Starling Murmuration (Catalyst Notes)

Starlings are startling in their ability to create these beautiful formations. Scientist truly couldn’t begin to understand them until they had the high-tech capabilities to analyze their movements in computers. What they discovered was amazing: the flock transcends biology. Every single starlings movement is influenced by every other starlings movement. Known as scale-free correlation, it can be best understood (although not perfectly) through looking at things like avalanches or crystal formations – on the verge of instantaneous change.

Because there is no LEADER of the formation, any starling has the ability to change the path of all starlings in the flock. Regardless of the size of the flock they remain equally responsive to all other starlings: velocity and orientation remain consistent regardless of the number of birds participating. We still cannot understand how they are able to process and respond to signals of the surrounding birds so quickly.

The most fascinating thing of all, perhaps, is that this is all in response to a predator, and the greater the threat, the more phenomenal the synchronicity. The all have and share the same goal of survival, and this singular goal allows them to create and perform at unfathomable levels.

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Radical Amazement Excerpts and Quotes

These are excerpts or short summaries from Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato that I’ll be using for my presentation tonight.
WHAT IS RADICAL AMAZEMENT?
  1. “Radical amazement is the chief characteristic of a religious attitude toward life and the proper response to the divine… According to Herschel, radical amazement “refers to all of reality; not only to what we see, but also to the very act of seeing as well as to our own selves, to the selves that we see and are amazed at the ability to see.” (pg. 10)
  2. Radical amazement catches us up in love-the Love that is the Creator of all that is, the Holy Mystery that never ceases to amaze, never ceases to lavish love in us, on us, around us. (pg. 12)
AMAZEMENT AT WHAT WE SEE/DON’T SEE
  1. Abraham Heschel said, “Awareness of the divine begins with wonder.” (pg. 7)
  2. Thomas Aquinas said that a mistake in our understanding of creation will necessarily cause a mistake in our understanding of God. (pg. 7)
  3. (1473-1543) Copernicus proposed the Earth rotated around the sun and rotates on it’s own axis once a day shortly before his death. (pg. 22)
  4. In 1609 Galileo substantiated Copernicus’ claim. Humans could no longer see themselves as the center of the universe. (22-23)
  5. The Milky Way is one hundred thousand light years across and ten thousand light years deep with between two hundred and four hundred billion stars.  (pg. 8)
  6. As recently as the 1920s we thought that the Milky Way Galaxy comprised the entire universe but in 1923 Edwin Hubble photographed the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light years away. Today we know that there are billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars. (pg. 8)
  7. In 1998, Wendy Freedman and a team of astrophysicists concluded that the Big Bang occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. (pg. 8)
  8. In 2003, Scientist determined that 25% of the universe is what is called dark matter (exerts gravitational pull) and 70% is dark energy (causes rate of expansion of the universe to accelerate). Only 5% of universe is composed of “ordinary” matter. (Pg. 9)
  9. If Big Bang had been one trillionth of a trillionth of a percent slower, the gravitational force would have been to great and the universe would have imploded. Equally faster and matter would have escaped gravitational pull and the cosmos would have been flung apart. (Pg. 9)
AMAZEMENT AT OUR SELVES
  1. Cosmology is the story that flows out of the study of the origin and development of the universe, including who we are and what we are about. (pg. 19)
  2. Atom discovered with the creation of the microscope (pg. 23) Scientists thought it was possible to separate the observer from the observed, being completely detached without influencing the observation. (24)
  3. We are stuck in the dualistic, hierarchical, either-or thinking that has created the very problems that threaten us. We are not mechanisms with separate parts, but interconnected holons that are mutually dependent. (pg. 14)
  4. To live and to work in one world and believe and pray in another makes our lives seem fragmented and disconnected, even alienated from what is truly lifegiving. (pg. 21)
  5. Besides challenging his listeners to consider who they were, Jesus urged them to consider who God was. (pg. 20)
  6. Evolution as a creative process urged on from within by the very Spirit of God. It recognized the special significance of the human species as the consciousness of the cosmos, the universe having emerged in such a way that it is conscious of itself. (pg. 15)
  7. I Cor 12:20-22 “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (pg. 62)
  8. Salvation, at its root, is to be whole, means to be whole. And since we cannot be whole without acknowledging all of the parts that make us one, our salvation-our own wholeness-is intricately bound to the salvation of all. (pg. 62)

Reflections on “Radical Amazement” Chapter 5: All Creation is Groaning: the Process of Evolution

In Chapter 5 of Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato, we examine our self-awareness. One of the more profound statements I reflected on from this chapter was, “The consciousness of each of us is the result of the evolution of consciousness which has proceeded for eons. In us the evolving universe is capable of self-reflection.” (pg. 57) This self-awareness carries not only a wisdom but a responsibility; an understanding that our actions ripple through our connectedness and impact the rest of creation. “In the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ final words to his disciples encourages them to ‘go into all the world and preach the good news to the whole creation’ (Mark 26:15).”’ Thomas Aquinas too, saw that divinity was represented not in a single creation but in the collection of creation. In 1950, the Pope Pius saw no conflict between evolution and the faith tradition of Catholic-Christian tradition, which Pope John Paul II later confirmed.

