UFOs or Not

UFOs or Not


The recent reference to UFOs was not based on science fiction.  When Christie and I moved to St. Helena, Ca. (1970) we had a lot of work to do restoring an old Craftsman-style home.  I was working on the roof, shortly after sunset, when I noticed three bright orange lights in the sky, southward towards Napa.  I yelled for Christie to come out and I quickly descended the ladder.  The lights continued on a due north flight-line.  It took several minutes for them to arrive over the Pope Valley area.  We had no idea of how far away they were, they may have been in the next county or state.  Suddenly, two of them veered west toward Santa Rosa and the third headed east toward the Sacramento Valley.  It got smaller and smaller, suggesting that it was going farther away.  Meanwhile, the other two looked to be over Santa Rosa, and then “it” happened.  I had just looked back to the singleton and it zipped from wherever it was to join the other two.  It left a faint streak of light, but was almost instantaneous.  Immediately, after the third body rejoined the two, all three flashed away in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.  Christie and I looked at each other and laughed.  We were both thinking, “This is a story better not told.”

Interestingly, when I did share it with students, their response was typically, Wow! Far Out! Cool! Wish I could have seen that.

Out Of The Mud Comes The Lotus

Out Of The Mud Comes The Lotus


It is striking to see beautiful Lotus flowers in mucky, smelly swamps.  The overarching theme is that from dead, decaying vegetation something of great beauty springs forth.  Although the colored varieties can be striking, the metaphorical contrast between muck and pristine white can be stunning.  Many world religions agree that we must die before we can transcend to an afterlife.  Meanwhile, we will face a seemingly endless line of “little deaths” as our egos are whittled down to size. (hopefully)


Excerpt: BOFAW.

In Margery Williams’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, the skin horse

informed the rabbit that becoming real, “doesn’t often happen to those

who break easily, have sharp edges or have to be carefully kept.” This

was not a metaphor, but a reality for the Biodesign classes. If Mother

Nature could polish granite, carve out Grand Canyon, and shape continentalshorelines, could she not “break” people, dull their “sharp edges,” and remove them from their “carefully kept,” comfort zones?

Lotus seeds have very hard, impermeable seed coats, and can remain viable for very long time. Sacred Lotus seeds, the most long-lived of all angiosperm seeds, have been known to germinate after more than 400 years! American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) can germinate after a dormancy of 200 years, and recently, lotus seeds of 1,200 years from China were germinated! What’s an incredible plant!


Citing Abraham Maslow, many references to spirituality need not include a religious connotation and can (and should) be used in public education.  Gautama Buddha, Jesus and many scholars, saints and poets used plants and animals as metaphors to communicate the possibility of living a deeper, richer, more meaningful life, regardless of a person’s personal religious choice.  In fact Buddha described his “Eight Fold Path” as a method of mental discipline, designed to promote and enhance personal and social tranquility.  It is a beautiful concept that is not the property of any organized form of religion.

Excerpt: BOFAW,

The pitcher reared back and threw the hardest pitch he couldthrow. The batter expected as much and drove a rifle-shot back to the mound. The ball hit the pitcher in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Both sets of fans gasped in disbelief, and then something amazing happened:

The young ballplayer was demonstrating one of the most difficult, challenging aspects of being human, being thankful for adversity; or looking for the lotus that will bloom out of the mud.

A Spirit Invitation

This photo is being offered as an invitation to “Vashon Jane,” and other mountain lovers, to make a spirit visit to one of the most sacred Biodesign trail junctions. This one was not a typical right/left junction; either of those options would have resulted in death.  This option was of a vertical nature and involved the choice of whether to climb the mountain or not. BOFAW readers will recognize this as the place where: Hannah wept; the class intellectual said, “I find this situation highly intimidating;” someone asked, “can we pray before we go up there?”; a “body” careened wildly down from the cloud enshrouded Dome; my palms were like “Stickeen’s” paws, bloody and sore; and Kaarin and I were engaged in a very slow, very strange dance as she labored to put each frozen foot on top of a waiting boot. It was a wonderful/awful place that became both a metaphor and a cautionary tale about the possible risks and perils that awaited those students who looked up the Dome and were not afraid to climb. Some of them are still climbing.


