The Facts Beneath The Noise

There is a lot of conversation about climate change these days, thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the drought in California, the polar vortex experiences of the past two winters, the horrific tornadoes which have devastated many communities in recent years, innumerable devastating forest fires, the melting ice caps in the Arctic, the vanishing fishing industry in the northern Atlantic, and so on. This past week, the World Health Organization reported that due to climate change, meng fever could be a threat in Europe and North America before long. The earth we love is reproaching us. Frightening report after frightening report comes out, talking about the very sober possibility that humanity could be an extinct species by the year 2100, or, at least, reduced to a few million people living in Greenland. In the face of this, there are various and sundry toothless resolutions to do a little about climate change several years from now–nothing like the radical change that is required, the survival revolution needed. Bold and creative acts of love for the earth are required of us, without compromise, and so far we really have done nothing substantial. In this entry I will briefly describe the facts beneath the surface noise, the tectonic plates of reality beneath the shifting sands of public relations and advertising and political rhetoric. Mature responsibility, stewardship, and clear-eyed love for life requires that we all keep the truth in our minds and hearts, no matter how inconvenient.
You and I, my friend, and our children and grandchildren if we are so blessed, are up against it, nose to nose with oblivion of our species. Extinction, just to point out the obvious, would mean no more Grammies or Academy Awards, March Madness or Super Bowl, Netflix original series, stock market bulls, presidential elections, NASCAR races, American Idol or The View broadcasts, network news, Meet The Press or Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, debate over the color of a dress, college graduations, soccer games, happy endings, weekends in Vegas, or private moments of ecstasy. No more family time, love stories, or quiet reveries while cuddling with babies. No more grandparents imparting their wisdom, no more cousins getting in trouble together, no more adventures. The loss would be all-encompassing, the end of all we hold dear, and I take the time to point this out because I do regularly hear “environmentalism” described as a “special interest group.” Environmentalism is dedicated not to the interests of a special few (that would be the Koch Brothers and ALEC), but to the survival of everyone and everything related to the human species. Environmentalism is also dedicated to the interests of non-human species who can’t speak or act for themselves in this sphere of concern, and who are vanishing at an alarming rate, suffocated by human activity. In order for us to survive, and thrive, environmentalism MUST succeed radically, MUST bring about change of human activity at the root, to sustain ourselves and provide a life for our offspring, for posterity.
I am about one-third through reading Naomi Klein’s book “This Changes Everything,” published late last year. Ms. Klein describes the stark situation in many ways, but two related aspects which educated me and brought me to stiff attention is what I will share below.
1. In order for humanity to survive, the earth may only increase in temperature by 2 degrees celsius. This is an internationally agreed upon figure, although the implications of even that amount of warming are under debate (some countries would be devastated by it). Anything higher than that would bring on great havoc worldwide, would melt so much arctic ice that many seaside metropolises such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston would be submerged beneath water, and the climate would be so severely twisted and deformed that agriculture would be greatly compromised. The 2 degrees celsius figure will be impossible to hit on our current course, which would take us at least twice as high unless there is a survival revolution. To quote the World Bank, quoted in Naomi Klein’s book, “We’re on track for a 4 degree celsius warmer world by century’s end, marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea-riseā€¦.There is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4 degree celsius world is possible.” Kevin Anderson, former director of England’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, says an increase in temperature of 4 degrees celsius is “incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community.”
Okay, this truth is reported in the context of 12 of the past 15 years being historically warm, globally. 2013 was the hottest year, globally, in recorded history, and then is was surpassed by 2014. So, we are on a hellbound train unless we sit up on our sofas and focus on this crisis with all our power.
2. In the midst of this situation, the fossil fuel industry is standing amongst us like a person holding a blow torch beside a gasoline tanker, and saying “this flame is no danger, and if you think it is, you are un-American.” Precisely the facts are these: in order to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees celsius, between 2011 (when the report was written) and 2049, the amount of carbon that can be permissibly be burned without sealing our fate of collective death is 565 gigatons of oil, gas and goal. A gigaton is one billion metric tons, so the number is 565 billion metric tons. According to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank in London, the fossil fuel companies have reserve deposits of fossil fuel totaling 2795 gigatons, which is 2230 gigatons too many. These reserve deposits are already on their books, already accounted for, although still in the ground, as yet unharvested. To quote the great Bill McKibben (whose writings in the 1980s first interested me in the issue of global warming) “The thing to notice is 2795 is five times 565. It’s not even close. What those numbers mean is quite simple. The industry has announced, in filings to the SEC and in promises to shareholders, that they’re determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet’s atmosphere can begin to absorb.”
Meanwhile, the fossil fuel companies act as if environmentalists, alarmed by this preposterous irresponsibility, are a “special interest group” opposed to jobs and the American way, as if facing the facts about human extinction is “liberal” and ideological. The propaganda ads are all over my television here in Milwaukee, accompanied by 4th of July fireworks and American flags waving, in support of the fracking efforts of the natural gas companies.

