“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
This is a wonderfully interconnected triad that gifted naturalist Annie Dillard would regard as a “bright snarl.” Without a Creator there would be no “astronomy” or evolution. Without evolution the universe would be oxymoronically stuck in the first nanosecond, before time began, with no cosmos. And with no cosmos, humans would not have evolved with the ability to contemplate the works of the Creator.
Two gifted writers have properly suggested that “Mystery” reigns supreme and only egoism and arrogance motivate scientists and theologians to assume that they have all relevant answers. Robert Jastro, former director of the National Aeronautics And Space Administration (“Until The Sun Dies,” and “God and the Astronomers”) acknowledged the limitations of “The Big Bang Theory:”
“At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Jastro was a self-described agnostic, yet he used candor and levity to describe the inadequacy of his own thought process.
In an equally terse self-analysis, Fr. Robert Capon, “Hunting The Divine Fox stated:”
“Theology therefore is fun. The inveterate temptation to make something earnest out of it must be steadfastly resisted. We were told quite plainly that unless we became as little children, we could not enter the kingdom of heaven, and nowhere more than in theology do we need to take this message to heart.”
The “Big Bang,” the origin of life and the eventual evolution of human beings remain three of the great, unsolved mysteries of planet Earth. Anthropologist Loren Eiseley concluded his work, The Immense Journey with:
“Rather, I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, ‘but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.’”
In his own words, “The Autobiography of Charles Darwin:”
“When thus reflecting [‘on the universe, including man’] I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man’ and I deserve to be called a Theist.”
Shame on Richard Dawkins, and other science atheists who deny, obfuscate, pervert or “cherry pick” Darwin’s words. They have sabotaged Darwin’s message to make it conform their soulless world, and what a cold, heartless world it must be. If one of Dawkins’ minions decides to initiate a nuclear war, he could shrug it of as a “random” result of Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” It is staggering to know that an overwhelming number of high school, college/university biology teachers agree with Dawkins.
Secular scientists are quick to point out that human beings and chimpanzees share 97% of the same DNA. While the fossil evidence suggests that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor over 5 million years ago, the obvious fact remains that chimps are chimps and humans evolved into the most extraordinary animals on the planet. Evidently that 3% increase led to the world’s greatest artists, poets, sages, musicians and, ironically, even scientists like Dawkins.
Much of Darwin’s theory can be proven in the laboratory and in the field. For 1000s of years, people have used “selective breeding” and “mass selection” as a means to develop more productive and useful plants and animals. However, this does not mean that his theory is complete and flawless. After a discussion with Alfred Wallace, he acknowledged that he failed to explain human “gifts” such as mathematical, musical and artistic genius. These qualities are almost totally absent in chimpanzees.
All of the genetic changes Darwin observed were minor and only rendered the offspring a small advantage of survival. Loren Eiseley quipped; the human brain grew “like a mushroom in the night.” This has equipped man with an indeterminate period of time of mental growth. There is no known biological cause for the rapid expansion of the two human cerebral hemispheres.
Lamarck’s theory of use and disuse is of no value.
The Leakey family, Louis, Mary and Richard verified the increased cranial capacity of modern man, but they did not demonstrate the compelling factor.
Stephen Jay Gould was a big fan of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” however he failed to show why or how the human embryo (in evolutionary time) suddenly gained the ability to generate a triple-sized brain.
Gould was also a fan of “punctuated equilibrium” which may explain the “fits and spurts of evolution,” but he could not explain the evolution of the human brain.
Pathetically, human geneticist, Richard Dawkins, recently inferred that the human brain evolved out of “nothing.”
The latest wrinkle in the evolution battle is the emerging consideration of “Intelligent Design.” Although the theory suggests that evolution is not a random, chance-born process, it does not describe a “designated designer.” Therefore, “Intelligent Design” does not explain the emergence of the human brain.
The fact of the matter is, by virtue of the laws of chance and probability, the human brain should never have evolved and so it is not surprising that its origin remains a mystery. Considering the universe, with its boggling time/space dimensions, life on Earth is supremely enigmatic. The Earth has been evolving for 4.5 billion years and yielded millions of plant and animal species before man arrived. Darwinian evolution does not need or explain “man.” If all these living forms survived by “instinct,” what need is there for consciousness, values, or free will? If “modern man” evolved 5 million years ago, we have lived on Earth 0.01% of its history and yet arrogant practitioners of Scientism claim that Mystery is irrelevant and that they have all the necessary answers.
