Page Bridges of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Page Bridges)

Page Bridges of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Page Bridges)

Living and Growing: Not a single bug

I just read a great shocking and informative article about our treatment of creation. A photo of a field of flowers illustrates the article. The sad caption reads, “Not a single bug.”

The article is by Thom Hartmann. I hope all will go online and find, “Is the Loss of Insects a Desperate Cry from a Planet under Assault?”

“It’s early summer here in the Pacific Northwest and the flowers are blooming; above is a photo Louise took with her iPhone yesterday morning as we were walking along the Columbia River. The hillside is ablaze with wildflowers.

“But it was also eerily silent. Look carefully: No matter how much you enlarge the photo you’ll not see a single insect. This hillside used to swarm with bees, flies, and dozens of other winged bugs. Today, although pretty, walking by it felt like I was passing a graveyard.”

Hartman writes that since he moved to Oregon 17 ago, the insect population has declined precipitously:

“At that time, the air was filled with bugs and swallows, small insect-eating birds. A bit less than two decades later, I only rarely see swallows. The swarms of gnats, mosquitoes, butterflies, beetles, and moths that marked spring and summer for most of my 73 years all seem to have largely vanished. Only the birds that don’t eat insects — seed-eaters like sparrows, and carnivores like crows, seagulls, bald eagles, and ospreys — still populate this area.

“In my lifetime, more than 80% of all the wild animals on Earth have vanished; today over a million species are on the verge of extinction. Just since 1970, North America has lost about a third of all our birds. Scientists have declared an insect apocalypse.”

The article is short, pithy and well worth finding online and reading. Here in this column, I would like to explore his curative instruction: “Our religions and culture must adapt and discover a new respect for all life.”

Just before I saw the article, I happened on the name of a book that seemed to epitomize what is wrong with us. “Amusing Ourselves to Death, Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” was written by Neil Postman 35 years ago. The reviews say it was prescient. It is about TV trivializing our culture and turning everything into entertainment.

I went to a classical concert recently and the audience seemed mostly made up of baby boomers. When we boomers were growing up, it was a thrill to go to a classical concert. Lots of young people would be at every concert. This situation distresses me immensely, because I know that if young people are exposed to classical music, they will love it. And not only that, it will soothe them. They say that Gen Z is highly medicated for anxiety.

In high school, we all had to teach a class. I chose to teach mine on Schubert “lieder.” German art songs are intensely beautiful and highly crafted. Boys in the class whom no one would have called sensitive were beating time on their desks enjoying the rapturous music. In another school, I brought a class to tears with a Schubert song cycle.

One reason that German lieder is so rapturous to listen to is that German is an onomatopoetic language. Words sound like the thing they refer to. Ice crunches underfoot, brooks babble in the warm sunshine, etc. It is a language very connected with nature, and the music can be heavenly. So of course, can all classical music, and if we give people a chance to peacefully meditate inwardly and profoundly relax, how can they go out and destroy the planet and its animals?

The triviality of TV now is beyond my ability to stomach. It is dangerous triviality. I just saw an ad where a man is hanging above a chasm holding out a product, and another man takes the product not caring in the slightest that his friend or whoever careens to his death. Whatever popular references I may have missed, the visual is beyond grotesque.

As Thom Hartmann in his disappearing bug article says, “Our culture must discover a new respect for all life.”

• Page Bridges is a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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