My blood pressure rises through the roof when I think about these facts without aid of yoga and meditation. I become nauseous and loathing of the corrupt powers that be, unless I go running and listen to some music. When I am finished with the yoga, meditation, and running, I find myself with a steely resolve to join other progressive persons and groups in service to the survival revolution. Humanity cannot survive a worldwide temperature increase of more than 2 degrees celsius, and the fossil fuel companies are committed to vaulting past that number like a hurdler in pursuit of a gold medal for unsustainability. I have committed myself to a life of loving humanity and non-human species, through environmental active concern, and need to recommit every hour.
Many who read this will be further down the road in these matters than I am, and I thank you for your patience with this late-bloomer. If you are newly discomfited by the facts I present here, and find yourself wondering what you can do, I invite you to consider involvement with and/or The Citizens Climate Lobby. They are organizations who know the facts, and are committed to saving the world, with love and action. We must be completely weaned of all fossil fuels by 2050, with a reduction of eight to ten percent each year starting yesterday. Thank you.


Kayla, Deah, Yusor, and Razan

Kayla Mueller. Deah Barakat. Yusor Abu-Salha. Razan Abu-Salha.
Say their names with me in a solemn dirge: Kayla. Deah. Yusor. Razan. Kayla. Deah. Yusor. Razan. Kayla. Deah. Yusor. Razan.
Four spirits which blessed the earth with their wholesome presence have been murdered.
As the world spins its interpretation of these four deaths, I sit in the quiet of my home and ceremonially observe their passing in my own way. I light candles. I say their names. I sit in silence and hold memories of their photos in my mind–lovely smiles, soft eyes, glowing countenances, held in common by all of them. I listen to some Beethoven sonatas which communicate to me tragic depth, and feel my way into the severity of the losses. I open to the pain, hold myself available to it. I try in some way to offer Kayla, Deah, Yusor and Razan the reverential observance they deserve, because not doing so feels too callous for me, as if I’m not adequately countering barbarity with civilization. Their deaths are tragic, and merit my solemn attention.
With Kayla, in addition to the outpouring of grief, I am seeing blogosphere push-back against the praise accorded her in her hometown of Prescott, Arizona. It is vulgar language describing her, coming from the far right, because she stood with Palestinian activists against Israeli aggression in 2013. Since the age of 19, she had worked with battered women and HIV and AIDS patients, and was hoping to help Syrian refugees, as part of her aid work, but because she stood with Palestinians vis a vis the Israeli Army, this outstanding young woman is being denounced in some corners.
Deah and Yusor, recently pronounced husband and wife, a dental student and aspiring one, were involved in gathering dental supplies and shipping them to the Third World, for the benefit of poor people. They reportedly were cheerful, kind, worthwhile young folks, and dedicated students. Their deaths, along with Yusor’s younger sister Razan, in addition to being observed with an outpouring of grief, are now caught up in the controversy of whether or not the story is getting the same media attention as would the deaths of three Christians at the hands of a crazed, gun-toting Muslim. Well, probably not, but the fact is, their tragic deaths have been reported in all major news outlets in America, more than once.
It seems to me that the argument over the merit of Kayla’s activities, and over the media coverage of the Chapel Hill murders, are sideline distractions from what I also see going on, which is grieving. I think it is crucial that we honor these deaths with grief, and put aside the distractions for a later discussion.
