Sunday, February 28, 2016

School science III: Christian science

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7, KJV

Looking several stories down on the west coast of Ireland.
I do not have a death wish. There is no need for need for one, it's pretty much guaranteed.

I do have a "how to die" wish, and a "when to die," ideally a quick arrhythmia as the days are lengthening. I could add a "where to die," perhaps a mudflat teeming with life, but still pondering that one.

Plants spin life from air. Animals spin flesh from life, muscles that contract to pull our hard bones to do our will, tearing and ripping up earth and life. We use our flesh to destroy what we cannot comprehend. We are our own incarnations, air to plants to flesh.

No flesh, no Christianity (of the Nicene sort, anyway)--a religion based on the senseless destruction of a man incarnate. Air to dust to flesh then to dust again if you choose the ground, air if you choose the crematorium.

Still, the plants keep building things right back up, with a yuuge hand from bacteria, the "lowlife" grabbing nitrogen molecules from the air, ripping them apart into manageable pieces, making nitrogen available for all proteins, all DNA, all of life.

The Host is made of no more (or less) than flour and water, spun out of air by wheat and bacteria. And while the Host must be treated reverently, you will eventually lose it as tiny pieces, mostly exhaled by your breath, that same breath of life that goes back eons

God (or whatever you call this) kissed the bacteria long before we came along, or perhaps the bacteria invented god, no way to know.

But I do know this--too many biology students "know" biology without ever sensing the mystery of this life, the only one we know, because we reduce science to something more palatable to those who have more faith than sense.

The devil is in the details....

Saturday, February 27, 2016

School science II: breakfast

Wheat grown in our classroom,
breaths shared in wheat berries.

If you want to understand your breakfast in a school health way, you say "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," cut off the box top of the Lucky Charms™ cereal for your child's school and feed the myths that feed the children about as well as the sugared and dyed oats in her cereal bowl.

She goes to school, learns that trees make sugar out of sunlight, and memorizes the script  to pass her test on photosynthesis.

6CO2 + 6H2O => C6H12O6 + 6O2

She does so well her exam goes up on the fridge, a cold box in the kitchen that holds the fruits of labors she can recite without understanding.

While she took the test, holding her number 2 pencil with tightly clenched fingers, quick breaths betrayed her anxiety, carrying away molecules of carbon dioxide just moments deep inside her muscles cells squeezing the number two pencil, rotating the pencil just so, keeping the mark within the circles.

These tiny pieces of stuff of and from this child bounced around the room, bumping into millions upon millions of others, until a few minutes later, a few randomly passed through a tiny opening in the base of a leaf of a bean plant sitting on the window sill, one of many planted by the children when they started the photosynthesis unit.

The plant took this piece of her, and using the light energy from the sun that appears to rise because our Earth spins, welded this piece of her to a larger piece of the plant, and the plant grew a teeny bit larger.

The pea plant will eventually make it home, too, to sit on the radiator by the window, where it will die in a couple of weeks from neglect, as the test emblazoned with the A hangs onto the refrigerator door well into late spring, a marker of what matters to a child's mother, and now, what matters to a child.

Today is plant a bean with your child day.

School science I: sunrise

If you want to understand a sunrise in a school science way, you say "the Earth spins" even as your soul feels the sun ascend with hope and fierceness over the stable ground under your feet.

You know the Earth spins, but you do not believe it.
We teach children to deny what they believe every day.
We are preparing them for life in our culture.
(We call this college and career readiness.)

If you want to understand a sunrise, then, you need to sit still, very still, and accept, in a deep, and yes, reverent way, that the sun is your reference point, and it is, at least for the moment. The earth will slip under and to the right ever so slowly, and you will feel, literally, the earth move.

Then you know the earth does spin, feel it in your bones even.
Teach a child this, and she will have a different relationship with the ground beneath her feet.
We will be preparing her for a place in a universe larger than the one held captive in words and images.
(We call this science.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thoughts on a dead red-winged blackbird

Another dead bird story....

An active red-wing blackbird's heart rate is a hard thing to find on the internet. An American robin's runs 570 beats per minute at rest, but a pigeon's only 115. (It does, however, bang up to 670 bpm when active.)

So I am going to make an assumption that a red-wing blackbird's heart beats around 500 bpm. That's 30,000 beats in an hour, a bit over a quarter billion in a year. They can live over 15 years, but not with winters like this one.

Found on the edge of the Delaware Bay

A human heart beats about 3 billion times in the lifetime of an elderly American.
The red-winged blackbird I found frozen on the edge of the bay has a still heart, one that may also have beaten as many times as the average American's if the bird had lived a dozen years.

No way to tell.

Modern humans like to measure things. On Wednesday my modern heart doctor will measure a few things with modern instruments, and he will give me modern advice (again), and I will likely ignore some of it (again).

His job is to maximize the finite number of times my heart will beat; mine is to maximize what I do with the beats I have left. These are not coincidental goals, and for what it's worth, neither of us expects me to drop dead suddenly anytime soon, even if I ignore some of his advice.

What we choose to measure, or that we even choose to measure, dominates our culture and infects our schools. We are raising children to contribute to the global economy, as pointless a task as counting how close we are to the 3 billion beats most of us will get, especially if the last few million are as agonizingly painful as those of my mother, and so many others.

Photo by Steve Paine, shared via CC

I do not believe that any of us are born with a specific given number of heartbeats, but I do know we are born with a finite number of them.

Doctors, teachers, carpenters, economists,  we all count.

We all count.

Make the best of them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stories that matter

Our stories of matter should matter.
Stuff to stuff, spun by our own star, spinning together life from dead breath.

We are tied to the air and to the land. We are tied to the stuff that swirls into our bodies with ever breath.

We are made of air.
Our stories once reminded us who we are, they now serve to sever us from anything that reminds us of our own mortality.

Science starts with the ground we walk on. So I share the same stories over and over again.

Turns out the ravens may be sharing stories, too. We are not the only ones aware of those beyond our own skin.

As we forget, I find comfort knowing other creatures will remember long after we've left.