Darwin’s Doubt, Ichemoid Wasps, black Widows, Praying Mantises & Evolution

Caterpillar pic Linda    



Excerpt: Biodesign out For A Walk, Chap. ;21. Simple Gifts.

One of nature’s most outlandish displays of mystery is demonstrated

billions of time each year and goes mostly unnoticed and never

fully understood. It involves the “common” caterpillar. Whether

it spins a cocoon or secrets a chrysalis, what happens next is pure

mystery. Essentially, the pupa dissolves itself into a sort of cellular/

molecular soup. Molecule by molecule, cell by cell, all internal and

external systems are reconfigured. A score of legs are reduced to six.

Leaf-crunching mandibles are morphed into a tubular proboscis that

will suck nectar. The lethargic “worm” is transformed into a feather-light

gossamer that literally floats on the air.


Charles Darwin is arguably the Isaac Newton of the biological sciences. As such, however, he does not deserve the godlike status that some secular scientists have bestowed upon him, nor does he deserve the satanic status that as Fundamental Religious people have labeled him. He was a brilliant man who “thought outside the box,” and was more fortunate than Socrates, Jesus and countless other progressive thinkers who were put to death.

In a huge double irony, Darwin was not only unable to explain the Cambrian Explosion, but deeply troubled by the possibility that a “God of love” could create or allow some of the horrid examples of animal behavior that were necessary for his doctrine of “survival of the fittest” to occur.

 In a recent column by George Will:

“In 1860, Charles Darwin confided in a letter to a friend: ‘I had no intention to write atheistically, but I can not persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of the caterpillars.’

What appalled him had fascinated entomologist William Kirby (1759-1850): The ichneumon insect inserts an egg in a caterpillar, and the larva hatched from the egg “gnaws the inside of the caterpillar, and though at last it has devoured almost every part except the skin and intestines, carefully all this time avoids injuring the vital organs, as if aware that its own existence depends on the insect on which it preys.”

Although the story of the Ichneumonids may have been unpleasant to Darwin, nature is filled with gruesome, gory, heart-wrenching and cruel examples of disease, parasitism, and predatory animals drenched in blood, all for the sake of, “survival of the fittest.”

Whenever possible, Black Widow female spiders trap and devour their mate (after copulation). The classic, perhaps most bizarre case, is the female Praying Mantis who waits until her mate’s reproductive organ is firmly inserted in her body, before she turns her head around and devours him from the head down. Even after his head is gone, his thorax valiantly continues to throb and pulse, pumping vital sperm into her body.

Darwin knew that his theory had some missing links, but so did his childhood religion that presented God as the all-knowing, all-loving Creator. Perhaps, more significantly, he failed to mention the mysterious process of lepidopteron metamorphosis, whereby each caterpillar secrets a chrysalis (or spins a cocoon) and digests itself into cellular soup. It would be as if the most complex computer secreted a covering around itself, reduced all components to simple molecules, emerged in a totally new form and flew away on wings. Darwin knew that no utilitarian philosophy could explain the miraculous process and modern scientists are still at a loss as to how this can happen.

Happy Anniversary Christie

Happy Anniversary Christie

Excerpt: BOFAW, “In Thanksgiving.”

And finally, the omega factor is often the most important in a
list. If readers are not able to see, or perhaps more importantly feel
between the lines, and sense that Christie was the guiding light for
The Biodesign Class and this book, I will have failed. Her quiet life
of prayer and contemplation provided the unseen spirit that hovered
over the hundreds of circles we formed each year to compare, communicate,
and contemplate. Without her, I would likely have been
like Ingrid (class of ’84) who suggested that, “I could have been born,
grown up, grown old, and died without knowing what life was really
all about.”

It is a bittersweet realization to know that most visitors to Yosemite Valley can easily grasp John Muir’s metaphorical reference to The Valley being a Temple, but not be able to grasp that they are really seeing a reflection of the “temple” within. St. Paul was well aware of this when he wrote:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.

