Here in Tidewater, Virginia, we make our way from city to city via
a series of tunnels. As we approach each tunnel a series of signs warn
us: “No HAZMATS” and “HAZMATS must exit here.” Trucks carrying
hazardous materials of one sort or another provide a danger anywhere,
but in tunnels the risk is magnified.
I noticed a disheveled and unshaven man in his early fifties a few barstools down from me. Something about him seemed uninviting. Soon an attractive 40-something woman arrived in a crisp little black dress and perched on the stool next to him. She seemed nervous.
For seven splendid years (1953-1960) I studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Someone told me that visitors to the seminary were occasionally brought around to the tutors' office, where I worked as a graduate student, in order to glimpse "the Barthian"—of which species I was apparently the only one in captivity in that place.
The paradox of being a writer is that you are more likely to get outcomes when you let go of getting outcomes: it frees you from the ego's grip. There is a parallel here to the faith journey: seek your life and you will lose it, lose your life and you will find it.
Plant a garden. Listen to birdsong. Sit quietly in a park without checking your phone. These activities are examples of ecotherapy, a form of mental health treatment based on the idea that nature has healing powers. “If you hold moist soil for 20 minutes, the soil bacteria begin elevating your mood,” says Craig Chalquist, an innovator in this new field. “You have all the antidepressant you need in the ground.” Chalquist maintains that it helps even more to give something back to nature—not just looking at trees, but caring for them (Atlantic, October).