Excerpt: BOFAW, “Cindy.”


We were sitting in the sunny meadow at the base of Half Dome in

our final circle before returning home. One of the chaperones was an

Army vet and with tears in his eyes said, “You kids have formed bonds

that are usually only formed in the heat of battle; it has been an honor

to climb that rock with you.”


I could not have said it better. 20 of the 24 Biodesign Classes had the privilege of facing this junction and it was both an honor and privilege for me to share with them.


PS.  Probably in response to the outbreak of the hantavirus, Yosemite Rangers have announced that there have been so many Half Dome permit cancellations that they are readily available. The cables will be lowered on or about 10-8-12.  The fall was John Muir’s favorite time of year. He lamented about people “being so time poor that they could not take a pillow case filled with dried bread rolls, a pocket full of tea bags, a wool blanket and spend a glorious month in his beloved Temple.


Perfect Sincerity and Vulnerability II

Perfect Sincerity and Vulnerability Part II


When the slide-show team completed their program they announced that they wanted to show it to the class before the parent’s night.  They felt that there were potentially intimate moments that they wanted their classmates to see before they shared with a larger audience.  They asked the superintendent’s daughter if she wanted to include her dad and she did.  The program was shown and generated howls of laughter and tears of joy and sorrow.  When it ended there was a feeling of profound reverence—even love—in the room.  When the lights were turned on many eyes were glistening.  The superintendent stood up and quietly left the room.  I wondered what he was thinking.

A couple of days later he sent the class a beautiful, hand-written letter, thanking them for including him as a fellow learner and not rejecting him as an authority figure.  He ended with, “and by the way, the slide-show was quite emotional, did you plan that?”  The slide-show team seemed to be perplexed by his question.

We were still presenting papers and Raphael, one of two Mexican students, indicated that he was ready to present his.  The class was immediately impressed with his keen insight and ability to blend reflections through the lenses of two cultures.  He created a beautiful bilingual, bicultural tapestry.  For example, he wrote, that his parents could not understand why we were going to the mountains to sleep outside.  There were many homeless people in Mexico who would love to sleep inside.  Why would people want to go outside to sleep in the cold?  He described feeling loved by every class member which was often not the case when he interacted with “Gringos.”  He described seeing, feeling and understanding things on the top of Half Dome that he could never have dreamed of before.  Sentence after sentence created a virtual kaleidoscope of images, emotions and visual clarity.  His paper was profoundly moving and left few dry eyes.  After class, I asked Raphael if I could send a copy of his paper to our superintendent.  He was honored and quickly agreed.

Several days later a letter addressed to Raphael arrived at my mail box.  I handed it to him during the “news and notes” segment at the beginning of class.  The class properly guessed who it was from and urged him to share.  He beamed with pride, opened the letter and began to read.  The letter mentioned some of the same feelings that the class had experienced, however, they were more intensely poignant, due to being spoken with a beautiful Spanish accent.  He must have felt the same poignancy because he was quickly overcome by emotions.  I was sitting next to him in the circle and quietly asked him if he wanted me to finish the letter.  He nodded yes with a bright, but tear-streaked smile.  I continued where he left off and soon found that the lump in my throat was difficult to control.  I momentarily wondered if I would have to pass the letter to the person on my other side.  When I was finished the class erupted into wild applause.  Raphael’s face was resplendent.

After class I realized I had received two wonderful gifts, Raphael’s inspiration and a response to our superintendent’s question.  I sent him a “thank you” note for both of the letters and asked, “by the way, when Raphael read your letter to the class, he cried; did you plan that?”

Perfect Sincerity and Vulnerability

Perfect Sincerity and Vulnerability



Every Biodesign trip ventured into the uncharted and unpredictable wilderness of the teenage mind.  In the class of ’81, one of the girls wanted to invite her dad (VB) along as a chaperone on the Yosemite Trip.  We always needed chaperones, but her dad posed some scary potential issues.  He was the superintendent of our school district which meant that he was my boss.  The Biodesign concept was relatively young, highly controversial and I had some very vocal critics, all of which made me feel very vulnerable.  Interestingly, the class surprised me by agreeing that he should be invited, so what else could I do?

