: Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.
- A super mission: A Sunday Assembly in every town, city and village that wants one.
- An awesome vision: To help everyone live life as fully as possible.
So we went along and it was just like church. Actually, it was closer to some of the funkier churches in Southampton such as New Life or Vineyard, perhaps even a little CU at a push. There were the funky folk, the quirky outsiders, the poets and the rebels. After an initial slightly awkward meet and greet time with coffee and tea the service got under way with some singing of traditional pop songs (Cold Play's "Fix You" was rather enjoyable) followed an excellent poem on apathy by an American member of the congregation. The main sermon was also good, by local poet come song writer Grant Sharkey about maintaining a line between love and anger (and included the term 'binge thinking' which I rather liked). This was followed by the short five minute talk (which went on for nearer 30) and tried to get us to share nice things that had happened in the past week. We then prayed together. No, I mean we thought together. There was even a collection!
It was good. Nice people and a friendly atmosphere, just like a good church should be and quite often are. It was markedly young, as seen by their twitter banner and I suspect most of my church would feed out of place and not as a result of the lack of God. Indeed I barely felt there was a lack of God, just that no one mentioned him or tried to avoid mentioning him (actually Grant accidentally did). This was simply church re-imagined by young people who failed to be taken along to a CU while at university. Or perhaps they were taken along to a CU, or similar funky modern church where they were prayed at or otherwise intimidated into being saved, resisted but secretly enjoyed the whole thing.
Perhaps I'm being a little facetious. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why people were there, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if a number were ex-evangelicals, some of them had that look. Either way there is something other actual churches could learn: people like to sing together, and do pretty much everything else that Church does. It's not even the preaching that puts people off, though no doubt some of the older traditional stuff has. We just need to loosen up a little and funk it up. But at the same time I certainly don't want to loose all the lovely silver backs we have in my local Church - they bring such warmth, love, vision and stability that should be treasured. Also they are most certainly not all stuck-in-the-mud bores who don't want change. Lets all sit together and learn from each other. It is hard to be a cohesive living church of all ages, but God really can help, even if some have to pretend not to have heard about him.
PS. The idea of giving new people different coloured mugs so everyone knows who's new and who's not is a wizard idea.[2015-08-17]
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Listening to: OK Go
Upside Down & Inside Out
From: Hungry Ghosts
23 knife wounds
Recently:Slipped while sharpening cleaver and sliced deep right across the proximal interphalangeal joint
Change from our first outing with baby
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