This concept was beautifully illustrated to Christie and me, 15 years after we were married. We attended a “Marriage Encounter,” week-end which was conducted by 15 couples who had dynamic marriages and wanted to share their secrets of success. I came away with three powerful reflections.

1) Feelings are neither right nor wrong, but how you respond to them can be.
2) Each married couple is a “Little Church” and should be a center of worship.
3) In order to accomplish this, each couple should spend 20 minutes a day focusing on their strengths and areas that can be improved.

Neither Christie nor I like to have our pictures taken. We also do not appreciate the misguided idea that “we” were responsible for The Biodesign Class and BOFAW. We were convinced of this the last time we visited Yosemite and Mendocino. Although they were still beautiful, they were hauntingly empty without the laughter, pain, joy and sorrow that the students radiated as they were coming alive.
John Muir did not like being, “Propped up for the populace to gawk at,” and neither do we and so Linda Williamson’s “Foreword” to BOFAW is a little embarrassing.

I now realize that one of the great lessons of Biodesign was learning
how a strong marriage works. Christie was, and is, the strength
behind the scenes; the wind beneath Lowell Young’s wings.

However, I humbly agree with her assessment and hope that if one person (or couple) benefits from this blog, it will not have been written in vain.
After all, 49 years ago, I was minding my own business, in the girls dorm at SFSU, when she walked by, wearing a stunning pink sweater and pants that were discretely too tight.
June 20 marks our 48th wedding anniversary and she is more beautiful now than when we met and can still fit in her wedding dress. LOL We have four fantastic children, nine precious grandchildren and an assorted passel of God-children and “spiritual refugees,” all of who have enriched our lives beyond our wildest dreams.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if I describe our marriage as equivalent to climbing 1,000 Half Domes, hiking Grand Canyon 1,000 times and being lulled to sleep 1,000 times by the Pacific Ocean.

African story tellers often end their stories with this prayer;

“This is my story.
Take from it what speaks truth for you.
The rest, send back home to me with a blessing.”

From both of us.

Metamorphosis and Adolescence

Metamorphosis and Adolescence


Every beautiful (and not so beautiful) butterfly must go through the torturous process of metamorphosis. Likewise, every adult human had to navigate the often traumatic, troublesome, sometimes terrifying labyrinth of teenagedom. Lori Evans, Bio.’79, recently invested six weeks of her time, talent and treasure in a group teens, introducing them to the dramatic world of William Shakespeare. Her mentor, Kevin Coleman, wrote one of the most concise expository essays on adolescence that I have read. In three brief paragraphs he encapsulates many of the aims, goals, objectives, hopes and dreams of Biodesign students who “only went out for a walk and discovered that going out was really going in.”

Kevin Coleman:

“Adolescence itself is often a time of CRISIS. As such, it is a time of both danger and opportunity. Adolescence is a time that can be extremely confusing, emotionally intense, terrifying, dangerous and desperate; numbing, rife with poor judgment and mistakes, fraught with hopelessness, resignation and despair. It can be a time of ecstasy, of ‘true love’, deep friendship, passionate expression and harrowing betrayal. Whatever can be said, adolescence is all that and more; it burns hotter and freezes colder. And it can all happen in the course of 1 day.


Adolescence is itself a kind of RENAISSANCE. It is a time of unparalleled potential to develop intellectually, emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually, socially, psychologically, and existentially. When adventures that are personally meaningful are absent or overlooked or un-attempted, or when the ability to attempt to create them is not developed or supported, these potentials can atrophy (diminish, become dreary, fearful or hopeless, retreat into resignation, rot). Conversely, these potentials can go postal, ‘act out’, or seek expression in unfulfilling, inappropriate-even extremely destructive ways.


