“Suppose a man be on the shore beholding a shipwreck, it will move him somewhat, yet truly not without an inward tickling of the mind, because he sees other men’s danger, himself being in security. But if he in person were in that distressed ship, he would be touched with another manner of grief. Even so verily is it in this case, let us say, or make what show we list to the contrary: “For we bewail our own misfortunes earnestly and from the heart, but public calamities in words only and for fashion’s sake (Pindar, 476 B.C.E., Nemea 1. 53-54).” —Justus Lipsius, On Constancy, 1584 C.E.
For those of you who want to know that your charitable giving incorporates environmental and climate change criteria, I recommend an article by Brad Hurley published in Peter Singer’s blog, The Life You Can Save. (While you’re there, you can also download a free copy of Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save.) I quote at length from Hurley’s article:
“Oxfam, for example, has long been involved in efforts to limit climate change and build resilience to its impacts in developing countries. In addition to saving lives at scale and reducing under-5 child mortality, Living Goods’ entrepreneurial community health workers sell efficient cookstoves and solar lights along with healthcare products. In East and Southern Africa, One Acre Fund distributes solar-powered lamps and home systems as well as clean cookstoves on credit to smallholder farmers.
“Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) runs a Financial Inclusion program that helps build low-income households’ resilience to climate change and other stressors. IPA also has evaluated a number of projects that aim to provide environmental benefits, to improve our understanding of how to respond to climate change. Projects include evaluating an initiative to promote carbon sequestration by farmers, understanding renewable energy installations, experiments to improve participation in recycling programs, and a study in Uganda to assess whether paying farmers to leave trees standing would reduce deforestation. In that project, landowners who received contracts to conserve their forest cleared only 4 percent of forested land, compared with 9 percent in control villages, avoiding 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would have occurred during the study period.”
In this post I explore the definition of the word ‘refuge,’ and describe two spiritual exercises that arose out of that exploration. The word ‘refuge’ can be used as a noun or a verb. The following quotation gives the noun definition as found in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged):
1 ref∙uge ‘re(,)fyüj. esp. before a syllable-increasing suffix -_fyә’j n -s [ME, fr. MF, fr. L. refugium, fr. refugere to run away, avoid, escape, fr. re– + fugere to run away, flee — more at FUGITIVE] 1: shelter or protection from danger or distress < seek ~ in flight > < take ~ in the home of a friend > < a house of ~ > 2a: a home for those who are destitute, homeless, or in disgrace b: a sanctuary for birds or wild animals c: a mountain hut or cabin erected to serve as sleeping quarters for mountaineers d: a safety zone for pedestrians crossing a street in heavy traffic: SAFETY ISLAND 3: a means of resort for help in difficulty : RESOURCE* (see note below) < patriotism is the last ~ of a scoundrel – Samuel Johnson > < The ivory tower . . . as a place of ~ from unpleasant reality – H. N. Russell >
- resource 2: something to which one has recourse in difficulty: means of resort in exigency: expedient, stratagem <her usual resource was confession>
As I contemplated the five verbal examples embedded in this definition; with their deep roots and entanglements, their interior groans and sighs, and their uncertain habitations and delights; I sensed within me a welter of feelings and impressions; some strong, some weak, but all profoundly human.
- Seek refuge in flight
- take refuge in the home of a friend
- a house of refuge
- patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel
- The ivory tower . . . as a place of refuge from unpleasant reality
As I continued my contemplation of the full definition, two spiritual exercises came to mind—exercises for me to carry out over the next few days:
Spiritual Exercise #1: Meditate on the five verbal examples and write a paragraph expressing how they touch on the life I am now living.
Spiritual Exercise #2: Explore the three cross-references appearing in the definition―FUGITIVE, SAFETY ISLAND, and RESOURCE—and write a paragraph expressing how they touch on the life I am now living.
NOTE: In an upcoming post, I will include some notes on the nature and character of ‘spiritual exercise’ as I intend it in this context and throughout this blog.
“Our Gallant Ship” is now entering its second year. During its first year the focus was broad and comprehensive, covering climate science, politics, mitigation, activism, population, and much more.
In this second year the focus will be much tighter and will take the title of this entry as its central existential focus and reality: We are all refugees now.
In Pierre Hadot’s little book, “The Present Alone is Our Happiness,” he says: “I have always conceived of philosophy as a transformation of one’s perception of the world.” This sentiment is one I share with him, in philosophy but also in art. The kinds of art that interest me are those that aim at just this same conception. They are “conceived as a transformation of one’s perception of the world.” My own life-long work in art has had this aim and goal.
As “Our Gallant Ship” enters its second year, this is the goal I would like to set out front. During its first year, 2019, I published much about climate change, climate science, and all the various political and social dynamics that surround and (often) envelope it. But, along the way, back in May, something happened to me, something spontaneous and on an altogether different level of experience. This experience was so strong that, for a number of months, I did not know what to do or how to proceed. So I paused. I paused for a long time, sensing that, to be honest with myself, I needed to withdraw until I had a better understanding of how to move forward.
Though I have spoken about this with very few people, I will now speak about it openly. Beginning with my next post, I will explore many of the issues that have occupied my thoughts and explorations over the past few months.
The following words from Rainer Maria Rilke speak directly to the point:
“We must accept our existence as completely as possible; everything, even what is inconceivable, is to become possible in it. Basically, the only courage required of us is to be face up to the strange, the marvelous, and the inexplicable. . . . The fear of the inexplicable has impoverished not only the existence of the individual, but also the relations of person to person, it has taken them away from the river of possibilities, to shelter them in a safe place on the bank.” Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, August, 1904
From this day forward, the winter solstice of 2019, I will begin to steer Our Gallant Ship into this deeper water. I will explore how, given the existential crisis we now face, we can learn to “accept our existence as completely as possible,” and allow “everything, even what is inconceivable” to “become possible in it.”
With all the talk, studies, resolutions, solutions, agreements, actions, and rebellions, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to rise.
Weekly average for the week of:
20 October 2019: 408.78 parts for million (ppm)
This time last year: 406.61 ppm
10 years ago: 384.74 ppm
Pre-industrial base: 280
Safe level: 350
Atmospheric CO2 reading from Mauna Loa, Hawaii (part per million). Source: NOAA-ESRL
Scientists have warned for more than a decade that concentrations of more than 450ppm risk triggering extreme weather events and temperature rises as high as 2C, beyond which the effects of global heating are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible. Read more at the Guardian . . .
Ho Chi Minh City, along with the rest of southern Vietnam, “could all but disappear” by 2050.
Bangkok, Thailand, currently home to over eight million people, is under severe threat.
Basra, Iraq, the nation’s second-largest city, “could be mostly underwater” by mid-century.
“Rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought, according to new research, threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities.
“The authors of a paper published Tuesday developed a more accurate way of calculating land elevation based on satellite readings, a standard way of estimating the effects of sea level rise over large areas, and found that the previous numbers were far too optimistic. The new research shows that some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by mid century. Read more . . .