Climate Change

The big road trip has been put on hold, hopefully only for a few months, because I am going to New Zealand this summer instead. There were a number of factors that contributed to pushing the trip, not least my aversion to extreme heat and it being the height of summer. The primary reason though, for postponing the trip, is a play that I want to see in Auckland that runs August 4th – 15th.

The play is called Between Two Waves and it’s about climate change. My understanding is the plot centers on a climate scientist (and pessimist) who is reluctant to bring a child into the world because of the potentially irreversible changes we’ve brought upon our planet. I know I’m all about faith and optimism, but honestly, I’m not sure I disagree with him.

I think a lot about climate change and it’s one of the few fears that my seemingly boundless faith often can’t counter. I grew up in a valley that flooded at least twice a year every year of my life. Once or twice it flooded so bad that all the roads into and out of town were impassable for a few days. When people began to talk about “global warming” I started worrying about the polar ice caps melting and the valley being permanently flooded. That was a somewhat obvious fear, but what scares me most now is how unknown it all is.

There’s a lot of models out there predicting the (terrifying) potential future effects of climate change but those predictions a) are all only theories at this point (which can only be proven by waiting to see what actually happens) and b) they vary. A lot. Drought and famine. Flooding. A new ice age. No one really knows what will happen, and it seems the one thing that many (though still not all) climate scientists can agree on is that it is too late to do anything about it. Something bad is coming, and we can guess at it, and sure those guesses are very educated, but only time will prove any of them sound. No one really knows. No one can truly predict the future.

I guess when you break them down to their core all fears are really the same. It’s all really fear of the unknown.

Charting a course

Preparations are underway for a month long road trip (and hopefully explosion of multi-media content). The current top choice for route goes down the pacific coast, then east to Key West, then winds back to through the mid-west. The multi-media content explosion will include interviews, hopefully with some of you about what faith means to you, the fears you’ve managed to face, and the fears you haven’t managed to face. Fill out the contact form on the home page to let me know if you have a story you want to tell.

The Marshmallow in me wants to trade in my car and get yellow Nissan Xterra for the trip but, you know, pros and cons. My current car is a Toyota Prius C and I love it. In some senses it’s a perfect car for a cross country road trip. For instance, it gets amazing gas mileage (52 mpg), in that way the only thing better would be a Tesla which I definitely can’t afford. Trading in the Toyota for a yellow Xterra would give me space to carry camping gear though and, while I’d love to stay in hotels at every stop (hello Holiday Inn Express pancake machine), camping would save some money.

If anyone has any advise on vehicle choices, or lodging choices, or cities I should stop in, or anything at all, don’t hesitate to comment or tweet at me (@faithvsfear).

Violence

The home I grew up in was violent. Saying that sounds like my mother beat me which is not the case. Her violence was never directed at me, or my brother, or our pets, or any living things, it was mostly directed at the furniture, and walls, and doors of our house. In fact, most of the time I don’t think my brother or I were even the catalyst for the violence, although we were kids and sometimes kids do things that make their parents angry. I think my mom’s anger was usually brought on by the frustration of trying to drag us above the poverty line, working as a legal secretary, going to law school, dealing with the discrimination and harassment that women face in male dominated industries, all whilst trying to raise two kids.

Regardless of what caused my mother’s anger and subsequent violence, and regardless of the fact that the violence wasn’t directed at me or my brother, it was still pretty terrifying to witness and had a lasting effect on me. It’s probably the primary reason that I a non-violent person. I’ve never punched so much as a pillow much less a person. I’ve never even slapped anyone. I’ve never fired a gun, or touched a gun, or even actually seen a gun outside of muskets and the like in museums. One time, in my early twenties, I got super angry and I threw a hair brush and it totally freaked me out.

The thing that always struck me the most about my mom’s outbursts was that it never seemed to make her feel any better. It made me feel like violence is never right.

There are two responses to violence and by far the more common one is to respond in kind with more violence. I won’t say that nothing has ever been accomplished through violence, that would be incredibly naive. Normally wear my naivete like a badge of honor, but even I know that violence has brought about change, sometimes even positive change. However, when I see the cycle of violence repeating over and over in the world it only makes me sad.

Fear of flying

Sometimes it’s not faith that makes it possible to face your fears, sometimes the fear of missing out on something is stronger than the fears that would hold you back.