In my meditations, I think of Kayla, Deah, Yusor, and Razan as my three daughters and son. They were 26, 23, 21 and 19 years old, and I am 57, so the chronology is certainly correct. Imagining them that way, I feel visceral trauma, which I welcome as a sign that my heart is alive. Let us all think of them as our daughters and son, or sisters and brother, or mothers and father, in order to enter into the collective grief more intimately. If you can stretch your imagination in this way, also maybe think of the four as the reincarnations of your ancestors, finally come to life after many years of searching, and now snuffed out by darkened hearts and minds. If the killers of these four hoped to kill their spirits, our honoring them with such mindful grief frustrates that objective, because we remember our underlying, sacrosanct, inviolable connections.
I imagine the arrival of a human life on earth in the following manner, having read this analogy somewhere: a fish swims the Pacific Ocean for thousands and thousands of years, looking for a two-inch wide portal. If only it can find this portal, it can swim through, and thus a human life can appear on earth. The Pacific Ocean is vast, north to south, east to west, surface to ocean floor, and the portal is not only small but transparent, and nearly impossible to see in the water. The fish, pushed to and fro by currents and waves and unimaginable forces, cannot believe the miracle when at last it finds the long-lost treasure, more valuable than a thousand Hope diamonds. Thus, Kayla, Deah, Yusor, and Razan entered the world, their lives infinitely sacred, an unutterable, mysterious opportunity. What a chance! What a treasure! It must be used wisely by doing international aid work, by acts of kindness and charity, by loving family and friends and neighbors. Kayla, Deah, Yusor and Razan were entering into that lifetime pursuit courageously. They were making the most of their lives. Now, after only two, or two and a half decades, their lives have been ended, the opportunity cancelled. It is a tragedy which commands our solemn attention.
I sit in my house. I light candles. I say their names. I sit in silence and hold memories of their photos in my mind. I turn my eyes away from opinion pieces which change the subject from wholehearted grieving. I vow to live my life in a way which honors their cancelled miraculous opportunity. Help me, Kayla, Deah, Yusor, and Razan, my children, to carry your spirits forward.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Late night insomniac whisper. This might sound like I’m up on my soapbox but actually I’m sitting beside you on a sofa confiding. Here goes, on the down low: The culture around us is screaming every minute of every day “be your self, express your self, don’t worry about what others think, be true to your own inner vision. Don’t follow the herd but your own gut instincts.” Right? Always. Remember the sneaker UBU? It’s still the rugged individualist, the stoic cowboy, but now dressed in hipster clothing.
The question this begs is, WHICH self? Because everybody has different selves. Nelson Mandela? Kanye West? Nadine Gordimer? Nicki Minaj? This is not trite and it’s overlooked. The cultural stance has nothing to say to people with deeply selfish, boorish, sociopathic tendencies. And we all have low selves, dogs to let out. Why not be true to ourselves and twerk at the next company picnic? Seriously, if I have an inner vision of my deepest essence, which calls me to twerk at the next company picnic, why not?
We need to think higher. Instead of the prevailing attitude, how about a culture that appeals to the higher selves of each person? Just takes a sleight of hand. There was massive repression so there was a time when we had to say “be true to your self and don’t conform blindly.” Cool. That was important. These new times, massive repression seems to be rearing its head again, but we need to be smarter now. The new massive repression is heavily funded and well-equipped with sound bytes and shibboleths, conventional wisdom and coercion. Humans need to step up with better collective functioning.
Time to advance the conversation. Time to say “be your highest self. Honor your community. Take perspectives. Help.” It doesn’t stifle creativity, doesn’t create any dictatorships, just brings a crumb of wisdom to the table, perhaps restrains a couple people from playing the fool on TV, maybe breaks up a fight.