By the middle of the second day he had blended in so well that I forgot that my boss was watching my every move (almost).  That evening things would change drastically.  We arrived at the base of Half Dome and it started to snow lightly.  Ascending the rock would be impossible so we made camp in a nice open area.  We fixed dinner and were snuggled in tents and warm sleeping bags by 8:00 PM.  About 9:00 PM a group of half-drunk, half-stoned backpackers arrived and began pitching their tents right next to ours.  After setting up was complete they partied on.  There were four guys and one girl and their language was loud, vulgar and laced with obscenities.  I had heard guys in locker rooms use crude language, but the girl was spewing out anatomical descriptions that would have embarrassed a truck driver.  She could actually complete sentences consisting entirely of crude expletives.  They appeared to be abhorrent animals that we were trapped next to.  Our kids were amazingly tolerant, however, around 2:00 AM, one of them yelled, “Can you please quiet down, we are trying to sleep.”  The response was raucous laughter and more obscenities.  One of them slurred, “Maybe I’ll light a fuel bottle on fire and toss it into the little f—ers tent and see what happens.  More laughter.  The weight of the responsibility was almost overwhelming.  I tried to relax and get some much-needed sleep, but wondering what VB was thinking made it almost impossible.  Around 4:00 AM the last neighbor either passed out or fell asleep.  The next morning we fixed a quick breakfast.  The snow had stopped and beautiful sunshine replaced the horror of the previous night (almost).  We would be able to ascend The Dome, if only for a couple hours.  The partiers arose and greeted us kindly, as if nothing had happened.  At one point VB came over and said, “You handled an awful situation very well.”  I appreciated his words but was not convinced.

After a very long hike back to our Valley base camp, we arrived late and were greeted by a sudden storm.  Water came down in torrents and I told the hikers to grab the first available tent and unpack.  Thankfully the storm passed and we were able to prepare dinner.  The next morning we struck our tents, packed the cars and headed for home.  We stopped in Oakdale for a hamburger when it hit me!  I asked my VB what he thought about the previous night’s sleeping arrangements.  “What do you mean?” He casually asked.  I blurted out, “I mean that girls and guys were sleeping in the same tents!”  “Humm,” he said with a smile, “They treated each other like brothers and sisters so well that it just didn’t occur to me.” We both laughed, even though I knew that back home, critics would say, “Have you heard the latest?  He let boys and girls sleep in the same tents.  That is shameful!”




The Power of the Circle

The Power Of The Circle



“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in

a circle, and that is because the Power of the World

always works in circles, and everything tries to be

round … Everything the Power of the World does is

in a circle.”   Black Elk

Christie thought that the opening line for BOFAW should have been, “Form a Circle.”  It might also have been a good title.  It was probably the single most important logistical and operational factor of the class.  There was often something profoundly simple by standing or sitting in a circle which often raised physical, mental and spiritual visions to a higher level of awareness.  Especially when we discussed difficult topics, they could easily read the joy, sorrow, pain, anger, frustration or countless expressions on their classmates faces.  But it wasn’t just the circle that was powerful.  The students had agreed to make an effort to enhance sensitivity by approaching each topic without criticizing, condemning or complaining.  We were not perfect, but often able to tackle difficult concepts with a minimum amount of collateral emotional damage.

Black Elk believed that “the white man” would die of a great loneliness of spirit because he lived in rectangular houses that lacked the energy of a round tepee.  He had attended white man’s council meetings and noted that they lacked energy because they were not sitting in a circle.  I don’t know if he attended any white church services, but he most certainly would have found them to be spiritless because people were sitting on benches, all facing one man (or woman). “Surely,” he must have thought, “one man or one woman could not have the wisdom to think for the whole tribe.”  Not only that, it was customary for a chief or elder to frame all discussions and decisions based on the simple caveat, “Will our actions benefit the ‘seventh generation?’”

On Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas he encountered Caribbean peoples who held tribal council meetings in a circle, with both men and women having equal voting rights.