Meanwhile, there is a moral and ethical disease that is pandemic in our society and had afflicted scientists as well. It is called “situational ethics” and scientists use it frequently. Lacking any evidence for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of the first cell or the tripling of the human brain, secular scientists either ignore or obfuscate the issues or make up their own ethics and pander them as truth.
Photo credit: Toscano: Darwin’s Ape. Available Amazon.com
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” – Albert Einstein
There are a growing number of practitioners of “scientism” who become exercised when their critics suggest that science may have some wrong conclusions. Paraphrasing Einstein’s logic, all scientists have been wrong on some issues or else they would have become a god.
Ptolemy, the Greek mathematician/astronomer, proposed a geocentric model for our solar system that lasted for 1400 years. Imagine that! For 1400 years, scientists and scholars walked around thinking that they knew the “truth” about the solar system. Ironically, history has repeated itself, as many scientists think that their thoughts are the center of the universe.
Lamarck was wrong about his theory of “use and disuse” and that acquired traits were passed on to offspring. Scientists of that time believed that mice mysteriously emerged from piles of rags and worms spontaneously grew in mud puddles.
Einstein was wrong about the “Steady State” theory and admitted that he falsified some data to favor his conclusions. Later, he sorrowfully acknowledged that it was the greatest mistake in his career.
In his autobiography, Charles Darwin admitted that his theory of evolution could not explain the origin of life or the evolution of humans. This confession is conveniently ignored by an overwhelming majority of high school and university biology teachers.
Carl Sagan’s description of how the first cells were formed (“COSMOS”) is pure fantasy, but is still being taught to millions of US students.
Nobel prize winner, Dr. Roger Sperry stated:
“One of the great unresolved paradoxes of science involves consciousness, free will and values, three long-standing thorns in the hide of science. Materialist science couldn’t cope with any of them, even in principle. It’s not just that they’re difficult. They’re in direct conflict with basic models. Science has had to renounce them—to deny their existence or to say that they are beyond the domain of science.”
In a recent debate on evolution, Richard Dawkins became one of Einstein’s fools as he tried to describe how evolution came from “NOTHING.” When the audience laughed, he looked puzzled and asked, “What’s so funny about that?” What he failed to grasp was that the people, who he regarded as intellectually inferior, used his own words to deduce that he was inferring that his brain must have evolved out of nothing. Little wonder they could not contain their laughter.
In his book, “The Great Design,” Stephen Hawking claims that the universe is so complex that it made itself out of “nothing,” which has rendered God obsolete. Either Hawking is wrong or the fundamental laws of physics (matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed) are wrong.
There is nothing wrong with making errors during scientific research. In fact, the entire process of the scientific method depends on testing hypotheses to see if they are flawed. However, science becomes dangerously flawed when a “scientist undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge [and] is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
There are many who think that Einstein’s contribution to society, as a humanitarian was more valuable than his work as a scientist. If this is so, then it is not surprising that his legendary last words were, “I still wonder how something could come from nothing?”.
Assuming that we don’t destroy ourselves first, what current scientific knowledge that we believe is factual, will people in 100 years laugh about?
Although I am not an authority on “Intelligent Design,” due to a very strange mystery over 40 years ago, along with some very curious high school students, we discovered the “ID” concept before it was named “Intelligent Design.” In a collective act of brilliance, the students questioned the efficacy of the traditional educational model of “massive memorization of minutiae” and subsequent mental regurgitation. Instead, they envisioned a high school advanced biology curriculum that featured creative, critical and investigative thinking.
They named the Class “Biodesign” and dedicated it to “the illimitable freedom of the human mind.” Of course, this included exploring the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. They discovered that he was a brilliantly creative biologist, however he was not a god and his theory had some major flaws.
After 40 years of exploring “biodesigns” I compiled some of the highlights in a book titled “Biodesign Out For a Walk.” Some readers have suggested that chapters 10 and 11 should be edited as a balanced curriculum addendum for high school biology classes. In the back of the book is a reference list of over 100 books that we used for guidance. Here are my top ten favorites.
