Bob Schwartz

Category: Nature

Abbeville, Louisiana and the Flood

City of Abbeville

Abbeville, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana is something more than special.

Here’s the bridge across the Vermilion River. That’s St. Mary Magdalen Church on the right.

Abbeville

Here’s Magdalen Square.

Magdalen Square

Here’s what Abbevile looked like on Saturday, August 13, during the flood.

Vermillion River 081316

This is a link to Vermilion Today, online home of the Abbeville Meridional newspaper, if you want to learn what’s going on after the flood.

This is a link to the Red Cross, if you’d like to donate something for the special people of Louisiana, who are suffering through perhaps the worst U.S. natural disaster in the past four years.

Finally, here’s a picture taken last December at the church. To lift your spirits. And open your hearts.

Abbeville Church 7 Select

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My First Orchid

First Orchid

This is my first orchid, a small but exquisite one I got as a gift. It offers beauty for very little care. I water it once a week and it decorates the room and my life.

But I just learned there is more to it than that. It has been gently dropping petals. When it stops flowering, I am told, it should go to a dark place to hibernate. After a while, it will be taken out to wake up and start its beauty regimen again. If it doesn’t sleep, it will grow as a plant but will not flower.

It hasn’t been here long, but I will miss it.

Thusness

Soul Nebula

Thusness, suchness, tathata in Sanskrit, the ultimate and unconditioned nature of things.
Things as they are. Things as it is.

It is thought of as a Buddhist concept, or an Eastern concept. But it is basic to every faith and wisdom tradition, once you peel away many layers of sometimes self-righteous or overly fussy codification and interpretation. The Christian gospels, unconditioned by unnecessary accretions, are just one example. It would appear that Jesus could speak for himself, plainly articulating thusness as well as any other realized teacher.

Talking about thusness is challenging for some of the wisest people ever. Which puts me at a humble and stupid disadvantage. But fools, like me, rush in.

Is thusness seemingly separate from you?

Yes.

Are you within it?

Yes.

Is it within you?

Yes.

What does it contain?

Among other things, it contains all the attributes we usually consider good and admirable: love, compassion, justice, healing, and on and on.

Does thusness define those attributes?

No. People define those attributes, sometimes in long and complex detail. These definitions seem to help people act on these attributes. This act is loving, this act is not. This act is just, this act is not. It is a practical matter.

Is there a problem with defining the attributes?

No, except that people, often people of good will, confuse the definitions with the attributes themselves. That is, by doing this defined thing, they believe they are acting lovingly or justly. They may be wrong.

Is this a problem?

No, unless people forget to look back to the source of those attributes in thusness. If they identify their particular definition with the essence of the attribute, saying that compassion or justice means exactly what I say it means, they are grounded in themselves.

Is there a solution?

Every faith and wisdom tradition offers the same solution, though the terms may be different. The solution is eliminating the seeming separation from thusness, which leads to realizing that thusness is in you and you are in it. That way, when you hear or consider the attributes of love, justice, and so on, you don’t stop at someone else’s definition or at your own. You look deeper, to an ultimate source, that at once makes the attribute less certain and more complicated, and yet more real and simpler.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’

Laudato Si'

The Pope’s new encyclical, Laudato Si’, has been much in the news. Whatever you’ve heard about it, if you haven’t seen it, you really don’t know the whole story.

You’ve heard it is about the environment and climate change, which is in small part true. You’ve heard Catholic presidential hopefuls such as Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal admonish the Pope, their spiritual father, telling him to stick to religion and stay out of politics.

The encyclical is much bigger than climate change, the environment, and certainly bigger than Bush or Jindal or dozens of politicians. It is a big statement about the moral and religious shortcomings of this modern world and us modern people. You don’t have to be Catholic or Christian or faithful or religious to read and appreciate it. You just have to read it.

It is full of inconvenient and uncomfortable truths. Which is probably why the coverage has focused on the environmental exhortations, rather than on the broader cultural, media, technological and social ones. In essence, it is nothing less than a call for radical evolution, in the spirit of the radical evolutionary upon whom the church is built. There are plenty of established institutions and powerful interests and individuals, including the media, who could be forced to change if such radical evolution came to pass. And many of them don’t want to change, and don’t even want us to listen to the Pope talking about it.

The encyclical is a long and deep but very readable work. Download it, sample it. You don’t have to read it all, or all at once. It is naturally grounded in theology, and in some particular theology, but be assured that the observations and conclusions don’t require you to hold any sectarian beliefs. It only requires that we believe that things are far from perfect, and that after we take a close look at ourselves and others, we believe that we have the power and obligation to make things better.

It is filled with so much quotable inspired thought and inspiration. Here is just one brief excerpt:

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

Laudato Si’ PDF

Laudato Si’ epub and Kindle

Can’t See the Trees for the Sky

Dawn Sky

Sometimes we look a little too high.

The sky at dawn was unusual and spectacular this morning, a horizon of heavy clouds tinged with orange. I took some photos, hoping to capture it. Satisfied, I shut down the camera and started walking away. Then stopped.

In my focus on the picture-worthy sky, I had kind of missed the trees. Maybe I was just still asleep. But not when I noticed this. And all I had to do was look a little lower.

Dawn Trees