California Water

I read with alarm this week about the ongoing drought in California. In 2014 that great state suffered through a mega-drought of historic proportions. It was reportedly the worst drought on record in one of America’s most significant agricultural regions. This was more than an inconveniencing of people who wanted to water their lawns to a rich green hue. This brought damage to almond and avocado crops, diminished water for household use for hundreds of thousands of Californians, damaged California’s legendary dairy farms, brought severe peril to the wine industry, rendered forest areas into highly flammable tinder. While the news media scandalously underreported it (I believe it should receive as much coverage as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, for all the suffering and danger it brought), it was a grim reality for that state.
Perhaps many Americans breathed a sigh of relief in December when there was a sudden and severe downpour of water from the heavens in the Golden State, although sometimes so severe that it caused flooding and horrific mudslides. Perhaps, in the popular imagination, those few days of immense rain meant the drought was over for Californians. End of story. We can buy our produce at decent prices once again.
However, the truth is much more challenging for us all. In the month of January, central and northern California enjoyed less than two percent of normal rainfall, and San Francisco saw not one single drop of precipitation. The drought is back with a vengeance. California is in a state of crisis because its climate has change for the worse. While America focuses on underinflated footballs and the new American Idol season, the great State of California is down to 25 percent of its water reserves and trying to figure out what it’s going to do as that number continues to plummet. Farmers are pulling up stakes and heading to the middle of the country, where they may or may not receive a warm welcome from their new neighbors/competitors.
I wait for Obama and FEMA to spring into action, envisioning convoys of semi-trucks filled with water, driving from all other states in the contiguous 48 (I can imagine Arizona, with its bizarre governor Jan Brewer, holding out) with neighborly relief, imagine 50 governors conferring on how states will share this precious natural resource in the future, in cases of other mega-droughts. I imagine the subject being the first item of news every night for weeks on end, like the coverage of a lost airplane, or of a beheading. Meet the Press? Face the Nation? Special reports on CNN? The jokers on Fox blaming the drought on liberals? I imagine more discussion and coverage of this than has occurred, and much more concerted action.
What I am envisioning in these scenarios, though, is disaster relief–short term actions addressing immediate needs, the crisis of the moment. What I greatly fear, and what looks entirely probable, is that this mega-drought, working diligently on crippling one of America’s strongest states, is the tip of the iceberg. Drought is challenging other states currently, but when–through climate change–it becomes a full-scale epic crisis in dozens of states concurrently, how will you and I respond? Will there be water wars? Will a new paradigm emerge, of cooperation and sharing and disciplined nearly-universal voluntary rationing, as together we face grim new climate realities? Or will there be a nightmare scenario of a civilization in decline, and thirsty, hungry citizens degenerating into desperately competing marauders?
We need to be laying the groundwork for responses to nightmare scenarios now, even as we try to avert such through climate action, private and public. I am reading these days about “the new, emerging economy,” which renders obsolete most of what we know about the old, macho, competitive, consumption-driven, non-renewable fuel using economy and replaces it with cooperation, shared resources, and renewables, locally based. I have much to learn about this new economy, a network of progressives guided by permaculture principals, but am looking toward it now not as a fun new hobby, but as essential to our common survival.
What I do know is that this is going to be a matter of the heart and soul, as well as of economics and strategy. If we are all basically out of water at the same time, we are going to have to be able to cope with severe stress and authentic suffering. We are going to be called upon to respond heroically, again and again and again, like a city hit by hurricane after tornado and forest fire in rapid fire succession. We need to look within ourselves? Do we have the will and the capacity to cooperate? Will we face reality? Are we?

