Wonders—and questions–about Air abound.

Diagram of the layers within Earth’s atmosphere. Wikimedia Commons.

We are learning to praise Air and not take it for granted.  Science tells us that “we live inside a precariously thin shell of air, far less thick proportionally than the skin on an apple.”   

Another person describes the layer of air over the earth as proportionate to the thickness of a balloon filled with air.

Both are cautioning us not to take air for granted. 

In Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding The Secrets of the Air Around Us, Sam Kean alerts us to how the atmosphere shapes human beings but we human beings shape the atmosphere also.  And not always for the good.  Indeed, in the past several decades the relationship between human beings and air has changed.

The air that people breathed 500 years ago is not the same air we breathe today; industrial development has changed its chemical composition.  Our mental concept of air has changed even more dramatically: only recently have scientists started to appreciate just how complex our atmosphere is, rivaling the human brain in both its intricacy and its fragility.    

“Mars: Atmosphere and Cassini Crater” Image by Andrea Luck, from Hope Mission, Orbit 19, UAESA/MBRSC. Wikimedia Commons.

Mars lost all its air.  All Mars has for an atmosphere nowadays is a whiff of carbon dioxide, with an air pressure two hundred times less than that on earth.

Air is special—indeed, our atmosphere is one of the most complicated physical systems in existence.

Let us praise Air.

What is the opposite of praising Air?  Polluting it; poisoning it; killing it.  Ignoring it.  Taking it for granted.

It is this testing for the varied ingredients in our air that is driving the Webb Telescope’s search for life on other planets.  What an exciting search that is! 

For me, one of the most exciting questions of our day is this: Is there intelligent life in other corners of the universe?  Or is our evolution so special and unique that we are alone here? 

“What If Earth Suddenly Lost Its Atmosphere?” Brief documentary by What If.

While it appears that the question is an either/or one, another possibility exists: That there once was intelligent life, but it failed to heed the limits of its atmosphere and thus destroyed the “Air” on their home planet and has gone extinct.

So it seems there are three possible answers to this pressing question: 1. We are alone.  2. We are not alone, there are other intelligent beings out there.  3.  We are alone because other beings messed up, as we are doing currently.

It seems like all three options teach us the same lesson: Prize our Air.  Be so in love with life and therefore healthy air that we make smart choices. 

Let selfhood go enough that we factor in the health and wonder of Air when we make our decisions.  And offer our thanks.


See *Sam Kean, Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (NY: Little, Brown and Co., 2017), pp. 208, 229f., 307, 257f.

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 71, 45-62.

See also Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, pp. 156-158

To read the transcript for Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Mountain winds carry prayers out to the universe: Prayer flags above Thimphu, Bhutan. Photo by Passang Tobgay on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Are you thankful for Air?  Have you moved beyond taking it for granted?  What would it mean to you if 1) we found intelligent life on other planets?  Or 2) We did not find intelligent life on other planets? How would that inspire us to behave more responsibly on earth?


Recommended Reading

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin


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12 thoughts on “Let Us Praise the Air, Part II”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You begin you meditation with the statement: “Wonders—and questions–about Air abound.” Then you go on to share some of the insights you have gained such as the fact that of the sky above us, only a very thin layer contains the air that we breath, and though it has been said that today we may be breathing some of the same molecules that Caesar breathed; that is not exactly true in that, with them we are also breathing industrial air pollution as well as pollution from fossil fuels. You also point out how mars has no air–and that would go for our whole solar system! So you ask us, “What is the opposite of praising Air? Polluting it; poisoning it; killing it. Ignoring it. Taking it for granted.” For myself I can say that I do not take air for granted–beyond the fact that I need it to live, I use the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water in group and private spiritual rituals. And so to me, I hold these elements as sacred. As for my view concerning other life in the our galaxy or the universe, I go with Your: 2. We are not alone, there are other intelligent beings out there. 3. We are alone because other beings messed up, as we are doing currently. I believe that there are other intelligent beings out there (statistically), and some of them probably messed up–but they are all so far away we’ll never know of them in the years of life most of our readers probably have–that is relatively speaking…

    1. Phila Hoopes

      Rick, my name being on the DM today was an error – I didn’t notice that I was logged in as myself and not Matthew when I set up the post. As you know, Matthew always authors the DM essays and meditations. If my name appears as the author, it’s due to an oversight. Please disregard…thanks.
      Appreciation,
      Phila

  2. Avatar

    Humanity is the only species in all of creation, in which a large majority have lost its conscious awareness of what it means as well as how to engage responsibly in its relationship with the mysterious nature of the Great Webb of Life. Many have rejected the ancient wisdom ways of responsible stewardship, which is founded on the sacredness of being and living in right relationship with ALL that which contributes to the creation of all life; and the interconnections, the interrelationships and the interdependence within this. Dominion over, has seperated most of humanity from its true nature; and this disharmonious imbalance is negatively impacting the Great Webb of Life. The pathway to take, in my opinion, is for humanity to return to its true nature and the wisdom of living and being in right relationship with this Great Webb of Life. This is about rediscovering, reclaiming and recreating the unfoldment, evolution and emergence of this within our conscious awareness and making responsible choices that nurture the preservation of all that which gives life. This conscious reawakening within the hearts, minds and souls of humanity involves learning to responsibly and collaboratively contribute our part in co-creatively resurrecting the true nature of this inherent beauty and goodness seeded and sealed within ourselves and each other, which carries within itself the remembrance of these wisdom mysteries we need for the preservation of all life on Earth.