Although I may have been the leader, students hopefully discovered that anyone could be “the leader.” There were many times when they generally agreed with me, but there were also times when they vigorously disagreed with me.  Some of those disagreements proved to be ungrounded, but some proved to be greatly important.  They taught me many things that I could not have discovered on my own.

Typically, discussions would dart around the circle like a pinball ricocheting off the bumpers of a pinball machine.  The classic example of this was Matthew blurting out, “Wait a minute! What the Hell do we believe anyway?” That simple question radically changed all following Biodesign Classes.  Amazingly, millions of people go through their entire life without questioning what they believe and why.  I know this personally because I was of that mindset before the Biodeisgn kids started my real education.  BOFAW readers know that I once thought that memorizing all the parts of a fetal pig was more important than “creative thinking” and exploring Yosemite, Grand Canyon and the Mendocino Coast of California.

The circle rule applied especially on the trips, where we sat at Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Mendocino in magical circles. The classic example here was Heather’s candle light service on top of Half Dome.  The campfire circles often proved to be the most dynamic.  There was something, almost palpable, that often lifted conversations to a higher level.  Many students have contacted me with sad stories that they have searched in vain at colleges or universities for another “Circle Experience.”  They are not alone.  Despite all that we know about the power of a circle, we ignore it as quaint or obsolete.  I am guessing that less than 1% of the U.S. population will ever have a circle experience.

How tragically ironic it will be if Black Elk was correct and we do die of a loneliness of spirit because we lost the power of the circle.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull Visits Biodesign

Jonathan Livingston Seagull Visits Biodesign



“How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!                       Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull,      by Richard Bach

One of the greatest synchronicities involving Biodesign occurred before I knew what the word meant.  I don’t know if Lettie had read, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” or not, before she asked her question that led to the birth of the class.  In the early ‘70s, Richard Bach’s little book became a huge hit, especially with young-adult readers.  To fully appreciate the book one must appreciate the context of bird evolution.

Birds have been flying for over 60 million years, and according to scientists, they fly for strictly practical reasons; gathering food, escaping predators, moving to and from nests, migrating etc.  They live in a “bird-brained” world, heavily controlled by instinct, generally lacking values, and involves very little “self-awareness.”  Having said all of that, Bach was able to figuratively help Jonathan break his genetic chains and shackles and discover that striving for perfect flight was nothing short of striving for character perfection.

The book became an instant favorite for the early Biodesign Classes who saw it as metaphor for striving for the perfection of love.  In nearly every class at least one member quoted St. John, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”  They generally thought that living without fear would be cool.  They would all discover that it was difficult and required much discipline.  I was often reminded of a friend who claimed that “all human actions are motivated by either love or fear.”  Originally, I thought it was a trite oversimplification, but have not found any exceptions yet.

Wile striving for perfect love sounds romantic; the similarities between the Biodesign class and Jonathan’s struggles could be terrifyingly similar.  He described trying to fly higher and higher and faster and faster, often resulting in crashes that could be excruciatingly painful.  On several occasions he crashed into the ocean so hard that he wished that he could sink to the bottom and die.  Countless times, after I “crashed,” in the class room or on the trips, I wished I could die rather than face the pain I caused or was experiencing.  I was not alone.  At any time the class could get embroiled in thorny issues.  Some were serious, some were silly.  One class got into a huge debate as to whether dogs could smile or not.  Amazingly, however, after each one of these crashes, we were able to fly to a higher level and experience a greater feeling of euphoria, joy and sense of accomplishment.

However, just as Bach described the group behavior of the “Breakfast Flock,” our “breakfast flock” of administrators, colleagues, some parents, school board members and local clergy, reacted with doubt, fear, even anger.  Like Jonathan, I was considered, by some, as an outcast from mainstream science education.