Adolescence needs RITES OF PASSAGE. It needs those intensely experienced, dangerous moments when we transition from child to adult: those peak moments that are: 1) personally meaningful, 2) esteemed by the surrounding culture and 3) risk real or imagined death. Adolescence is a time of needing-to-be-tested in new ways, more extreme ways. When cultural, social, familial or interpersonal testing opportunities are not personally meaningful, or rightly esteemed by others, or intense enough, adolescents will often seek out or create others that are, however reckless, irresponsible or dangerous. Rights of passage are why and how we grow up.”


Coleman’s terse, yet powerful, essay conjured up two immediate reflections. First, I am amazed that I survived adolescence. Two of my high school buddies were killed in a horrifying car crash. That could have been me several times. But there were countless other times when I could have ended up in jail, nothing felonious, but definitely worthy of a “time out” in the “the cooler.”


The other is much more current. John Muir deeply admired RW Emerson. However, when he came to visit Muir at Yosemite, he refused to sleep outside for even one night. Emerson was 72 years and his entourage felt he would risk catching a cold or pneumonia. As Emerson left Yosemite, Muir was deeply saddened and wondered how someone could write so profoundly about nature from his office in Concord Massachusetts. I had the same question about Coleman. I spent 24 years of learning about adolescents by interacting with them in the wilderness so how could he learn so much about them by “playing” around with them in dramatic presentations. It was a delightfully humbling revelation.




The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence


Inspired by a photo from Jane berg.


Excerpt: BOFAW, Simple Gifts.


A boot that I had not heard squeak suddenly sounded like a loud stair squeak. A

squeaky clevis pin on my backpack sounded like a rusty gate opening.

The blood rushing through my ears became audible and a little

spooky. This happened when no air moved, no insect buzzed, no

bird chirped; it was the silence of death. Ironically, as in many close

encounters with death, life often takes on a deeper, richer meaning.


Grand Canyon has so many amazing gifts that it is impossible begin to identify or comprehend them. I suspect, however, that 99% of the visitors are missing out on one of the greatest, the gift of silence. In this case, you truly have to go there to know there. There is something mysterious, ephemeral, and maybe a little spooky about dropping below The Canyon Rim and leaving all the noise and clutter of society above. Each year, several million tourists drive to The South Rim, look over the edge, buy a hamburger, ‘T” shirt or coffee mug and head for Las Vegas. Out of over 4 million visitors, only a few thousand people hike down into The Canyon and fewer make it to Phantom Ranch. Taking the mule ride down can be exciting, hiking with a partner or friends can be a great experience, however, only by hiking alone can you experience moments of a vacuum-like silence. The experience is unique to each person but can be cathartic, scary, thrilling or include a spiritual epiphany.

In Barbara Moritsch’s, “The Soul Of Yosemite,” she properly documents the problems of “loving Yosemite to death.” Grand Canyon NP has had its own struggles, but has made some wonderful improvements. People began to flock to The Canyon in the 1950s and ‘60s. All of the typical concessions of hotels, restaurants, gift shops etc. expanded with the increasing tourist dollars. However, Grand Canyon incurred a problem that was nearly unknown in all the other Parks “AIR PLANES!” Big planes, small planes, fixed wing and helicopters assaulted the Park like huge roaring locusts. Commercial airlines planned flight lanes over The Canyon as an advertising ploy. Dozens of daily sight-seeing flights, originating from Phoenix, Flagstaff and Las Vegas began landing at the small Grand Canyon Airport. Many of them flew over, or even down into, sections of The Canyon. Perhaps, because of their aerobatic ability, the most insidious planes were the squadrons of helicopters that took thrill seeking tourists down into the Canyon, close to the steep walls, sometimes mere feet above the Colorado River. Over a period of several years, the great gift of silence was shattered. Hikers who enjoyed solitude and sacredness of peace and quiet were insulted with dozens of daily intrusions. After years of being “deaf” to both noise and hiker complaints, the NPS began an aggressive program of noise abatement. Commercial air carriers were required to avoid the air space over The Canyon. Tourist flights from Phoenix, Flagstaff and Las Vegas were routed away from The Canyon and required to fly directly to Grand Canyon Airport, seven miles from the rim. Even the NPS took a proactive role and reduced “casual” helicopter flights from Headquarters to Phantom Ranch. Currently, Park Service flights are restricted to emergency use or cases where the use of mules is deemed unsafe or grossly impractical. The result has been a huge reduction of airplane-generated noise. The photo that Jane Berg provided offers a snapshot of part of the Park Service commitment to noise reduction. It would be much easier, and more efficient to supply Phantom Ranch with helicopter service; it would also destroy one of the greatest experiences of hiking in Grand Canyon. The last five or six Biodesign Classes experienced the return of silence to The Canyon. Typically, I let the students hike out ahead of me while I enjoyed the quiet mysteries and solitude. If Christie was along, there were great spaces between our words. Typically, there was also a rude foreboding of our return to “civilization.” Somewhere, at or nearby, Indian Gardens, we would hear the distant, muted wail of the Grand Canyon R-R steam engine approaching the station. Some students later described the wail as nostalgic. As for us, it was a sad warning that we were about to leave one of the most amazing places on Earth and return to the noise, clatter, fumes of tour buses and what confused minds regard as reality.

