Environmental Piety

Beauty & Accidents of Perception

Nature is terrifying. Aesthetic distance from dread of it increases only in proportion to our mastery over it. Shelter from it frees us to make art of our aesthetic promptings, so easily confused with a spiritual consciousness. It is snowing as I type this. Icicles two and three feet long hang from the gutters. A struggling andromeda outside the front door is bent in two by the weight of ice. My long curving, uphill driveway, treacherous in bad weather, is impassable. Continue Reading
The Art of Swallowing

The art of eating is one thing. The art of swallowing is quite something else. The first concerns the graces and pleasures of the table. The second is not about gobbling your dinner. It is a reference to credulity, an artless childlike trust—in this instance—in the romance of organic food. As in: “He swallowed the con, hook, line and sinker.” Or: “How can you swallow a fish story like that one?” // Randolph Caldecott, "Frog, Rat & Mouse at Table" (19th C.) // For those of you who do not make it through comment sections, let me share a portion of Organic Food Myths, an article by Brian Dunning at Skeptoid.com. Continue Reading

WHEN A READER HAS TO MAKE MY POINT for me, I know I failed to do it myself. John_L, in his comment to the previous post, has it just right: The true target of that post was the prevailing preoccupation with forestalling, denying or outwitting our mortality. Obsession with hand sanitizer, organic food, and bottled water are just various manifestations of that preoccupation. // // In themselves, there is nothing objectionable about any of these things. (Two pints of organic blueberries are sitting in my refrigerator right now. Continue Reading

I could not believe my eyes at Mass this morning. There in the sanctuary, just behind and to the right (stage left) of the altar, was a bottle of hand sanitizer. It was not tucked discreetly behind a vase of flowers. There were no flowers. Just an economy-sized dispenser of Purell. The Church has distributed the Eucharist for 2,000 years without benefit of ethyl alcohol. But now my parish has it, right up there in a sacred space. The ancient ritual of the priestly Lavabo (“I will wash my hands among the innocent, and will walk around Thy altar, O God.”) was diminished in the name of liturgical renewal years ago. Continue Reading

IN CASE ANY OF YOU WONDERED WHETHER SUSTAINABILITY was, at heart, an ideological love affair with subsistence living, take a gander: / // Take this as a fashion forecast of our new footgear when the sustainable crowd finally erases the Industrial Revolution and its works from the planet. The shoes on the left are a bit hard to see in their full splendor but they are made completely of plastic packaging. In good weather, we can always go barefoot. Look again at the one on the right: // How uncomfortable to wear! Continue Reading