There was no refuge in the scientific world either.  The word “science,” derives from the Greek, “scientia” to know, and scientists continue to assume that if they name something, they know it (or even own it).  The more names you know (memorize) the greater the scientist you are.  In college I had to memorize thousands of terms and I never felt any wiser.  “Structure-function correlation” was, and remains, the order of the day; the logic being that if you know what a structure is you will understand its function and vice-versa.  This was a purely mental process involving physical structures with no room or reason for spirituality.  Additionally, a social movement known as “secular humanism” was growing and found widespread support from “secular scientists.”  They all agreed that there was no evidence of God and therefore the letters G-O-D should be avoided, expunged from laws and records, and banished from schools and other institutions.  This was the primary reason for the “train wreck” described in BOFAW chap 3, “Firestorm.”  In June of ’78, I felt like the Biodesign dream had become a terrible nightmare, and like Jonathan, it would be better to let the idea sink into oblivion.  However, just as in JLS, a miraculous “breakthrough” occurred in the form of the class of ’79.  Mysteriously, they were able to fly higher, faster and farther than any previous class.  They were open-minded, caring and eager to be challenged to strive for a higher level of existence.  In doing so, they created a foundation that would support nearly 20 more years of Biodesign.


Therefore, can any one out there fully comprehend the immensity of the 60-million-year time period that the birds lived without human company?  Doesn’t even comprehending 1 million years suggest that it is an unspeakably perfect miracle that we are ALIVE, at this very moment in the universe?  Does this not fill you with ecstasy and make you want to run naked in the rain, or do the dance of joy?

Or, have we all been blinded, like the sea turtles, by the very machines and monitors that we are using?

Even worse, are we all not in danger of failing to heed Albert Einstein’s warning:


“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”



Wayne: Danger-Drama-Dilemma

Wayne: Danger- Drama and Dilemma


The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Albert Einstein

Many students called my office, “The Shrine,” because of the plethora of rainbows, geodes, driftwood art and “precious moment” photos of Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Mendocino.  I also had a small “dream catcher” that some consider a symbol of unity among the various Indian Nations, and a general symbol of identification with Native American or First Nations cultures.

Wayne arrived in the Biodesign Class with a rich Choctaw heritage, a keen curiosity, a big heart, and an open mind.  For 35 years I have wondered if we met because of the dream catcher; stranger things have happened.

He discovered a recently published little book, “Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull, which, along with The Class, started him on a spiritual quest that continues to this day.

During the 24 years of Biodesign trips, I only had one student climb a tree, flap his arms like a bird and croak like a raven.  It was also the only event that can only be described as a uniquely astonishing mystery.  For those who have read BOFAW, it should be clear why “Wayne’s Story,” (chap 29) presented some difficult challenges.  Including it would likely mean that the book would be excluded from many reading lists and most public schools and universities.  The post-renaissance decline of spirituality has been accelerated by increased materialism and secular humanism.  Events like his do not “belong in a science class” because they can not be “proven, predicted or replicated.”  It was, nevertheless, provocative, exciting, and scary.

Galileo regarded the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory representing the time in man’s history when he became aware of the difference between good and evil.  It is clear to me, that along with that knowledge, Adam incorrectly assumed that whatever “he” believed must be the truth.  I am guessing that, simply because I suffer from the same affliction.  What reasonable person would go around intentionally believing the “wrong” stuff?  We may know Einstein’s adage by memory, and yet, when we encounter mysterious events like Wayne’s, that may conflict with what we believe or that can not be explained, we often respond with fear, anger, doubt even derision.

In Margaret Wise Brown’s classic children’s story, “The Golden Egg,” the bunny struggles with the frustration of dealing with “the unknown” in a playful manner.  Unfortunately, the history of man is much bleaker.  People have been, and still are persecuted, even slaughtered, for what they believe.

Especially in the early years of Biodesign, I was so excited about what the students were thinking and asking that I naively assumed that we had risen to a level of humanity that “free thinking” would not only be allowed, but encouraged.  Over and over I was surprised to discover that a few students, parents, colleagues and administrators, who claimed to be “liberated thinkers”, were only liberal with their own, often narrow-minded, beliefs.  Many of the great men and women, who we studied, were marginalized as quaint or obsolete and not relevant to “progressive education.”