From the Cathedral of Yosemite to the St. Helena Catholic church

From the Cathedral of Yosemite to the St. Helena Catholic church

From the Cathedral of Yosemite to the St. Helena Catholic Church


Shakespeare described a prayer as a thought that starts in the heart and passes through the mind on its way to heaven. I suspect that most storytellers are familiar with steps number one and two, however, after each story is recorded, it typically takes on a life of its own.

When I recently completed, “An Evening at the Ahwahnee,” I had no idea of its destiny. It did, however, occur to me that Christine’s mother might appreciate a “love story” about her long-deceased husband and their only daughter. I mailed a copy to her Mom, only to find out that she was suffering the final stage of pancreatic cancer. The news devastated Christie and me, not only because of our love for Christine, but we frequently saw her Mom riding her vintage bicycle on the road where we take our daily walk. The next few days we were sorry that we would no longer see her. The country road is a favorite for walkers, joggers and bicyclists, because it is tree-lined, quiet and, due to its dead end, has little traffic. Because it is so quiet, it was not surprising to hear joggers pat-patting the pavement behind us as they prepared to pass. However, about a week after I sent “Christine’s Story” to her Mom, the jogger who passed us was nothing but extraordinary. As she passed, she glanced over her shoulder to exchange a smile and hello. Then suddenly, she froze in mid-stride, her eyes widened and she blurted out, “Oh, my, gosh! My mom died yesterday and when I started my run I thought it would be wonderful if I were to meet you two! The three of us were in a momentary fog of disbelief. There was too information to process. Finally, we hugged, wept and she announced that her Mom’s funeral would be the coming Saturday and she hoped that we would attend.

The funeral was a traditional Catholic Mass, with liturgy and music that resonated deeply within our souls. After Communion, the final speaker was scheduled to deliver the eulogy. Christine approached the podium to do the honors. She paused briefly, took a deep breath, and my mind flashed back to the evening at the Ahwahnee Hotel. However, before I had time to panic, she began with a sense of confidence, even serenity. By weaving a beautiful tapestry of her Mom’s life, she was able to channel her deep love and compassion and touch every person in the church. When she was done, Christie and I sat in tears as the angel, who played the piano in the Ahwahnee, once again unveiled a persona that is not common on Earth.

After the burial, we gathered at her Mom’s home for a “celebration of passing.” Christine approached Christie and me and was laughing and crying at the same time. Her eyes were teary, but sparkling, as she exclaimed, “Did you notice? I nearly had another “Ahwahnee moment?” but I was able to dig deep and deliver the tribute to Mom. Just like on the country road, we hugged and wept.

