We worry for the worst. Wary gets scary. Relations grow reactionary. We're susceptible to this, but built for better. On the eve of the most…
God’s Goods is not simply spiritual. It’s not primarily about God, it’s about God’s (or perhaps Gods’, depending on whether God is singular or plural) goods. Those goods are our earthly environment and what we humans have done and will do with it. The goods are us humans, our animal cousins, the plant and fungus worlds, the working of life using the matter and energy of this glorious cosmos.
As such, Earthly Religion isn’t based on rituals, supernatural insight, afterlife speculations, assumed authority, vestments, hierarchy, or an expectation of belief. Many such religious activities are irrelevant or misleading; they substitute dogma for duty and delight. Spiritual insight and depth are important abilities, but they’re not a substitute for whole human living and practical earthly benefit.
The word “religion” comes from the two old etymological root words, “religare” and “religio,” meaning “to bind back to the root and become whole again.” While many religions claim that estranged root is God, I say it is God’s goods – our own bodies, our own human civilization, our own lifetimes, and the rest of the natural goods listed in the important cosmogonic creation myth found on page one of the Bible – Genesis One. I agree with that passage that calls our universe “good,” and all together, “very good.”
Those six “days” (epochs) of an evolutionary cosmos and biosphere came before humans. I didn’t create it, nor did you or anyone. It is a given. It comes from beyond us. It is the most inclusive version of “something greater.” We only know a bit of what that was or is. But we know a lot about our part of the something greater. Shy of “God” are the ecosystem and civilization that came before us and will persist after us. We partake of these for a while and veer it a bit, the eternity we live in temporarily.
How we live in it and with it matters. Will you ever thrill at the gift of life? Will you know it with gladness and gratitude? Will you actualize yourself as you go, living fully in such a way that all those around you can also live fully? Will you learn and teach? Will you find ways to serve while you enjoy?
For me, such good intent often influences how I am with others. I look to be of cheer and benefit when possible. I fret and fanaticize about how it could be better for all humans and earthlife. I see politics and technology as part of our religious duty and opportunity. Whether we create a social and political structure that wears us down and ruins things, or lifts us up and improves things, is a religious concern. Or drop the potentially reactive term “religious” and insert “human.”
The book I’m writing attempts to bind us back to our estranged root – our bodies and world. It traces how the two very different creation stories at the beginning of Genesis have been improperly told. The “good and evil” of the second story, the Garden of Eden story, have been used to alienate us from the “goods” described in Genesis One. Genesis Two/Three warns us, but how Paul, Augustine, and others have told it is itself more of “the subtle deceiver” leading us astray, alienated from our God-given garden. The serpent took to wearing a clerical collar.
Old theologies wend their way into our modern civilization. The problem is what they call “fallen” is itself fallen. We aren’t inherently sinful and doomed to hell unless we believe in a preposterous scenario, prone to be selfish in a system that assumes all are similarly selfish, we’re freeborn human earthlings indued with the sovereignty of intelligence, sexuality, and conscience. Should we create a society based on extraction, exploitation, and strifeful scarcity, or one built of sustainable universal bounty and justice?
When such religious leaders as the Dali Lama, Pope Francis, and theologian John Cobb call for humanity to live up to itself, I agree, and I value how such religion can serve what is good. Eden isn’t just a mythical place in the past, it is what we on Earth could remember, revive, and renew. It could flourish with beauty and abundance at scales we don’t yet imagine. How resplendent could our lands and oceans become were we to collectively care and try?
So, besides writing my book towards this, I get involved in commenting online in forums. You’ll see how such religious concern goes far beyond spirituality. Here are some of my contributions from April. My introductory comments will be set in italic font, as here.
The first two have to do with a larger view of our society and nation.
4-19-21 to Cleantechnica article on (Michigan’s) Governor Grandholm and (President) Biden’s plans:
Biden’s choice of Granholm and Buttigieg is reassuring that an actual massive transition to more sensible transport is underway. Good job, Biden and crew!
I’m from Pontiac, near Detroit, where not only the factories were exported, the expertise was too. Left behind were abandoned factories, broken families, and economically depressed regions. Most the manufacturing skills left or died out. I agree with the renewal of our regional abilities, from batteries to “brains” in cars. This investment will not only create jobs now, they will pay off in our long-term future, both economically and environmentally.
For the first time in a long time I have some hope that our government can and will serve our mutual well-being. Enough willful ignorance and stubborn obstructionism. Time to build back better.
4-9-21 to an Aeon article “The Challenge of Reclaiming the Commons from Capitalism”
A “Tragedy of the Private” is assuming we’re all selfish and greedy, so much so that we must be that to compete with others even more successfully conniving, greedy, and callous than we are or wish to be. When comes the recognition and reward for care or generosity? When comes the “we’re all in this together” mindset and plan for mutual betterment?
A tragedy of the private would be Garret Hardin in his heavy wheelchair asking to be hauled into the scant, crowded lifeboat bobbing in the tempest of what Naomi Klein calls crisis capitalism. Suddenly, he’d opt for mutuality.
