Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Creation Time Day 33

Rivers have shaped the landscape of the earth, carving out valleys and creating floodplains and deltas. They exercise huge influence on human development. Rivers have provided water and fertile soil to support large concentrations of population. They have acted as vital transport channels for the expansion of human settlement into continental interiors and for the movement of people and goods for trade. 

In more recent human history the energy of rivers has been harnessed first to drive flour grinding mills and today to generate electricity. This has involved controversial schemes of dams and channel diversions in several area of the world.

Rivers are vital in the hydrological cycle which ensures the drainage of water from the land back into the sea becoming available once again to fall as rain.

This photograph depicts the Orange River near Upington in South Africa. At 1400 miles it is the longest river in South Africa flowing from east to west into the Atlantic Ocean, passing through the arid regions on the southern edge of the Kalahari Desert. Although Upington is the only major settlement through which it flows the river is important to the South African economy for hydroelectricity and irrigation.

As well as their material and economic benefits rivers provide a rich stimulus to the human imagination. Rivers are a symbolic resource for reflection on the paradox in human experience of the co-existence of endless change and constant presence; provoking thought on time and mortality. 

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." Heraclitus

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Creation Time Day 32

No celebration of the creation would be complete without paying homage to the glory of green. Large swathes of the landmass of the Earth appear green because of its vegetation cover. The colour green has come to symbolise nature and the natural in human culture. There is plenty of anecdotal, and some scientific, evidence that spending time with, or even having regular sight of, plants or woodland environments can relieve stress. Green is good.

There remains some mystery nonetheless about why plants are green. Yes it is because plant tissue is full of the green pigment chlorophyll. The presence of chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis which is the process whereby plants absorb energy from sunlight. Chlorophyll absorbs light in the red and blue sections of the spectrum but it reflects green; making plants appear green to the human eye.

The question which I understand has yet to be answered fully to the satisfaction of all scientists is why plants evolved with chlorophyll predominant, since it does not absorb a significant section of the light spectrum, namely the green. Why would plants not maximise absorption of the full range of light from which to convert to energy? There are several theories still under discussion.

If another pigment which absorbed the full  light spectrum had evolved in plants all that is now green would appear black to the human eye. Who knows what that would have done to the evolution of vision in humans and other creatures. 

Mystery or not, green is worth celebrating: a gift in creation which calms the human spirit.

"Our response to the world is essentially one of wonder, of confronting the mysterious with a sense, not of being small, or insignificant, but of being part of a rich and complex narrative." John Burnside, poet (1955 - )

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Creation Time Day 31

Creation Time Day 31
Today's photo of a cardoon approaching the end of the growing season introduces the theme of the seed. The diversity and resilience of plant life on earth is a result of the evolution of the humble seed. It allows for plants to await the right growing conditions before coming to life.
The myriad ways in which human life is dependent upon plants would be impossible without the seed. Today scientists are collecting and banking seeds to prevent species from complete extinction.

The wonder of the seed is recognised in the sayings of many wise teachers in human history. In the Christian gospels the power of the seed to generate abundance of life from tiny beginnings is used by Jesus to illustrate the capacity of faith in God to transform human existence.

 ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ Mark 4:30 - 32