Wonders—and questions–about Air abound.
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 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?
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?
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 Fundamentalism, Living in Sin