  3. Avatar

    There are many spiritual mysteries in our multidimensional Cosmos. There are several spiritual wisdom traditions that teach us about the evolution of our eternal souls/sprits, and that we have been reincarnating for a very long time since the creation of our souls/spirits in our sacred planet earth and probably other planets in the Cosmos. If we continue destroying beautiful Mother Earth, we hope and have faith that our souls/spirits will have other other beautiful planets in God’s Creation to continue reincarnating towards on our eternal spiritual journeys. The main spiritual consolation we have as we continue grieving for our beloved planet earth and All its living species, including our own, is that there are many beautiful Loving spiritual dimensions beyond the veil that most of us are not aware of, except those who have had near death experiences and other deep spiritual experiences of those other dimensions. Our continued Faith in God’s Divine LOVE~LIGHT~LIFE on our eternal spiritual journeys is very important in order to not fall into despair or fear… we’re never alone because God’s DIVINE LOVE is always within and among us All in All ETERNALLY….
    ????

  4. Avatar

    Of course there’s human life throughout the universe. It’s absurd to think otherwise since God is infinite and does what He wills. Surely there are beings similar to Jesus and other great messengers who present God’s teachings to them. And most likely many out there are far more advanced both spiritually and materially than humans who are so egocentric that our scientists think all beings must need the exact same atmosphere as we have in order to sustain life. The usual sci-fi popular way of perceiving ETs is as low intelligence aggressive beings that want to enslave earthlings, which is really ethnocentric — what really do we have to offer? Meditating on this topic, seriously appraising the mess all humanity is presently in, should make us wonder why we allow ourselves to support the structures we have. Throughout the world, nations choose leaders for the wrong reasons and then continue to support them. We need to stop doing that.

  5. Avatar

    It would be exciting to discover that we are not alone in the universe. Given that our current Mother Earth and the thin atmospheric layer around it, is what sustains our life and the clear evidence that man made pollution of all kinds is destroying it, we have a serious dilemma don’t we? Can we wake up and take radical positive action to save our home?

  6. Avatar

    Wonderful to be focusing on the air we breathe and all great manifestations of Nature we can all too easily take for granted. It is also good to consider “prana”, the universal life force emanating from the Sun which sustains us all. As for life on the other planets, Lao Tzu had a good saying: “What is looked for in the wrong place will not be found.” I understand that the Universe is teeming with life, even within our own Solar System but on a higher level of frequency. It is my own understanding that both the Buddha and Jesus came from (the higher dimensions of) Venus, “the bright and morning star”. We have looked to orthodoxy for knowledge and trust it to be complete but we really need to look to the mystic for wisdom, something Matthew does very well.

  7. Avatar

    I do not think it matters if we believe there is life elsewhere, although surely it must be. A friend has maintained, for the last few years especially, that there is something in the air that is poisoning our hearts and minds, as how else might we explain the darkness and craziness that seems to be so pervasive now. It is an interesting thought that we are not only poisoning our bodies with pollution but also damaging our souls. Matthew speaks of soul carnage, and surely there is a great deal of soul sickness to be found. We will only behave more responsibly to protect our air and other natural gifts if enough people wake up. We are now 8 billion people on this earth. Will there soon be many less, or none?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, Thank you for your comment and for “cutting to the chase.” You write that “there is something in the air that is poisoning our hearts and minds, as how else might we explain the darkness and craziness that seems to be so pervasive now.” I believe what the darkness is that is in the air and poisoning our heart and minds is Evil–in history represented by Satan in the Judeo-Christian traditions and Marra in the Hindu-Buddhist traditions–today Evil is represented by the “Dark Side of the Force” and even as entropy–the law that says that basically everything eventually falls into a state of dissolution, everything “dies.” But all I know is that we need to make our voices be heard over the tumult of politics and war.

  8. Avatar

    Of course there’s human life throughout the universe. It’s absurd to think otherwise since God is infinite and does what He wills. Surely there are beings similar to Jesus and other great messengers who present God’s teachings to them. And most likely many out there are far more advanced both spiritually and materially than humans who are so egocentric that our scientists think all beings must need the exact same atmosphere as we have in order to sustain life. The usual sci-fi popular way of perceiving ETs is as low intelligence aggressive beings that want to enslave earthlings, which is really ethnocentric — what really do we have to offer? Meditating on this topic, seriously appraising the mess all humanity is presently in, should make us wonder why we allow ourselves to support the structures we have. Throughout the world, nations choose leaders for the wrong reasons and then continue to support them. We need to stop doing that.

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