We celebrate our 50th episode with in-depth coverage of how we’re all going to die! After unraveling the Mayan prophecies about December 21, 2012, we turn our attention to the coming technological singularity and speculate about what a world ruled by super-computers and nanobots will look like. We check in with a NASA scientist to find out if Planet X is still on schedule to crash into the earth next month, and whether or not solar flares and geomagnetic pole shifts might make Apple’s new Maps app even more useless. In our Pro extension, we get real with some of the actual predictions coming from astrophysicists about the Big Bang, Big Bounce and Big Freeze, and we end with the heart-warming holiday message that we’re unlikely to be special and unique snowflakes after all.
We catch up on stories from earlier in the season with the latest developments. Great news on the Colorado River Delta gives us something to celebrate, as a decade’s long tragedy gets turned into a success story of water security and international cooperation. We revisit our conversation on placemaking with a discussion of the role of nature and wilderness in literature. And we wrap things up with post-election coverage of the impending fiscal cliff and what a second term for Obama means for the environment.
It’s hard to be grateful for the blessings in our lives when I’m so frightened about how we, as a culture, over-consume those very blessings. For me, it is a challenge to remain anchored enough in gratitude that I can consciously make choices consistent with my desire to live a sustainable, rather than hyper-consumptive, life. The temptation of the fear is a temptation to despair. And I suspect that many Americans, and perhaps folks from other parts of the planet, have already succumbed to that temptation. When we stare into the horrifying implications of climate change, the reaction of dread and anxiety that we feel is, in my opinion, very much related to the old Hebrew idea of “the fear of the Lord.” It is a fear we feel because we know in our guts we’ve done something wrong. So what do we do now?
We explore the dark underbelly of this quintessential American harvest festival. Is the classic turkey dinner really a kind of animal sacrifice, symbolic of soldiers returning from war to be dismembered and cannibalized to nourish the homeland? Does the all-American obsession with football speak to our history of colonialism and military conflict? Is Black Friday just another shopping day, or is the consumerism that drives mobs into violent frenzies an inevitable result of our culture’s subconscious desire for blood sacrifice? What does our modern Thanksgiving holiday have in common with the ancient Aztec creation stories in which the gods themselves must sacrifice their flesh and blood to appease a ravenous earth? We investigate the disturbing underpinnings of this American holiday of gratitude and friendship.
We discuss Bill Plotkin’s work as a depth psychologist and wilderness guide exploring the stages of a soul-centered, ecocentric life. We begin by examining his definition of the soul as a person’s “ultimate place” in the universe, taking up the question of what we can learn from comparing the human soul to the concept of the ecological niche. From there, we delve into the world of archetypes to discover the deepest impulses of the human psyche that move us through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elderhood.
We share some fascinating examples of how cultures from all over the world have looked to the sun, moon and stars for guidance in crafting meaningful liturgical calendars. Ali wishes everyone a Happy Diwali before delving into the mysteries of the Hindu lunisolar calendar, and Jeff ponders the lost zodiac of the ancient Celts and how the Coligny Calendar and the Gundestrup Cauldron can give us clues to how our ancestors might have seen the stars. In our Pro Extension, we bring you the stirring conclusion to the saga of the ages — and we find out why exactly everybody hates hipsters.
We continue our conversation about the cyclical nature of growth and decay in ecology and human society. We wrap up our exploration of Doug Pagitt’s book, Church in the Inventive Age, with an in-depth examination of the Inventive Age and how it’s shaping our ideas, values, aesthetics and tools in powerful new ways. What defines shared sacred space in an age of virtual worlds and virtual lives? How does this new vision of religious organization and leadership lead us to more sustainable, eco-friendly spiritual traditions? And what are some of the potential problems that might arise as a result? Then, we look at the evolving nature of the American Dream and how it shapes the political and social landscape of whole generations.