Monday, January 28, 2008

Contemplation in Gembrook

On Thursday we went out to the Gembrook Retreat Centre with some of the Footscray mob. (We take people who come to lunch out there so they can get out of the city, and do a bit of work on the land.) We got there at about lunch time, and after we had lunch I facilitated some contemplative worship based around the first account of creation in the book of Genesis (1-2:3). Outside one of the huts I set up a number of stations with some things to help us contemplate the various parts of God's creation:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
(Genesis 1:1-5)

'How does light travel through transparent bodies? Light travels through transparent bodies in straight lines only. ... We have explained this exhaustively in our Book of Optics. But let us now mention something to prove this convincingly: the fact that light travels in straight lines is clearly observed in the lights which enter into dark rooms through holes. ... the entering light will be clearly observable in the dust which fills the air.'
'I constantly sought knowledge and truth, and it became my belief that for gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to God, there is no better way than that of searching for truth and knowledge.'
(11th Century Persian scientist Ibn al Haytham - considered by many to be the first true scientist)
From the 17th Century onwards there was controversy about whether light was a particle or a wave. Apparently these days it seems a lot like light has the properties of a particle and of a wave. I find it pretty confusing. I wonder if maybe sometimes it helps to think of it as a particle and sometimes as a wave. Apparently light also behaves differently if it's being observed to how it behaves if it isn't being observed. If anyone gets wave-particle duality, can they please try to explain it below? Thanks.

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:26-31)
I've recently been reading Education for Critical Consciousness, a collection of essays by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. Freire mainly worked with people who were poor and illiterate, many of them farmers.
Freire says that the thing that separates human beings from the rest of creation is that human beings are creative beings who are constantly altering the rest of reaction, through work.
What kind of a world is our work creating? What immediately comes to mind for me is the city, but I suppose the city (or a small town, or a retreat centre) is made up of lots of little alterations. Which of those alterations are yours? Do you have any other ideas? What work will you have to do to bring them into reality?
Paulo Freire also says that being denied the power to alter reality is dehumanising. Are there any ways that you and your friends are being denied the opportunity to participate in creation?
(Those are from a couple of the stations that I was happiest with.)

Afterwards Alisdair and Naomi facilitated some discussion around Jesus' seed parables in Mark's Gospel (4:1-8, 26-32). After reading them they got us to go and find a seed, and plant it somewhere. I got a piece of tomato (with seeds in it) from our lunch and fed it to one of the goats. So she's probably planted the seeds somewhere herself by now.

We talked afterwards about how we often interpret Jesus' parables as though they are spiritual - but in a way that's somehow separate from 'earthly' things. However, if Jesus is telling a story about people trying to grow crops in places where they're obviously not going to grow (eg. in the street) isn't it pretty significant that he's saying it in a place where a lot of people don't have anywhere to grow food because their own land has been bought up by rich landlords.

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