An image came to mind while reading your essay – that from a Monty Python film where an obsequious waiter keeps encouraging food for an enormously fat man. He eats so much he just vomits on the floor by his chair, then again on the back of the cleaning lady trying to clean it up. But he’s privileged, so, more! A final truffle, and he explodes!
A counter to such messy, catastrophic consumerism is a credo posted on a friend’s dining room wall: “Enough is as Good as a Feast.”
Saving our reliable weather patterns from the disasters of human-caused global heating is a huge challenge that we can and must meet. A big part of that is ending the use of fossil fuels. So-called “fossil” because they’re the coal and oil and gas packed into our earth from former eons of plant and algae activity, now often found around fossils. Plants and algae use sunlight to gradually change the carbon dioxide in our air into the cellulose of leaves, limbs, trunks, and the stuff of sea life. Millions of years of accumulation of carbon can be pumped back into the air in mere moments as long-lasting, heat-trapping carbon dioxide. That blankets our atmosphere in such a way as to increase the heat, which increases both droughts and storms while raising the sea level to way higher than where Miami and many cities now stand.
About a third of the greenhouse gas emissions are due to transport using ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars, trucks, ships, and planes. Electric motors can power all these at a greatly reduced need for carbon. The dirtiest coal plant powering cars and trucks do so at far more efficient levels as gasoline and diesel formerly could. EVs (Electric Vehicles) are cleaner, more efficient, and more economical. Gather that supply of electricity from solar, hydro, and wind, and this part of the problem of carbon pollution is solved.
Despite the bad press China gets here, they’re in some ways doing better at addressing our planetary predicament than the U.S. is doing (though the U.S. is doing better than before, especially on the individual, corporate, city, and state levels, though earlier efforts and the impending ones of Biden administration are also to be praised and supported). Here is one brief comment in answer to someone’s discounting Chinese innovation in energy supply and EVs.
4-10-21 To Cleantechnica on resenting Chinese cars for their human rights policies:
Should we similarly eschew products from the USA because of its land mines, bombs in Yemen, and Guantanamo?
The larger problem is that we’re enmeshed in a complex transnational technological system replete with unethical and deleterious aspects – from human rights to ecosystem rights.
My dislike of authoritarianism, be it Chinese or otherwise, doesn’t dissuade me from appreciating them for going beyond cheaply supplying us with all our stuff for decades – to creating the energy gathering devices that help fix our climate predicament.
Where cars or solar panels are produced isn’t as important as how. Let the USA, China, and others compete for who can produce better cars and panels at cheaper prices that are made with social justice and ecological health.
Here’s a thread on truly affordable “around town” cars for the U.S. and the world, similar in size and cost as rickshaws for India.
4-6-21 to Cleantechnica on the Tuk Tuk Round the World in a solar rickshaw project:
I see the older high-mount three-wheel tricycles (with one steering wheel in front) many older people use as inherently unstable, especially when braking on a hard corner, where they might tip over. Two steering wheels in front and a drive wheel in the back are more stable in this regard.
But the wheel base is long on this Infinite Mobility trike, and the weight is slung low; so it looks stable. It’s an attractive, pragmatic vehicle. The solar panel won’t power it very far per day, but it helps, and it is always contributing when the sun shines.
The points made by the Tuk Tuk team are valid: most travel is very local. Such trips don’t need big, heavy vehicles that can travel the fast freeways, just move a person or two and some stuff at safe speeds around town.
I admire their ambition on this round-the-world trip and the intent to make non-polluting vehicles tailored to humanity’s simple needs.
We often see bicycles keep up with or pass us on journeys into town. So yes, if not carrying much “cargo” &/or only 1 or 2 people, a car only makes sense in countries with longer journeys & colder, wetter weather. SUV’s with just a driver are just total nonsense….
I agree. When it’s too cold or wet, or I have a big load or a long trip, I gladly but guiltily resort to my Taurus V-6. Otherwise, I most often use my electric bike, which is convenient, comfortable, capable, nimble, and inexpensive to run. Small “around town” vehicles like this sleek rickshaw would fit many needs – from India to Indiana.
It is systemic nonsense to have so many single drivers in huge SUVs, but I feel for them. They probably wouldn’t feel safe and able on a bike and have only the one car. Were small vehicles like the one in this article the norm, we’d all be saving money, enduring less pollution, and still safely and comfortably be meeting out needs. We could use them instead, leaving the big cars at home for occasional specialized needs.
4-15-21 to Cleantechnica on Tesla’s possibly developing the Tesla 2
I’m hoping Tesla will get to the Model 1, something truly inexpensive and simple. Affordable and popular.
Otherwise, GM is partnering in China on such cars for there, and I wonder, why not here in the U.S. too? Could we get safe, adequate electrified small cars for $5000?
The minimum safety requirements and the interior finish expectations are much higher in Europe and in the USA.
Dacia recently converted the China low cost model into an European low cost model. And Dacia is the champion in making low cost vehicles for the European market.