1. “The Immense Journey,” by Loren Eiseley. This is one of the finest science books ever written. The book is about biology/anthropology/evolution; it is not a book about philosophy, religion or human spirituality, however all of those topics are understandably intertwined. Among the many awards Eiseley received was the Pierre Lecomte du Nouÿ award, presented to writers who described the overarching themes that unite science and religion.
2. “The Autobiography of Charles Darwin.” It is absolutely numbing that high school and university biology teachers almost universally ignore or obfuscate Darwin’s admission that he had no clue about human evolution.
3. “The Great Evolution Mystery” by Gordon Taylor. This is an excellent book and objectively approaches some remaining mysteries about evolution. He points out that Darwin’s Theory cannot explain “organs of extreme perfection”, like the human eye and brain.
4. “Alfred Russel Wallace; A rediscovered life.” Although this wasn’t published until after I retired, it is an excellent review of how Darwin and Wallace agreed and disagreed and corroborated many ideas that our students discovered. Wallace pointed out that Darwin had no explanation for the human “gifts” of musical, mathematical and artistic genius. They are not consistent with Mendel’s laws of genetics; therefore their origin remains a mystery.
5. “The Wilderness World of John Muir.” John Muir may be the greatest naturalist the world has known. This book was a huge part of the class, because many of the student revelations occurred in wilderness areas of Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Muir was the founder of the Sierra Club and regarded as “father” of the US National Parks Service. His life and work serve as a spiritual beacon for scores of millions of Nature enthusiasts. “From the dust of the earth, from the common elementary fund, the Creator has made Homo sapiens.” Does this involve “Intelligent Design”?
6. “Religions—Values and Peak Experiences“, by Abraham Maslow. Maslow, a noted psychologist, suggested that the study of human “spirituality” should be included in a “suitably enlarged” high school biology curriculum. He cited ways that, if done properly, the studies need not violate Constitutional laws separating Church and State.
7. “The Road Less traveled.” by Scott Peck. This book was on the NY Times best-seller’s list for over 10 years. Peck addressed the importance of balancing human physical, mental and spiritual components to achieve a harmonious life.
8. “Walden,” and “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” by Henry Thoreau. Many students observed (as Eiseley warned) that many evolutionary scientists have distorted scientific evidence in order to support their agnostic or atheistic beliefs. However, their greatest concern was with Thoreau’s cautionary reflection:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
They understood his warning that materialism, scientism and soulless pursuits were potential threats to their spiritual growth.
9. “The Soul of The World.” This little book is one of the most beautiful books in my library. It includes some of Eric Lawton’s amazing photographs of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Each photo is matched with some of the most profound poetry and wisdom as well as marvels and wonders of our planet.
10. “As a Man Thinketh.” by James Allen. James Allen’s philosophy became possible when liberal Protestantism discarded the stern dogma that man is sinful by nature. Instead it suggested the optimistic belief in man’s innate goodness and divine rationality. This reversal of doctrine, according to William James (the father of American Psychology) was the “greatest revolution of the 19th Century.” It was part of a move toward reconciliation between science and religion following Darwin’s publication of “The Origin of Species.” Darwin himself, hinted at the change in belief in “The Decent of Man” where he wrote: “the highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”
Although I have studied “Intelligent Designs” for over 40 years, I have more questions now than answers. This is not discouraging, however, because I am in the company of some of the great minds.
Meister Eckhart, 13th Century mystic, theologian, philosopher suggested: “The deepest secrets of life will not be discovered by science.”
Louis Thomas, author of, “Lives of a Cell,” suggested that a single cell is so complex that humans will not be able to fully comprehend or reproduce its functions.
Roger Sperry: Nobel Prize winner for pioneering “split-brain” brain research. He correctly pointed out that evolutionists have not explained the origin of human values, consciousness or free will. “Materialist science couldn’t cope with any of them, even in principle. It’s not just that they are difficult. They are in direct conflict with basis models. Science has had to renounce them—to deny their existence or say that they are beyond the domain of science.”
Albert Einstein wrote: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of that or that element. I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” (Intelligent Design)?