Integral Earth’s Contribution

Integral Earth is dedicated to the proposition that for the environmentalist movement to succeed it must embrace not only the external facts of science, the description of the physical world, but the internal facts of human and non-human animal sentience. I am immersed in reading graphs, charts, articles, and political manifestos, all of which are outstanding, and found often on The descriptions of the physical world, and of the ravages of CO2 upon our climate, are essential. Obviously, the search for solutions is dependent upon as much such knowledge as it is possible to attain. However, and this is OFTEN overlooked, equally important, I said “equally” important, is the internal reality of the Kosmos. The emotions, the intuitions, the soul, the spirit, the prayers and poetry and art and music, the sense of conviviality and mutual warmth and shared meaning, the connection between people groups and species, must thrive. Those scientists who assert that science is the preeminent value, and internal realities of the individual and group are less important, are committing a sort of imperialism of inquiry which shall not stand. Describing the physical world is essential, but in no way replaces reacting to it, which reaction comes from within us all.
It is also equally true that the inner world of the Kosmos does not replace the outer world. Poetry does not trump science. However, nowadays I do not hear composers and artists denigrating the importance of science, or saying that their discipline supersedes the latter in importance. Integral Earth is about embracing as many modes of truth, according to the standards of authenticity of those modes, as possible. One does not assess poetry according to the standards of science, and nor does one judge science according to the standards of systems thinking. They all bring their own truths according to their own internal standards, and the integral idea is to put all the truths on the table in mutual cooperation, rather than competition.
For the environmentalist movement to succeed it must embrace poetry, music, art, yoga, bioethics, meditation, Fair Trade, philosophy, history, earth science, permaculture, business, political involvement, sustainability theory, a realistic assessment of how much energy is needed to keep everyone warm, animal rights, climate science, and a commitment to keep all such disciplines at least tacitly in mind when doing ecological thinking. May the tree huggers hold in mind the realistic need for fuel, and may the politicians all love to hike.
For example, while joining with environmentalists everywhere in deploring strip mining for coal, I additionally ask what will coal miners do for a living if this form of livelihood is successfully opposed. Coal miners and their need for work must be part of the formula. I also think that the Keystone pipeline issue isn’t adequately discussed until the public beauty factor of such is thoroughly investigated, publicized, and debated among the people of this nation. Until it is, all we have is utilitarianism, economics and power struggles. That’s not good enough. We call for an integration of diverse concerns, and we have joined in a life’s pursuit to honor these all. Have a nice weekend.

The Conundrum of Our Times

The world’s net population has grown by 3.2 million since Christmas Day. It will grow by 73 million in 2015, according to conservative estimates. The question of how to feed, clothe and shelter all these babies confronts us within the context of 2013 being the hottest year on record, superceded by the new record-holder, 2014. Hot years lead to drought, which leads to poor crop yields, and more expensive food. We are banking on human adaptation, technological creativity, to solve our escalating difficulty, and our technology is indeed awesome. Nanotechnology is going to blow our minds. But we can’t anticipate unintended consequences resulting from our brilliant adaptations. So, we are throwing the dice. Our political leaders have no more expertise than a bunch of stumblebums, and they often don’t care about us. “The market” is run by the wolves of Wall Street, who have the ethical awareness of drunken sailors (no offense to drunken sailors). So we’re all being fired out of a cannon into space, and we don’t know where we’ll land. I’ll hold your hand if you’ll hold mine.