Christine’s older brother Bill was also understandably at the celebration. As I approached him, I was wearing a straw hat and sun glasses. I was tickled that he did not recognize me. After the funny recognition, we embraced in a traditional Biodesign hug. I mentioned that his class (’79) was the class that taught me how to love students and thereby build a foundation for 18 more years of exciting collaborative learning. He was shocked, and seemed to doubt my words, until I gave him a few highlights. Having felt what I was saying, his eyes misted and he said, “That’s an amazing story. 34 years after I graduated, the circle of love has come back to me.”

Earlier, after the church service, Christine directed her “BFF” (best friend for life) over to Christie and me. We were glad to reconnect with Nanette and regaled in a few memories.

In a follow-up e-mail, she mentioned that, although she was not a “straight A” student, she learned much from the class. I reminded her that her Yosemite paper began with the simple, cryptic words, “The Dome! The Dome! The Dome!” The class erupted with laughter, followed with a few tears. After what they had been through together, the words conjured up visions and memories that would last a lifetime. She continued with a paper that would have made John Muir proud. She also proved his aphorism, “One day in the wilderness is worth cartloads of books.”

Both Bill’s class and Christine and Nan’s class got to sleep on top of Half Dome. If Muir was correct, they have a library of memories that contributed to their lives. It was no small miracle that I was allowed the privilege of laughing, loving and learning with all three of them.

An Evening at the Ahwahnee

An Evening at the Ahwahnee




For the first 10 years of Biodesign, on the last night of the Yosemite trip, we walked the short distance from the group camp area over to the Ahwahnee Hotel. I thought it was a good idea to provide the students with as complete experience as possible which included a visit to the Hotel. I have to confess that I assumed a bit of “Murian” attitude as we clomped through the magnificent building in our trail-worn clothes and hiking boots. Typically, the staff was not impressed with our presence, but we were never treated unkindly. The girls especially were usually impressed while peeking into the dining room to see 200 guests luxuriating with fine silver, table linen and fine food.

On the ’83 tour through the Ahwahnee, one of the girls suggested that it would have been fun if we had our last dinner there. Most of her classmates (and me) scoffed at her idea. However, after we returned home, I mentioned the idea to Christie, and she agreed with the student. I warmed to the idea and mentioned it during the planning stage the following fall. The students had discovered the concept of “carnival,” and I suggested that it could be a more formal ending for our trip. It meant that we would have to include “nice” clothes, and the guys needed to bring slacks and a sport jacket, but they generally agreed.

The trip progressed with its typical ups and downs, stress, pain and hopefully growth, and most of the students welcomed the chance to take a hot shower and put on clean clothes. The dining room was magical. A piano player played an eclectic blend of pop, show-tunes and classical music which added to the ambience. The waiters filled water glasses, after two or three sips, striking a sharp contrast to guarding every drop of water sipped on dusty rails.

After dinner, we adjourned to the Great Room to relax and enjoy the moment. There was an 11ft. concert-grand piano that was used for evening entertainment, piano concerts and special musical events. Many of the Biodesign students were also enrolled in the SHHS jazz choir made up of highly talented singers and musicians. I wasn’t clear yet on the concept of “synchronicity,” but we were about to experience an event that defied earthly understanding. One of the students approached me and mentioned that Christine Heinemann, the jazz-choir pianist, knew many pieces by heart, and he thought it would be nice if she could play the piano. I thought it was a great idea and immediately went to the concierge and naively asked if we could get someone to unlock the piano cover. She looked a bit disgusted and said, “I am afraid that will not be possible. All musicians have to audition with the “concert master” and their musical selections must be approved in advance.” When I asked if the concert master was in the building she seemed more irked, but directed me to his office. Amazingly, he was there, but was incredulous about the apparent boorishness of my request. I returned to the class and delivered the bad news. Sometimes students can be unrelenting with their demands and this was no exception. One of them reminded me that the choir had been on tour, won state honors, and therefore, qualified to perform. Reluctantly, I agreed to plead their case again. The concert master seemed more irritated than previously but, suddenly and mysteriously, he acquiesced. “This is highly unusual,” he said, “and I may be reprimanded but I will allow the student to play one selection.”