I struggled for months wondering whether to include Wayne’s story or not.  I knew it was scary when I shared it with one Biodesign Class, around a Mendocino campfire, and I suspected that it would be challenging, even scary for some BOFAW readers.  It has been.  I will never know how many readers have been frightened, angered, confused, or “offended,” but I do know that some have been.  Many have responded about favorite chapters up to chap. 29, and then dropped off the radar screen.  Self-described Christians, perhaps understandably, have responded in a highly positive manner, which has only added to my dilemma.  For over 20 years I reminded critics and supporters that I was a teacher and not an evangelist or recruiter for any brand of religion.  I encouraged students to think on their own, and try to filter out bias or prejudice (including mine).  This is exactly what Socrates, Descartes and Maslow had recommended.  However, I anticipated that a certain segment of readers would incorrectly infer that Wayne’s Story was just another poorly veiled attempt to recruit Christians.  It was not.  It was included because it actually happened, and it represents precisely the element of “mystery” that Einstein was referring to.  I don’t fault them.  I also found the story to be scary, provocative and inexplicably mysterious.  In a huge irony, when Wayne began exploring his own spirituality, he deduced that “God was not logical.”  Reading his story leads me to agree with his original assumption.

When the final draft of the manuscript was complete, I sought advice from several trusted friends, from a wide variety of beliefs.  I asked whether the chapter should be included or not. The response was emphatic, and unanimous; all agreed that it should be.

Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined ever writing a book.  Even more remotely would be the possibility that I would follow Loren Eiseley so closely that I would experience similar prejudice and rejection.  He received “harsh letters of castigation” from scientists, denouncing him for being too religious.  He received equally harsh letters from religious folks, who denounced him for being too scientific.

He wrote:


“Most people, it seems, distrust all images but their own.”


“We search and bicker and disagree; the eternal form eludes us.”


Wayne’s story has been released into the Cosmos.  If it causes the book to be burned or banned, it certainly won’t be the first time for this to happen.  Although it has caused me some frustration and despair, it has also provided great excitement.  I join with Einstein in celebrating the pure mystery of it.  As for my scientific critics?—unlike the bunny in The Golden Egg, they will eternally refuse to accept the fact that there are things, “Out There” that will never be explained scientifically.  This is something that their super-inflated egos will simply not allow.



Bristlecone Pines, Jesus and BOFAW

Bristlecone Pines, Jesus and BOFAW


Small children often lack the ability to conceptualize time.  Adults are not that much better off.  Who can comprehend a Bristlecone Pine seed germinating and growing for over 5,000 years?  Some began living 3,000 years before Christ was born and if they look more dead than alive it is because they have endured 1,825,000 days.  What lessons on life doe they have for us?

One of the earliest (and dearest) fans of BOFAW opined that the book was “obviously written from a Christian perspective.”  I didn’t ask whether it was a criticism or a compliment, but my emotions took over and my spirits (and ego) soared.  After all, setting aside the mentally baffling Christian Trinity, most scholars and world religious leaders regard Jesus as one of the world’s greatest teachers and prophets.  Imagining that our little book could have followed his footprints, even slightly, was a heady experience.

Thankfully, however, I returned to reality.  If BOFAW were supposed to be an accurate reflection of the Biodesign Class, then it was not written form a Christian perspective.  In fact, there were numerous quotes and ideas taken from all major world religions regarding how they perceived and described Mother Nature.  Furthermore, based on my experience detailed in chap. 3, “The Fire Storm,” I decided that believing in God was not unlike catching poison oak; some people get it and some people don’t and no amount of word-making will likely change that.  The choice to believe or not (if it is a choice) is a deeply personal one and involves a man and his Creator (or not).

What was obvious, however, was that the class could not have survived if it were not based on five of the “Ten Commandments” ascribed to Moses.  If we discussed them formally we would have agreed that commandments 1-2-4-5 & 10 were beyond the bounds of the Class.  Even though Erich Fromm described the importance of the concept of; “The love of God,” it was not something that we considered.  We did, however, acknowledge that commandments 3-6-7-8-&9 were critically important.  We avoided profanity (usually) and generally agreed that murder, stealing, lying and having sex, in class or on the field trips, were not permissible.

I have read that there are 613 laws or commandments in the Jewish Faith.  That seems like a staggering number to keep track of, perhaps because I am not Jewish.  From my very limited Biblical knowledge, however, apparently Jesus had the audacity to reduce the list to two: “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  As Loren Eiseley pointed out “the idea was radical and shook the world like a storm.”  Again, the first rule was not within the scope of the Biodesign Class, however, the second rule was truly the glue that held the class together, or without proper discipline, tore The Class apart.