The Horrific Killings in Paris

I am writing this blog on the night after the horrifying massacres in Paris, when three gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo, and killed ten staffers plus two policemen. It was a horrific act, “cowardly and evil” as President Obama rightly said, and has left the world stunned. I have been stunned all day, thinking of those who lost their lives so violently, and their families. It is terribly sad. I have also, as I do whenever there are acts of terrorism inflicted by Muslims, mourned for the hundreds of millions of persons of that faith who live honorable lives, and who feel bruised and beaten, once again, by the acts of the insane. How would YOU feel if your peaceful, compassionate, lovely spiritual practice was connected by name to mass murder? It would be nothing less than an existential challenge, I suspect.
The rhetoric has sprouted like crazy today. Christopher Hitchens is no longer among us to spew his hatred at Muslims, but I imagine Bill Maher is preparing some sort of denunciation, if he hasn’t already delivered it, from the left. From the right, all day, conservatives have been trying to align the President with these killers, however vaguely, by quoting a 2012 sentence by him, in which he said that the future does not belong to those who would slander the Prophet. His call to arms (which never existed, of course), is somehow missing in the quote. Slander is equated with parody. I witnessed a Fox News anchor decrying Obama for not using the word “terrorism” when he used the words “cowardly and evil,” because, as she interpreted it, he was trying to mislead the public into thinking there is no threat. Ignorance reigns supreme from both sides of the political spectrum.
The key insight which helps us all interpret these horrible events through a better lens is to understand that what is operative here is not a religion, but a level of consciousness, expressed as disease, through a religion.
Consciousness, in the concisest of terms, is the world that one sees, hears, tastes, touches and smells. It is the filter through which one interprets the world. There is also a collective consciousness, a cultural, shared filter. Consciousness manifests itself in one’s language, religion, musical taste, approach to justice and education, money dealings, food consumption, love life, work life, political voting, entertainment choices, gender attitudes, clothing, and so on, ad infinitum. Consciousness impacts how one views oneself. On the cultural level, collective consciousness manifests in all of the above, on the mass scale. The consciousness of a people, like that of a person, is all-permeating, and deeply powerful in determining how we will live and interact.
There are levels of consciousness. I am not going to write a Ph.D. dissertation tonight, but such geniuses as Jean Gebser and Ken Wilber outline the levels of consciousness that a person and a people can go through. Think of Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Carol Gilligan, developmental psychologists, expanded into the more global realm of consciousness, and you will get a sense of what I mean. As a person and culture matures, they go through changes from the archaic consciousness structure, to the magical, to the mythic, then to the mental, and then to the integral levels of consciousness. With each level of consciousness, there are opportunities for healthy and unhealthy manifestations of that structure. We rarely see archaic or magical levels of consciousness expressed in the world today. The world is replete with individuals in the mythic levels of consciousness, being followers of traditional religions as well as of tradition approaches to all other areas of life. There are healthy and unhealthy manifestations thereof. The mental level of consciousness is the world of rational thought. The business and science worlds are usually manifested in this level today. There are healthy and unhealthy manifestations thereof (doctors vs. nuclear warhead manufacturers). The integral level of consciousness is the one that looks back and surveys each of the previous ones and hopes to cultivate their healthiest manifestations. There are unhealthy levels of this, too, in which a person exploits their insight for person aggrandizement.
DECISIVELY, as one moves up the consciousness ladder, one’s understanding of who “we” are evolves, expands. The “we” who is “all that we care about and find worthy of our inclusion and concern” grows from “this family” to “this faith and this country” to “this community of like-thinkers” to “everyone who is compassionate” to “everyone.” One’s mind and heart expands as one’s consciousness evolves, and they contract as one’s consciousness devolves (yes, this is possible). There are healthy and unhealthy manifestations of each step up the ladder, and there are healthy and unhealthy manifestations of “we-ness.” A group’s approach, again, to music and education and economics and agriculture and factory production and war and parenthood and lovemaking and religious expression, is impacted powerfully, decisively, authoritatively, by who they consider “we” to be. If you think “we” is just ten people, who exist for fighting, you will behave very differently than if you are convinced in your heart of hearts and mind of minds that “we” is everyone in the world plus all animals and plants, existing for cooperation.
The “Muslim” terrorists are acting out of a deeply sick and deranged mythic level of consciousness. There are healthy manifestations of mythic level Islam, and there are rational levels of Islam, and integral levels, unhealthy and healthy. To the terrorists who acted today, the “we” clearly did not include the staffers and police at Charlie Hebdo. Therefore, those persons were to be killed. This does NOT in any way implicate the other manifestations of Islam, who are different manifestations of consciousness.
Dear friends, let us evolve. Let us embrace healthy manifestations of the entire spectrum of consciousness, as it impacts language, religion, music, justice, education, economics, agriculture, gastronomy, romance and sex, work, politics, entertainment, gender attitudes, gun control, environmental awareness, and so on. Let us acknowledge that we all have our shadow elements, but, while acknowledging, not give them power. Let us not jump to hasty conclusions about one another because of our nominal identity with deranged others. Let there be peace in the way we interpret one another.