I used to have a crippling fear of flying…okay, maybe not crippling. My desire to get to far away places very quickly often outweighed my fear of flying and when I studied abroad in Germany my desire to save money outweighed my fear of flying.  By 2007 a bunch of regional airlines had sprung up making it (much) cheaper to travel by air than by train between countries in Europe and I traveled a lot while I was there.  I think I took ten flights in two months.

Flying wasn’t the only fear I was facing on those trips though. I also used to be afraid of travelling alone.  I used to only travel with family, or friends, or boyfriends. About a year before Europe I found something I wanted badly enough to face both my fear of flying and my fear of traveling alone. In that case the thing I wanted to do was go to Veronica Marsathon in Austin and I didn’t care that no one else I knew was going.

I had definitely conquered my fear of traveling alone after Austin and Europe, in fact at that point I almost preferred traveling alone. I also felt like I might have conquered my fear of flying after all those flights.  I no longer got anxious before getting on planes. I mean, I still got anxious on take off and landing, but other than that I was mostly fine.  Of course, I get really bad motion sickness on any moving vehicle so I always take Dramamine when I fly and sleep through almost everything but take off and landing, but even so, I felt like I’d made a lot progress on my fear of flying.

A couple of days after I got home from Europe, I had a wedding to attend in Puebla, Mexico. I flew from Seattle to Dallas, Dallas to Mexico City, then Mexico City to Puebla.  That last leg of the flight was on a tiny plane. You know, the kind where you can almost touch both walls while standing in the center aisle. Also, there was a really bad thunder and lightning storm over Puebla when we flew in. Looking out the window of the plane you could see lightning striking all over and you could see, it looked like hundreds of, little fires all over the ground from previous strikes.

Flying in a storm like that was terrifying, but it was also beautiful. I’d never seen anything like it before and I’ve never seen anything like it since. I had no way of knowing that my flight would get caught in lightning storm, but I can’t imagine having missed out on that amazing, beautiful, and terrifying experience. Now I never think twice about getting on a plane alone.

United

I Identify as Jewish because my mother’s mother’s mother was Jewish, and I have a Hebrew name, and of course because of the food, but I think of my Jewishness as more race than religion. I identify as Christian because I believe in the things that Jesus espoused (love and forgiveness). I identify as Buddhist for similar reasons. I think of my Christianity and Buddhism as more philosophy than religion.

Not that I am a non-believer. I have a lot of faith, but what I believe is that the divine is something that we don’t, and most likely can’t, understand. Our eyes and ears can only see and hear a small fraction of the spectrum of sights and sounds and if we can’t even see and hear everything around us how can we possibly expect to understand all of the mysteries of the universe. I think it is our instinct to try to make sense of the things we can’t understand and so we create stories to make sense of it all and those stories, while different in many ways, are also very similar.

I think if you asked yourself, “What would Jesus do?” and “What would Buddha do?” the answers would be remarkably similar. I think those two stories are (at their core) the same in the same way that different languages have different words for the same things. Not only are those stories the same, but the people telling them (and all people) are, at their core, the same as well.

People hoping for peace in the world will often say that there is more that unites us than divides us and maybe it sounds like that is what I am saying too, but it’s not.  There are similarities and differences, things that unite us and things that divide us, and we get to choose which we want to focus on.  Maybe there are way more things that divide us.  Maybe there’s only one thing that unites us.

What do you want to focus on?

I read somewhere recently that optimism is a practice not a personality type and people often refer to their religions as practice as well. I would say the same of focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us. These are all acts of faith and they require practice.

Gratitude

Gratitude has long been a component of numerous religious practices and expressing gratitude has been a growing theme on social media as well (with 365 days of gratitude, and #gratituesday, etc.).  Timber Hawkeye, of Buddhist Boot Camp often brings a gratitude wall to his speaking engagements and people put up all the things they are grateful for on the wall. Expressing gratitude is a type of prayer and another type, also present in many religious practices, is asking for what you need or want in your life.

My own practice is to write down the things I want and the things I’m grateful for on pieces of origami paper and fold them into paper cranes and put them into what I call my please and thank you box. Also, sometimes I just fold the cranes as a sort of meditative act.

Cranes

If it is true that “with our thoughts we make the world” this practice or prayer, or meditation, or expressing gratitude, or focusing on positives, or whatever you want to call it, helps us to build a better world for ourselves.

Make yourself a gratitude wall, or a please and thank you box, or find your own way of asking for what you want and expressing gratitude for what you have.