As we returned to the room, the students eagerly gathered around the piano. The concert-master unlocked the cover, raised the lid and politely retreated to the background.

As Christine approached the piano her face blushed with a combination of nervousness and embarrassment. We all sat quietly with joyful anticipation. She sat down, adjusted the bench, took a deep breath and placed her hands in the ready position. The expected momentary pause escalated into a collective anxiety until she finally said, “I can’t play, I’ve drawn a total blank and don’t know where to start.” I was afraid to look behind me at the concert master, but instead focused on her. I calmly (I think) whispered, “It’s OK if you don’t play, but why not take a deep cleansing breath and try it once more from the top, if nothing happens, it’s no big deal.”

She took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and the notes began to resonate out of the piano’s raised lid. She seemed as if she were in a state of detached consciousness as her fingers flew over the keys. As the music soared, so did the spirits of everyone in the Great Hall. The tears that trickled down her cheeks triggered tears from nearly everyone listening. She finished with a dazzling flourish and the final chord echoed throughout the hall. She slumped, exhausted on the bench, while we all sat in stunned silence.

She gathered herself and said, “You all know that my dad died recently. What you do not know was that he requested that I memorize this piece before he died. This is the first time I have played it since then”

The concert master approached slowly and graciously offered Christine his hand in sympathy and congratulations. He looked at me with watery eyes and said, “extraordinary, simply extraordinary.” As he discretely recovered the piano, one of the guys whispered in my ear that the choir knew two a cappella numbers, would it be OK if they sang them. I was on a roll and said, “go for it.” Only about half of the choir was present, but they did an amazing job on a jazz number and (I think) The National Anthem. When they finished, the entire class, as well as the 30-40 hotel guests, applauded enthusiastically. As we left, an elderly lady with a huge smile and a southern drawl, grabbed my jacket sleeve and asked, “Who are these children and where are they from? I declare that sweet thing that played the piana (sic)is an angel from heaven.” I winked and smiled and said that it wasn’t within me to disagree with her.



Wilderness In A Feather

Wilderness in a Feather

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
Emily Dickinson


In the 1960’s, Marin County, California became a Mecca of a specialized hybrid blend of pop-psychology and the spiritual exercise of mantric meditation made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The blend was named Transcendental Meditation or “TM” for short. Many psychologists eagerly embraced the new trend and added their own creativity. Clients were welcomed into candle-lit rooms that featured “New Age” mood music. Some therapists included body massage and used a variety of aromatic esters or oils, e.g., eucalyptus, camphor, lavender, and wintergreen. The degree of how much clothing clients elected to retain was privileged information, however, there was a common legend that the ultimate curative procedure involved the practitioner gently passing a peacock feather over the client’s body. Whether the experience became restorative, scintillating, titillating or erotic was, or should have been, strictly confidential. I was in my 20’s and figured that if it made people feel better about themselves, so be it.

Greg Marvin, a former art teacher/colleague, mentioned that artists see everything in Nature as either beautiful or interesting. Loren Eiseley agrees and adds that trips into the wilderness usually include seeing visions, marvels, wonders, even miracles, which “are always worth thinking about and discussing. Something funny recently happened on the BOFAW Fb page. I mentioned that I was enjoying Thor Hanson’s book, Feathers. I assumed that I was citing the title; I was not. For some unknown reason, Jane Berg also referenced the book but, included the whole title. I was surprised. She properly stated the title as, Feathers: The Evolution of a Miracle. I grabbed my copy and discovered that the last five words were not on the front cover but, nearly camouflaged on the cover spine.