Although evolution is confirmed more and more through various sciences, also confirmed is the reliance of various species on one another for their diversification. All creation groans together, as we read in the Bible, and participates in this creative process with one another and the Creator. “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the part of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Cor 12:20-22) This too is true of our world, for where would we be without the tiny bee to pollenate the plants, or the little seeds, that produce all plant life which cleans the air and feeds so many creatures? Those things that seem the weakest and smallest are the least dispensable. This means our salvation, our wholeness, is tied up with one another, so that the world must too be brought to wholeness and we do this through a response of love, wisdom, and compassion. “Hubbard describes the universal human as “one who is connected through the heart to the whole of life, attuned to the deeper intelligence of nature, and called forth irresistibly by spirit to creatively express his or her gifts in the evolution of self and the world.” (pg. 64) Evolution, contrary to degrading humanity, makes us part of a universal creation of Love brought to life, recreating itself in greater complexities in relationship to one another until, after 13.7 billion years, it reaches a point of self-awareness and reflection in ourselves. This alone is a point of radical amazement.

Seeing God as Creator

Genesis 1:1-4 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

The 4th and 5th words are “God created.”  He took the formless earth and, while hovering over it, spoke words that brought light and then many other things into being. Merely spoke words. But he took a special step with man.

Genesis 2:7 “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”

God created man by forming him out of dust and breathing into His creation. This is a more intimate and tactile interaction than with His other creations. I believe that God created out of love and I think we see that in the description here.

Psalm 19:1-4 NLT

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or work;

their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”

To me, this psalm seems to sing the about the glory of all of God’s work, of the beauty of what we call science. But God does not just create things that we can touch. He creates covenants that feed our soul in times of need and suffering; He marks us to a depth unreachable by others.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord. “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.”

He also creates ways for us to remember Him over and over again in the Bible. He provides creative ways we can remember His love for us. In my example, He gives us a way to remember the sacrifice He gave us in his Son (also, note the covenant God promises in the previous verse and the promise Jesus makes).

Luke 22:19-20 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed in my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice to you.”

For good measure (and because I believe it ties the last two verses together), let us also remember what the Holy Spirit creates:

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Christians and Rainforest Exploitation

The kinds of exploitation we see in the rainforest with regards to Sr. Dorothy Stang’s work can be described in terms of logging, ranching/irresponsible farm management, harassment, etc. If I were to try to identify the motivating factor behind their behavior regarding exploitation I see it as fear-based and hoarder-like which is not at all reflective of being in a relationship with God. Greed might be an easy word to jump to when we are used to having our needs met and not living in fear but that is not descriptive of the life of many in the rainforest. I think the behavior we see is mostly stemmed from fear of not having enough themselves and a fundamental lack of understanding in renewable and sustainable environments.

I feel the solution to this issue is more a matter of inspiring compassion and caring through the example of Jesus Christ and educating people about “financial planning” and land management. I believe Sr. Dorothy Stang covered quite a bit of this during the time she lived in Brazil, trying to get a proper balance between rainforest preservation and a sustainable living from the environment. After serving this community for decades she was stopped and threated by two men who ended up murdering her.  I believe she didn’t resist, and instead blessed them in what she thought might be her last moments, because she didn’t want to hurt any human. If she worked so hard to save millions of lives, why would she harm any? She took seriously the beatitude from Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Those murderers were wrong and callous. The outrage people felt at her loss and the response to it was understandable but we cannot let that overtake us or harden our hearts to those hurting people or the environment. We must remember why Sister Dorothy was there.  Sister Dorothy, who obviously felt a calling from Christ, must have looked at these ranchers and realized that Christ had also died for them. They have an opportunity at being redeemed through Him and we must try to help them towards that relationship.

Therefore, in her last moments, I think even then she was blessing people that she thought were still missing a relationship with Jesus, which would most likely free them from their fear and set them on the path which would result in respecting the lives of others and preserving their homes and the environment.