[This blog post is the opinion of Greg Nooney and not necessarily the view of the First Unitarian Church of Sioux City.]

I have been living on Maui for nine weeks now. Every day I have gone on a beach walk, sometimes for half an hour, sometimes for an hour or more. (I missed a day or two here and there.) Same beach. Usually the same time of day, around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. Anyone who lives by the ocean knows this, but for those of you who do not, the ocean is relentless. Every few seconds the waves crash upon the shore. Day and night. Tide coming in or tide going out. Like your heart beat. It never stops. And every single wave crash is different than every other wave crash. It is impossible to precisely predict where a wave will hit the shore and with how much intensity. The water is not neutral in its effects. The waves ever so slowly turn rocks into sand. The waves move huge pieces of driftwood around. The waves move rocks into piles, and the waves disrupt those piles. The waves pile sand up on objects then, as an after thought, knock those object around. One day a nice piece of driftwood makes for a handy perch for this old man to sit and watch the waves. Another day the wood has been obscured by piles of sand and is no longer inviting.

Please understand that I am talking about changes that have occurred over days or weeks. I notice these changes because I walk along that beach every day, and the changes occur slowly, almost imperceptibly. Nine weeks is not even a blink of the eye when we attempt to consider larger time periods. Ho long does it take ocean waves to turn a small rock into sand? One hundred years? One thousand years? How about a big boulder? One million years? It is impossible for this human to comprehend one thousand years, much less one million years.

Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and single cell organisms appeared about 3.5 billion years ago. It then took almost 3 billion years for those single celled organisms to evolve into multi-celled organisms. This takes my breath away. Life, like ocean waves, is relentless. It is ever changing, but at a pace that is impossible to comprehend. Intelligent design believers say, for example, that the eye could not have evolved, that it must have been created by an entity outside of the universe as we know it, who, detail by detail, created it. To the extent that we can comprehend the vast amounts of time involved in the evolutionary process, it makes much more sense, it seems to me, to see how evolution is much more likely. It is relentless. It is patient. Life is quite content to take two and a half billion years to figure out how to combine single cells into multi-cells. What is the hurry? There are no clocks. There are no intelligent beings who have decided to divide the passage of time into nanoseconds.

So I continue my walks and will do so for the next month until I leave the island and return to the midwest where there are no oceans and no mountains. But I will remember. And I will work to hold on to a different understanding of the passage of time than my iPhone tells me. I am just beginning to understand the Buddhist concept of impermanence.

May all beings be well. My all beings be happy. May all beings be free form suffering.



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  • Greg Nooney
    The following is a comment by Doug Vandervoort:

    I hadn’t time to read your podcast until today because it rained hard last night and I couldn’t work in the garden. I hadn’t read it previously because I was in the garden and when I wasn’t I was reading THE PIONEERS, by David McCullough.

    Now in the light of Dr. Sturdevant’s presentation this past Sunday (on GMO babies), my reading was appropriately timed. You spot the logical fault in the notion that the zygote is a human and ending its life sooner that it would be ended if nature were allowed to take its course is actually murder, then allowing murder if the zygote was the result of incest or rape is illogical.

    I love the bumper sticker that says, “It is easy to be pro-choice if you aren’t the fetus that is being terminated.” I want to buy one and have another made to put under it, which would say, “It is even easier to be pro-life if you aren’t the fetus that will be born to a mother that didn’t want you.”

    There are those that think that zygotes with detectable genetic defects should not be terminated. Fortunately, most of these zygotes with serious genetic defects are aborted naturally. Humans have been interring with Mother Nature as soon as we knew enough to be able to do so. It seems irrational to me that terminating a zygote that will end up with serious defects should be considered a crime. If you know that a zygote will produce a baby who will suffer from cystic fibrosis as an example, then terminating the chemical processes that will turn that zygote into a suffering youngster seems the ethical course to take, whereas, forcing it to enter the world and suffer for years without its permission, seems a little rude to me.

    As far as the genetic modification of organisms and putting genetic code from one animal or plant into another is concerned, we are just doing what has been done in nature forever. The only difference is that we are doing it with some notion of what and why, whereas when it was accomplished by chance in nature, we only see the successful results.

    I don’t know how to compare finding a medical treatment to cure, or eliminate the deleterious effects of some disease, with curing a disease by modifying the genetic material in egg or sperm of the parents, or modifying the genes in an adult, if and when that can be done. It seems reasonable that preventing a disease is better than treating it, which is why humans learned to vaccinate against polio rather than build all those iron lungs and make all those leg braces.

    I do firmly believe that if we had an election and everyone who voted to outlaw abortion were taxed to pay for the care and feeding of the unwanted babies that their policy created, there would be far less people talking about the evils of abortion and the wonders of adoption.

    If abortion is evil, then what is war? If the state can determine situations in which it is appropriate to execute an adult, why should the state be restricted in determining the circumstances in which an abortion is more beneficial to the betterment of society than to allow a child to be raised in what often turns out to be an abusive environment? Why shouldn’t the state be able to say that if an untreatable disease can be identified in a zygote and a lifetime of suffering can be avoided then terminating that zygote is an empathetic act, not a crime?

    Then we have the problem of religions and cultures that have developed practices that are accepted, such as murdering live born girls because their culture demands they have a son and they cannot afford more children. I think that testing the zygote and terminating female would be preferable just from a convenience and waste disposal standpoint.

    There are many things that create more suffering than abortion. The practice of blighting the lives of girls who are born into a culture that requires their clitorises be surgically removed so that they will be unable to enjoy sex and thus have no incentive to wander, would certainly be high on my list of the evils perpetrated under the cloak of religion. — Doug Vandervoort