The price of the Dacia Spring is about double the price of the Chinese Renault City K-ZE.
Something like the Dacia Spring could be $15k in the USA.
Thanks, Maarten. The Dacia Spring is impressive, and it’s affordable. Wish it or ones like it were available in the U.S. How many Americans would want a decent $15K electric car? That’s why I wondered if GM is up to more than they appear.
But I’m interested in even simpler and cheaper. As is, neither my electric bike nor my 66 Ford 3/4 ton pickup has air bags or a nice interior. (The truck does have an AM radio, but it doesn’t work. The seats still sit. It’s solid and always starts; I only use it to haul heavy stuff.) Meanwhile, an affordable around-town electric car would be safer and would suffice for most travel. Enclosed is safer than on a bike.
4-7-21 to Cleantechnica article on Wuling’s Mini EV (about $5000 in China)
“…export to Asia, Africa, and other places.” Yeah, like the U.S. Why not?
The U.S. crash standards are being set for huge, heavy cars travelling 80 MPH (about 130 KPH), and they functionally abandon all the less-menacing, light-weight vehicles that we could be using, especially our typical lower-speed around-town uses. As is, I can ride my electric bike (and be a bit vulnerable) or take my huge Taurus (and ride in a five-thousand-pound easy chair). I’d rather be using a Wuling Hong Guang MINI or a BenBen E- Star.
I admire the elegance of the Tesla or the larger Wuling models, but I don’t need and can’t afford all the do-dads and frills. I just need to get from here to there and back safely, comfortably, inexpensively, and without spewing problematic toxic gasses. If it didn’t have air bags, I’d take that chance.
I’m not alone in wanting this. There is a huge potential market here in the U.S. In that GM is partnering with both Wuling and Baojun in China, maybe they’ll do the right thing and bring these simple, functional, affordable cars to the U.S. as a partial solution to our worldwide climate predicament. GM may be more poised to start helping than we know.
And if not, hey Elon, how about a Model 1, something for the “other places” and here, something simple, functional, and affordable?”
Finally, in terms of informing the world and advertising EVs:
4-22-21 to Dept. of Energy article on winners of solar design competition in Cleantechnica:
Some photos, diagrams, or explanations of which ones won and why would be good. As is, a photo of an empty field and a list. I’m glad the DOE is promoting such competitions, but chagrinned at how such bureaucracies dull down what should be explained and celebrated.
In this vein, some final comments arising from the former “Dieselgate Scandal” of VW:
I faintly remember that many other manufacturers were similarly caught, but that news came and went, mostly unnoticed. VW was just one company that had to pay for their lies.
If the scandal helped move VW to electrify their cars, fine. They can begin satisfying the impending market while creating a new reputation.
Next day to an article featuring four new VW ads for their i-4 BEV SUV
“The ads are okay to gradually get uninformed people to consider electrics, like the too-brief tag graphic at the end of the third one, “The first electric SUV for everyone.” Far more creative and effective ads are possible, as readers here know.
My son has an i-4 on order, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing and driving it. Maybe we’ll make our own ads. Maybe VW should sponsor a competition for such ads.
So ends my ranting for the month, except for a brief complaint to my bank and a contribution to a blues guitar forum on musical modes:
4-10-21 to Umpqua Bank
When I get a “security alert” from Umpqua in my email and then go to my Messages, they read, “Secure Message Received.”
That is backward and confusing.
Umpqua didn’t receive a secure message from me, it is sending one to me. To make sense to me, it would better read, “We are sending you a secure message,” or, “This is a secure message from Umpqua Bank.”
As is, my anxiety level shoots up, because I know I hadn’t sent a secure message for Umpqua to receive. Fearing a scam or breech, I had to call in to decipher what Umpqua meant.
Such confusing connections are depicted in the Umpqua graphic of two gears spinning but not meshing. They clash. The sloppy graphic reflects badly on Umpqua Bank.
And, in another arena, some music theory:
“I like it that C Major (Ionian) uses the white keys only on the piano. But that’s just the Ionian scale, the popular “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.” If we were to start and end on A, using only the white keys, we’d have A Minor, Aeolian. Start on E and have another minor, the Phygrian. Start on G, stay on the white keys, and have G Blues, the Mixolydian (with the major 3rd on the bottom and a dominate (lower) 7th on top). D starts the Dorian scale. F gives us a jazz scale, the Lydian, which has that odd raised fourth sound. B is most interesting, the Locrian Scale, which has it’s own sort of harmonics.
The advantage of this system is that any keyboard gives a visual reference of the steps of the scale and where the two half-steps appear. It’s a great way to get used to the sound of a scale, simply by droning on one of these notes and listening to what happens when you improvise on the white keys. For blues lovers, try G. For minor blues lovers, try A, E, or D.
There you have it. From my native Michigan to the collective Commons, from China to India, to here, a few ways we could be living more cleanly, efficiently, ethically, and well. Cars and such are a part of the practical considerations we make as religiously, or even just humanely, concerned.
How good could Earth’s Eden get were we to care and try?