Loren Eiseley concluded “The Immense Journey:” “I do not think, if someone finally twists the key successfully in the tiniest and most humble house of life, that many of these questions will be answered, or that the dark forces which create lights in the deep sea and the living batteries in tropical swamps, or the dreaded cycles of parasites, or the most noble workings of the human brain, will be much if at all revealed. Rather, I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, ‘but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.’”
“Everything You Need To Know Is Contained In a Flower.” Buddha
Excerpt: “The Immense Journey” [How Flowers Changed The World] by Loren Eiseley.
“A little while ago—about one hundred million years, as the geologist estimates time in the history of our four-billion-year-old planet—flowers were not to be found anywhere on the five continents. Wherever one might have looked, from the poles to the equator, one would have only seen only the cold dark monotonous green of a world whose plant life possessed no other color.
Somewhere, just a short time before the close of the Age of Reptiles, there occurred a soundless, violent explosion. It lasted millions of years, but it was an explosion nevertheless. It marked the emergence of the angiosperms—the flowering plants. Even the great evolutionist, Charles Darwin, called them “an abominable mystery,” because they appeared so suddenly and spread so fast… The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it ours.”
Living 600 years before Christ, Buddha lacked modern geological and botanical knowledge. However, his wisdom about flowers rings just as true today as when he proposed it.
Even though St. Helena is a relatively small town (where everyone knows everyone else’s business) I suspect that only Tom Burke’s family, a few friends and colleagues knew that, before he became a teacher, he seriously considered entering a Catholic seminary in order to become a priest. Obviously, his children and the nearly 1000 ex-students are grateful for his career reconsideration. However, he did not entirely cast his passion for the sacred aside. He excelled at teaching science, which included the mysteries and wonders of Mother Nature. Tom and John Muir were kindred spirits. In the introduction to “The Wilderness World of John Muir,” Edwin Teal wrote this about Muir:
“Yet he was intensely religious. The forests and mountains formed his temple. His approach to all nature was worshipful. He saw everything evolving yet everything the direct handiwork of God. There was a spiritual and religious exaltation in his experiences with nature.”
For those who knew and loved Tom, there is a striking similarity between Muir’s approach to Nature and his approach to working with students. He regarded each one as a special creation of God and treated him/her accordingly. This was rarely easy and poignantly described in Pierre Lecomte du Nouy’s classic book, “Human Destiny.”
“When a child begins to speak and to think, one must not be afraid to make his brain and his memory work. The quality of a child’s memory is surprising and is rapidly lost. The coordinating power between his ears and organs of speech is prodigious and rarely persists beyond the age of ten. A child can, without difficulty, learn to speak two or three languages fluently, without an accent, but this becomes almost impossible when he is over ten years old, and at that time requires a great deal of work and effort which, at that age, arouses a contrary reaction, a protestation, thus handicapping the result.”
Tom taught the fifth grade, which has been compared to trying to herd 25 hyperactive kittens in one direction. I am sure there were many moments when even Job’s patience would have been tried, but Tom handled these with a rare combination of patience and understanding.
Tom joined the Biodesign Class of ’85 on their trip to Grand Canyon. He was almost “monk-like” regarding his attire and was satisfied taking his old army boots along. Unfortunately, the soles were worn smooth and the upper 3 miles of the South Kaibab Trail were covered with three feet of ice and snow. The scene might have been funny except he scared us half to death; “step-slip-down on his butt! step-slip-down on his butt.” Several times he skidded to the trail’s edge, only to look down several thousand feet into the great abyss. It was the longest three miles that many of us had ever ‘hiked.”
Tom was genuinely scared, but he handled his fear with dignity, humor and grace. In fact, I think that would be a wonderful epitaph for him: Tom Burke handled life with dignity, humor and grace.
Mr. Burke had a huge impact on many of his students. Whether they learned important curricular or co-curricular lessons was left up to them, but I know that some of them went on to become teachers with the hopes of following in his foot prints.
In, The Great Evolution Mystery, Gordon Taylor explains why Darwin’s Theory of evolution does not account for “organs of extreme perfection.” This includes the human eye. Human eyes contain over 100 million cells that all must function in perfect synchrony in order for people to see properly. Although ophthalmologists know much about eyes, it remains a total mystery as to how the light image, focused on the retina, can be converted into biochemical data and transmitted via optic nerves to the brain. How the brain decodes the data and displays it as a visual image is yet another mystery.