I wondered if Hanson’s cover designer cryptically responded to one of the book’s themes in a Freudian manner. The book is a wonderful collection of interesting information, however, perhaps equally important, Hanson not only acknowledges that the origin of birds, feathers and flight is still not fully understood, but that feathers qualify as a legitimate miracle. We live in a society that is becoming increasingly secularized and it is possible that publishing a “scientific” book with the word “miracle” boldly printed on the cover may not meet the publisher’s plans for promoting the book.

As Roger Sperry and Loren Eiseley, etal. have pointed out, when secular scientists can not explain natural events they typically ignore them, deny them, create their own mythologies, or even distort or lie about them. Hanson wrote something both humbling and touching. He urges his readers to put his book down and take time to appreciate the miraculous nature of feathers. He did not use the word “contemplate,” however, that is the feeling he conveyed to me. Contemplate is one of those simple, yet powerful, words.

“Contemplate” derives from; con=with, temple or to make a temple with; to consider carefully and at length; meditate on or ponder. Hanson invited us to make a temple with a single feather and perhaps allow its sacred origin to permeate every one of our 150 trillion cells. He may be inferring that failure to do this may result in a sin of omission that is frequently committed by scientists and theologians alike.  Scientists who deny miracles will not experience the ecstasy of feathers. Theologians who are prone to glibly assign feathers, and other miracles, to the hackneyed, overused three-letter-concept, G-O-D, also miss out on the rapture of creation.

Timothy O’Leary and Carlos Castaneda may have recommended “dropping Acid” or smoking peyote to “groove” on feathers, Hanson recommends the safer, saner, classical method of contemplation to appreciate the ecstasy of a feather.

After all these years I am wondering if maybe the peacock feather actually has restorative properties.


We are spiritual beings having a human experience. de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Excerpt: BOFAW, Chap. 4, “A Class is Born.”

1. The class was not a philosophy class.

2. The class was not a religion class.

3. The class was not a spirituality class.


Any discoveries that may relate to these topics would be a byproduct of biological studies and not a direct focus. Typically, if I asked students how many of them had a soul, every hand shot up. It may represent foolish optimism or self-delusion, however, it may also, as Carl Jung suggested, represent a deeply imbedded intuition of man’s spiritual nature. For thousands of years indigenous people have believed in an afterlife. They may be foolish, however, they may be correct.

Tuesday, 3-26 was the Jewish Passover celebration and this Sunday will be Easter Sunday. However, these are the latest chapters of a very big book. Spirituality dimly appeared in humans 100 thousand years ago and has been evolving ever since. Alaskan tribes have been living relatively peacefully with each other (and nature) for at least 10,000 years. Their spiritual beliefs were emerging 7,000 years before Moses envisioned the Book of Genesis, and 8,000 years before the birth of Jesus. Throughout the world people were slowly becoming aware of a possible reality that exceeded the limits of human understanding. Many of these beliefs were inextricably connected to living close to Nature. I am intrigued that Lao Tse, Confucius, and Buddha were all born in Asia within 100 years of each other, circa 500 years before Christ. It was a remarkable period of spiritual stirring. None of these men claimed to be God but, offered ideas to improve human harmony and well-being. Many of these ideas proclaim the importance of being deeply rooted in Nature. Lao Tse is credited with the concept of the “Tao” which can be translated into; Nature, Natural Order, “The Way” or “The Path.”

One of the goals of Biodesign was being dedicated to, “the illimitable freedom of the human mind.” This included a holistic approach to human biology (physical, mental and spiritual) and searching for truth, beauty and goodness.

When students dangled their feet off the edge of Half Dome, or stood on the edge of Grand Canyon, or pondered the vast Pacific Ocean from the bluffs of Mendocino, the word “religion” probably never entered their minds. Spirituality was not a focus of the class, but contemplating the human brain that was capable of thinking in spiritual terms was of great interest. Those who were in tune with their ancient spiritual heritage were more likely to see in macroscopic terms that encompass all of humanity.

According to Muir, Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau (and most authors referenced in Biodesign) every day is a Holy day, whether we choose to recognize it or not.