This little quote was the first bit of literature in a long time to poke my mind beyond the staples of pre-packaged TV drama and pulp [kindle] fiction that has come to characterize down-time in my present digital age. It is a story about trees. It starts out sounding like that anyway. But it progresses to being a collection of stories about people, that revolves around trees. Doesn’t sound very interesting, when you put it like that, but I have found it astonishing to read because the plight of trees can be construed, quite convincingly, as being identical to the plight of slave children, trafficked sex slaves, endangered animals and farmed animals, except for the descending level of intrinsic rights we imbue on each of those classes of entity, with trees coming out at the bottom. We may have different feelings about each of those groups in that arbitrary list, but in each case, the thing that remains the same is the attitude of the exploiter / consumer.
The Kohs have recently returned from a brief visit to Oz, which, for the trivial purposes of continuity we shall call Furlough 18, although the reasons for it not really qualifying are pretty much the same as last time, i.e. Furlough 17. In fact the experience of furlough- brushes with church, the normalized life, the brevity of interface with erstwhile friends and family, felt thematically also the same as last time, except this time we pretty much skipped straight to family time. Jude, in his function as (temporarily) the only grandchild, seemed to bring everyone together, including the KohFrat! The last time Jason, Jerome and I spent time together was something like 2012. Of course, having K and Jude, and Erin, made it feel like this generation’s extended family. Yay. Then of course there was K’s side of the extended family, and happily again, the Leungs. If we were to paint Furlough 18 as a family furlough, the Marshalls, Crosbys and Douglases would become honorary members.
The news and media snippets streaming out of Amreeka, including posts from my unlikely trump-faithful primary school form teacher, are a recipe for despair. It is inconceivable to half the world at least, how the state of public discourse, national policy and general priorities in that country came to the pass that it is at now. Peter Harris, founder of A Rocha, speaking to American interviewers about something seemingly malapropos yet fundamentally related, says:
“the exceptionalism of your context is something that fascinates me… now you won’t find a Christian who’ll argue with the fact that smoking increases your chance of lung cancer dramatically. Why is it, when the science is so much more solid on climate change, Christians are disposed to argue with the science, even though none of them are scientists?... what’s going on here? There’s almost a definite line – the poorer the country, the more climate change is central to what the church is talking about and grappling with. In poorer countries, irregular rainfall, violent climate events, heat waves which are becoming extreme – these are impacting peoples’ lives very directly. In wealthier countries, people live at a mediated relationship with their environment, so it is possible to be completely oblivious to all of this.
Bringing it back to the big picture of what is wrong, with the environment, with Amreeka, with Christianity in Amreeka, with Christianity because it is in Amreeka, Harris says:
“the analysis of what’s wrong, for the Christian, is much more profound than saying we haven’t got money for conservation. Or we don’t have good legislation. Or the science is complicated. The biblical analysis from all the prophets, is that a broken relationship to God will destroy the environment. It is a widespread ecological problem, if we do not have a restored relationship with God. So what we are seeing globally, in religious terms, is the export of consumerism as a religion; the idea that the more you have, the happier you will be, and that is ecologically toxic.”
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So poetic, and so lofty. Yet it might be that the perceived unalienable (really?) right to the last, destroys the right to the first 2. How comfortable would I be then, to remain a consumer? To be beholden to corporations, however benign the enthralment? What would I do, however little it might seem to matter?
In other news, we are now expecting the end of Jude's monopoly on inherited genetic material, sometime in the tail end of March 2019. More next time, on the world Jude and his koh-heir will inherit, this side of the New Earth.