Anthropologist Loren Eiseley agrees, however, he expanded the mystery to include the origin of life, which he pointed out Darwin also failed to explain. Eiseley contended that it doesn’t matter what we call the mystery, only that we are aware that it exists. Furthermore, he opined that those who fail to acknowledge “The Mystery” are in danger of ceasing to be fully human.
Albert Einstein agreed, but expressed a more forceful position: “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
Contemplating frog eyes, and lacking a time or place for the origin of life on Earth, Eiseley alluded to the possibility that life may have come from somewhere across the “pond of space.”
“Yet whenever I see a frog’s eye low in the water warily ogling the shoreward landscape, I always think inconsequentially of those twiddling mechanical eyes that mankind manipulates nightly from a thousand observatories. Someday, with a telescopic lens an acre in extent, we are going to see something not to our liking, some looming shape outside there across the great pond of space. Whenever I catch a frog’s eye I am aware of this, but I do not find it depressing. I stand quite still and try hard not to move or lift a hand since it would only frighten him. And standing thus it finally comes to me that this is the most enormous extension of vision of which life is capable: the projection of itself into other lives. This is the lonely, magnificent power of humanity. It is far more than any spatial adventure, the supreme epitome of reaching out.”
The fossil record of frogs indicates that they began to evolve from fish about 400 million years ago. However, “modern” frogs emerged about 200 million years ago. Ergo: The eye you are looking at has undergone 0ver 400 million years of evolutionary change.
With a mystery like that, is it not a fool’s errand to bicker over Creation or Evolution?
Like the classic concept of “yin-yang,” both words may reflect a cybernetic mutualism in which one word cannot exist without the other.
This is precisely what Eiseley was suggesting in his classic book, “The Immense Journey.”
If you are feeling a little spiritually deflated, enlarge the frog image and concentrate on it for one full minute and see if you can connect with 400 million years of time and change.
Perhaps it will encourage you to Celebrate the Mystery!
Although there is some doubt as to the author of the lyrics for “Jesus Christ The Apple Tree,” many musicologists have suggested that they were inspired by the Biblical book; “Song of Solomon,” 2:3:
“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
Although the authorship of the lyrics may be in doubt, Elizabeth Posten is credited with the most popular melody version. However, the beauty, mystery and wonder of the hymn may be highly influenced by the arrangement (instrumentation) and where and how it is performed.
Understandably, there are many inspiring versions that have been sung in churches and cathedrals, however, my very favorite was produced by Thomas Moore in a CD titled: “The Soul of Christmas: a Celtic Music Celebration with Thomas Moore.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pKdbstX9PE
Organ music has its place, however, the combination of Celtic instruments and the beautiful voices of Susan McKeown and Nikki Matheson produce a deep sense of rural spirituality that conjures up visions of the Irish, Scottish and English countryside. Additionally, the mystery, wonder and poignancy are intensified when we appreciate the darkness out of which the song emerged.
The Celts were people in Iron Age and Medieval Europe who spoke Celtic languages and had cultural similarities.
In the 5th century BC Herodotus referred to Keltoi living around the head of the Danube and also in the far west of Europe. In the first century BC Julius Caesar reported that the people known to the Romans as Gauls (Galli) called themselves Celts, which suggests that even if the name Keltoi was bestowed by the Greeks, it had been adopted to some extent as a collective name by the tribes of Gaul. The Celtic ethos included severing the heads of enemies, a practice that Roman soldiers regarded as barbaric. [Some info adapted from Wikipedia]
Understandably, without the guarantee of food that modern agriculture has accorded billions of people, the Celts lived close to the earth and relied on the capricious whim of 100s of deities. They also believed in animism, which suggested that all forms of life possess a soul. The Druids were the educated sect of Celts and were responsible for religious ceremonies. This included the practice of human sacrifice which the Greeks and Romans also described as barbaric.
Modern Christmas celebrations in the US are often a mélange of customs and beliefs that range from frivolous to deeply sacred. However few people know that the practice of couples kissing under the mistletoe was derived from the Druid practice of all the men kissing the most beautiful female virgin of a village, under an oak tree with mistletoe, before she was burned as a sacrifice to the “god of the harvest.” Little wonder that practices like these are now considered pagan.