I performed a wedding today, and after preaching the message, decided this might be a good place to start my new blog. Here it is. I have been thinking about marriage and music. Knowing that June’s background is schooled in the most elegant of human expressions, I have been thinking about how music can be a simile for an ongoing long-term commitment. In preparation for this wedding, I have been listening to Mozart and Beethoven, as well as to Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, and comparing the unfolding drama of the music to the same in a marriage, or any relationship for that matter. Vast swirling colors, accompanied by countless subtle, tiny scrimshaw etchings, against a backdrop of silence, or, in the case of marriage, against the backdrop of God’s love. Music, and marriage, is/are the human endeavor for greatness and intimacy and self-expression, which we celebrate as having the potential of maximum satisfaction not only for the players but for the surrounding community. Music is never stagnant, it flows, utilizes a rich palette of colors and tones, seemingly arrives at a destination only to jump the terminus and continue moving. Music offers surprise and delight, charm, shadow, hidden depths, quiet passages, bright light, strident clashes, erotic arousal, sentiment engulfed by gravitas, a rock opera, blues, a waltz, melody, harmony, rhythm, counterpoint, variations of instrumental arrangement, and of time. Music has all this exquisite detail within its nature, and so does marriage. A great symphony, and a great jazz number, mirrors the coming together of two hearts in a sacred relationship which plays out over time. Love, impatience, gratitude, resentment, conflict, mutual joy, compassion, celebration, hard work, uncomfortable honesty, relief in one another’s company, cuddling, shared entertainment, quiet abiding, toiling side by side, humor, a thousand and one kisses, and surprise are some of the facets of marriage, the exquisite detail within its nature, which you two will play out in your own unique way over time. We all know that silence is the canvas on which music pours out its color. Just as that is the case, so it is true that the vast and mysterious, flagrant and subtle Spirit of God is the background from which your marriage erupts in wild profusion. You can cultivate it like a musician practices his or her skill, study it and discuss it and try try again to make it better, but in truth you two are serving a muse much larger and more powerful than yourself. Divine love can propel you two, and compel you, to the heights of greatness in this marriage which we inaugurate today. Your efforts at achieving and sustaining gratifying intimacy are laudable, but are like two human swimmers striving within an ocean of grace. You are surrounded by divine love, immersed in it, to the extent that a pair of drops of water are surrounded by and immersed in the ocean in which they find themselves. We hold this wedding ceremony within the context of prayers and consecrations as a way of acknowledging the divine source of your intimacy. God can carry you if you let God do so. All you have to do, really, is be buoyant in the midst of the sea of grace and enjoy the adventure. Keep your marital skills simple, refined, and elegant. Develop your listening skills. Devote energy to imagining what your partner’s perspective might be. Stay off of drugs. Don’t abuse alcohol. Don’t cheat. Speak respectfully. Address grievances with respect. Make time to be alone together, and honor one another’s need to be alone by themselves. Then stand back and allow the music to emerge, to let your marriage be the beautiful symphony you want it to be. The great geniuses of music, the Mozarts and Beehovens and Mortons and Armstrongs, often speak of the music “being there” already, and how they were just a conduit, and receiver, of the muse. The glorious power of music was latent in their experience, overflowing from nature, and they merely cooperated in allowing it to come. You two have the capacity to be geniuses of marriage, allowing the blessings to flow down upon you and all who behold your love. I celebrate this with you today, and look forward to hearing the music you make together. Amen.