The students were, by nature, “loveable,” however a few occasionally acted in ways that were not loveable.  I had a student look me in the eye and lie about smoking pot on a Grand Canyon trip, after he had promised he would not.  He selfishly ignored the fact that if the school board heard of the abuse, the class would likely have been cancelled.  It was devastating.  However, they were not alone.  When I was rested I could usually handle the demands of leadership in a loving, supportive manner.  However, on many trips, intense stress, fatigue and fear conspired to overwhelm me and reduced me to the “Cathy’s Dogs” syndrome detailed in BOFAW, chap. 25, “Lessons From The Ark.”  Whenever any love-lapse occurred, the only path to reconciliation was hopefully a quick apology and a request to be forgiven.  These were always embarrassing, at times, humiliating.

The reason that it was important for me to iterate, over and over, that the Biodesign Class was not a religion class and not a veiled form of Christian evangelism was precisely because it was neither.  I imagined The Class as a grand smorgasbord of ideas and students were free to adopt any ideas they deemed valuable.  The concept of “loving your neighbor as yourself” is a universal concept that belongs to all mankind.  I am utterly convinced that any group of young adults, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality or gender, exposed to the Biodesign curriculum, would have responded in a similar, loving manner.

I would also like to think that the stories and events, recorded in BOFAW, belong to all mankind, which is the purpose of the book.  The search for truth beauty and goodness has no boundaries or exclusions.

Love, peace, namaste, shalom, LY

The Biology Of Love–Part III

The Biology Of Love  Part III

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have   discovered fire.         Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

One of the highlights of the Mendocino trip was a “blind walk” down part of the Fern Canyon Trail.  The rules were simple:  Line up, roses and thorns, either roses or thorns put a blind fold on, join hands and observe the rule of total silence; no whispering, giggling, tittering etc.  At the half-way mark, maintaining the silence, slowly remove the blindfold and install one on your partner.  The results for the classes that followed the rules were stunning.  When our eyes are open they gobble up 75% of the available sensory energy, leaving 25% to be divided between the other four senses.  When the eyes are closed, the non-visual senses become more active and acute.  This is why, in no small part, people often choose to close their eyes during prayer, contemplation or meditation.  At the end of the walk, the blindfolds were removed and the silence was broken with a burst of chatter.  Most of them had “visualized,” or felt and heard things that were totally new to them.  When they crawled through an old redwood tree trunk, under a limb or over a small bridge, they felt utterly blind and helpless.  Truly they had put their trust in their partner’s hand.  During the debriefing it was common for the girls to describe feeling confidence and trust; not so much for the guys.  Hopefully, I refrained from injecting any analysis or possible symbolism, but let their inner voices be their guide.

There were, of course, many possible lessons, either physical, mental or spiritual.  I have often been confused by a passage, somewhere in the Bible that states, “Let those who have eyes see and those who have ears listen.”  Well lah tee dah.  In spiritual terms are we not all blind, so what good is that?  It’s as bad as the corny quip, “I see, said the blind man to his deaf wife.”  But then I am reminded about the first time Biodesigners led me out to Plateau Point deep within in Grand Canyon.  We could “feel” the silence before we could look down into the inner gorge.  It also reminded me that we desperately need Nature and other people to help guide and direct our spiritual growth.  Robert Burns wrote: “To see ourselves as others see us, would from many a blunder free us.”  John Muir once quipped, “People depend on a small glass dial, with a magnetic needle inside, to guide them out of the wilderness and ignore the fact that their Creator can be a spiritual guide.”

Like many ideas like this, I felt it was important to encourage students to question, probe and explore possible options, but not my job to suggest or recommend possible pathways.  At some point each year I cited, “The Teachings of Don Juan,” by Carlos Castaneda: “Does this path have a heart?  If it does, the path is good and you should stay on it.  If it does not, you should leave it.”

Like many of the field trip activities, the blind walk was mostly experiential with no right or wrong answer or experience.  My hope for them was that they would gather new insights, information, perhaps a bit of wisdom on their personal journey of finding the fire within.