The birth of Christ radically changed various religious and ethnic beliefs and practices. This spiritual awakening, and subsequent evolution, may not have been more dramatic than within the Celtic society. As more and more Celts embraced Christ’s message of “peace on Earth, good will toward men,” the Celts became far less barbaric and far more compassionate. However, they did not give up their deep love of nature or connection to the earth.
Perhaps, one of the most beautiful examples of them blending their past with their new knowledge is the Celtic version of, Jesus Christ The Apple Tree.
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.
I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For over 2,000 years, Christ’s life, light and legacy have been rejected, ridiculed, scorned and scoffed at, however, the nearly 3 billion, self-confessed sinners, still try to follow His example and for them, Christmas Day is the most wondrous and sacred birthday celebration of the year.
“NO WONDERLAND WOULD be complete without pygmies and giants, and Mendocino did not disappoint. It may be the only place on our planet that features pygmies and giants in both plant and animal kingdoms. There is still at least one remaining sequoia sempervirens that towers over 350 feet tall, has a diameter of over 24 feet, and is over 2,000 years old. The record number of board feet harvested from a single redwood tree was nearly 500,000, or enough to build over 20 modest homes. Although the present [second-growth] trees bordering the pygmy are only 150 feet tall, they stand in sharp contrast to the nearby pygmy cypresses that can be adult at six inches tall, less than an inch in diameter, and are rarely more than 150 years old. “
Although this Mario Vaden photo was taken in Humboldt County, there is one remaining Giant Sequoia Sempervirens left in Mendocino County. It was a seedling before Christ was born and has survived over 2,000 years of Earth’s history.
This photo shows the difficulty this girl is having trying to wrap her arms, mind and spirit around this powerful, majestic tree. Interestingly, her arm-span looks to be about 5 feet, which would make the diameter of this tree over 20 feet.One of the greatest American socio-educational failures is that, in a nation with such a rich abundance of natural wonders, very few inner-city kids will ever experience the rapture and wonder of wrapping their arms around trees like this. Little wonder they often turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their senses to the ravages of poverty and deprivation. There has been a cataclysmic breakdown of the traditional nuclear family and parents and children are dying from broken spirits, thus broken hearts.
After writing this, I was reminded of a paragraph of John Muir’s writing.
“After I had lived many years in the mountains, I spent my first winter in San Francisco, writing up my notes. I used to run out on short excursions to Mt. Tamalpais, or hills across the bay, for rest and exercise, and I always brought back as many flowers as I could carry. It was most touching to see the quick and natural enthusiasm in the hearts of the ragged, neglected, defrauded, dirty little wretches of the Tar Flat water-front of the city I used to pass through on my way home. As soon as they caught sight of my wild bouquet, they quit their pitiful attempts at amusement in the miserable city streets and ran after me begging for a flower.“Please, Mister give me a flower—give me a flower, Mister,” in a humble begging tone as if expecting to be refused. And when I stopped and distributed the treasures, giving each a lily or daisy or calachortus, anemone, gilia, flowering Dogwood, a spray of Ceanothus, Manzanita or a branch of Redwood, their dirty faces glowed with enthusiasm while they gazed at them and fondled them reverently as if looking into the faces of angels of heaven It was a hopeful sign, and made me say: ‘No matter into what depths of degradation humanity may sink, I will never despair while the lowest love the pure and beautiful and know it when they see it.’”
Muir was considered a “fool” for predicting that all of the Giant Redwoods could be cut down. Even though he founded the Sierra Club, and other conservation groups, like Save The Redwoods, followed his lead, 95% of the virgin Redwood Forest was logged. Currently, approximately 5% remains, 3% is protected in National and State Parks and 2% is privately owned.
Thank you to those who have wondered if we are OK here in the Napa Valley. Although the fire is called, “The Valley Fire,” it did not reach Napa Valley. Miraculously, rains on Wed. 9-16-15 slowed the firestorm and hopefully it will be contained in northeast Napa County, just north of Aetna Springs.
