In Transforming Church, Kevin Ford tells the story of a scientific experiment involving four monkeys and some bananas at the top of a pole in their cage. At first the monkeys competed against each other for the bananas, and the strongest ones got the most. The weaker ones had to find strategic times to get their bananas. But all of the monkeys were able to eat regularly.
My husband and I found the WorldWide Telescope a few months ago, and we’ve been staring into the heavens ever since. “Which planet would you like to see first?” he asked me once he'd loaded the program onto his computer. No question: Saturn. I’ve always been fascinated by those rings. A few clicks of the mouse and there they were, circling and circling, a sash of light, a halo, a crown. We looked at Jupiter next, with its great red spot. We looked at Mercury, Venus, Mars and Pluto. Each planet was unique, different from every other. But what they had in common was this: they shone out of utter darkness.
Like everyone else I know, I am feeling the pinch of a straitened economy. I eat out less often, I drive less far and I write fewer checks to my favorite charities. These are all middle-class concerns, I know (does anyone admit to being upper-middle class?), which is why I hesitate to mention them.
The new atheist movement has reached its high-water mark, and there are signs that it is starting to recede. Wishful thinking, you say? Aren’t there more and more antireligious tracts on the bestseller lists? Aren’t these writers terribly clever? Perhaps so, yet somehow they fail to capture the imagination.
With one child in college and two teenagers at home, I learned vicariously about “being friended” and “facebooking.” My kids didn’t want me to join Facebook, but relented when I told them that our seminary students were forming groups on Facebook and inviting me to participate. I entered a new universe.
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).