Archive for September, 2012

Friendship with nature

Faced with ecological degradation in parts of the world, a number of writers have begun to see companionship or even friendship with nature as a way of revisioning our relationship with the  natural world. This is not an effort to treat animals or plants in a sentimental or overly romantic way. Rather, it is in part an effort to discover new theological bases to express the proper relationship between humans, animals, or trees.

— Neil Vaney, Christ in a Grain of Sand, p. 109


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Classic writings on friendship have highlighted four different modes of being friends. The first is affective love and support; such a friend is always loyal, uncritical, and readily praises. The second sort is much more linked to common activities; it covers people who delight in sailing a yacht or playing cards together. The third variety is more based on intellectual sharing; such friends enjoy sharing ideas and new discoveries, reading the same books or going to films together to discuss them afterward. Fourth, we have the loyal critic, one who points out possible flaws in our personal or professional behavior that need to be addressed, for example, a business mentor or personal tutor.

— Neil Vaney, Christ in a Grain of Sand, p. 108

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Changing landscape

When we go back to where we were born, we are sometimes shocked by new apartments, shops, old identities dead and gone, yet the land, the shape of hills, rivers, and plains is still familiar. If it were possible to see back millions of years ago, we would be more shocked for even the mountains and great rivers might not be there. A younger and more savage land might be thousands of miles from where it now lies. For each of the continents is slowly sliding on vast plates riding the heat surges that make the mantle of our earth arch and buckle over the millenia.

— Neil Vaney, Christ in a Grain of Sand, p. 46

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Ambushed by the night sky

Late one winter I was hiking with some university students in the Hollyford Valley in Fiordland. It is the mountainous region of New Zealand, famed for its jagged ranges, intensely green and forested river valleys, and frequent torrential downpours. We were staying in a cabin in the motor camp. I walked across the camp to use the bathroom facilities and was ambushed by the night sky. No light save the stars reached there, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest large city. In that inky darkness the constellations blazed with fierce intensity, the carpet of the sky right across the valley festooned with spiral nebulae, clumpy constellations, individual jewel-like stars, and liberal dustings of galaxies so distant they were like flour scattered on the rolling board of the heavens. Our beautiful earth seems a complex and unique home. As we look out through the Milky Way, we are peering through the million, million stars of our galaxy; and this is just one of the more than a billion galaxies we know of in the universe.

— Neil Vaney, Christ in a Grain of Sand, p. 50

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Pre-natal classes

Something has been lost, but something new is beginning. Try to experience the losses involved in transition no so much as death rehearsals, but, more creatively, as prenatal classes.

— Margaret Silf, The Other Side of Chaos, p. 153

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Good things happen

Good luck? Bad luck? Does luck even come into it?

Bad things happen, and when we look back, we realize that good things sometimes come about not just in spite of but because of those bad things happening.

— Margaret Silf, The Other Side of Chaos, p. 54

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New life

We possess a strong tendency to hang on to what we know, and we are reluctant to risk letting go of the familiar to make way for what we don’t yet know. This is a bit like hanging on to the life of a terminally ill patient and refusing to switch off the life-support machine even when the patient has no chance of surviving. We hold on, for example, to institutions that are clearly dying or dead and are beginning to turn toxic. We hold on to ways of doing things that may have worked when we were young but have been superseded by several new generations. For Christians, to refuse to let things die when their time has come is tantamount to saying that we don’t believe in resurrection. Jesus reminds us that a seed has to fall into the ground and die, rot, and disintegrate before the new life can sprout from it. When we are in the crisis of transition, we are acutely aware of this dynamic working itself out in our own situations.

— Margaret Silf, The Other Side of Chaos, p. 96-97

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