Saturday, 9-12-15, 9:30 PM:
A caravan of fire trucks roared through downtown St. Helena with sirens screaming. I thought it was odd because the community siren (that alerts our local volunteer firemen) had not sounded. I went outdoors to investigate. The engines were headed north so it seemed logical to look in that direction. Mountains to the west and north border our property, however, I could see a very scary red glow above the horizon through notch in the north-facing mountain. My knees trembled as panic-induced adrenaline surged through my veins. And if that weren’t enough, I got a whiff of the acrid smell of forest-fire smoke. All of Nature’s calamities can be terrifying, however, being consumed by fire must be the most horrifying way to die. I had no idea where the fire was, but a quick call to the SHPD information # informed me that there were no fires in Napa County. Somewhat relieved, but still curious, I Googled “Cal-Fire” for any information. The site noted that a fire was burning on Cobb Mountain, about 30 miles north of us in Lake County. This piqued my interest because 50 years ago I lived on Cobb Mt. and started my teaching career at Middletown High School.The fire was still relatively small and I went to bed assuming that ever-dutiful Cal-Fire would respond quickly and bring the fire under control. It was a huge misassumption. As a 37-year veteran biology teacher, I used to tell my students that man exists at the pleasure of Nature and not the other way around. 24 hours later, that law became a horrible reality as I discovered that in less than 24 hours over 50% of the town of Middletown had been scorched to the ground.
Amazingly, the firefighters were able to save all of the schools in Middletown, as well as the little one-room elementary “schoolhouse” on Cobb Mountain. However, the Middletown superintendent of schools just announced that, although all schools were saved, major smoke-damage and ash issues need to be corrected. The Middletown High School principal lost his home, as did 35 other teachers and school district employees. The latest info from Cal-Fire indicates that over 600 homes have been destroyed.
I only taught three years there, but I established ties with students that will last for a lifetime. It was devastating to see these students (now grandparents) interviewed on the media and posting their stories on Fb. The firestorm roared through town so fast that some residents left their homes in their pajamas and slippers. Veteran firefighters described the fire as like nothing they had ever seen.
Several emergency evacuation shelters were quickly established, including one at he Napa County Fairgrounds located at Calistoga, Ca. The response to requests for food, supplies and clothing from the Bay Area has been astounding. A nurse volunteered to help anyone with health issues. A local Vet offered his services to any of the large and small animals that needed assistance. Hundreds of volunteers have helped with meals, sorting through mounds of clothing trying to match what is available with what is needed and scores of other chores. Many of these volunteers are Calistogans, but some have come from Sacramento, San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. A convoy of trucks and trailers with hay, alfalfa, clothing, sundries and toiletries arrived at Middletown from Humboldt County. Costco, Wal-Mart, and many other commercial business, have donated food and supplies. Calistoga merchants and merchants from all over Napa County, have donated food, equipment and supplies. Christie and I visited the shelter to drop off some camping equipment. It was overwhelming to see over 1,000 men, women and children trying to resettle in RVs, trailers, tents and the large pavilion hall with sleeping cots.
This is a tragic story from which some may never fully recover. To date, one woman and two men were trapped and perished in the fire. However, the fire has also provided the dreaded opportunity for people to act in extraordinary ways. Over 3,500 ground firefighters; bulldozer operators, helicopter and retardant bomber pilots literally put their lives on the line, trying to quell the raging inferno. Neighbors helped neighbors protect their homes or with rapid evacuation.
Events like these can be a sobering reminder that life is precious and fragile and should not be taken for granted. We live in a time when science and technology can avert many potential natural disasters, however, Mother Nature can be cruel and indifferent with her forces that shape the Earth. In a tragic irony, Middletown High School was scheduled to celebrate their Homecoming football game this weekend.
The Red Cross was the appointed lead emergency organization, but unfortunately they experienced some glitches before they achieved reasonable command, control and co-ordination of the numerous groups that wanted to help. Understandably, mobilizing and directing personnel to meet the instant needs of 1,000 people can be daunting. San Francisco and Tokyo are both multi-million, high-density populations that are built on, or dangerously close to major tectonic plate fault lines. It is sobering to wonder how FEMA or the Red Cross could handle a crisis with over 1 million casualties.
One amazing example of the human potential to cope with unspeakable adversity was recorded on one of the Bay Area news shows. A grizzly-faced man, in his mid-70’s, was asked by a reporter how he was faring. He twisted his face into a difficult smile and said, “Well I lost my car, house and all of my possessions, but I have my dog and a tent to sleep in so at least I am not homeless.”