Re: Harvest

Harvest is an old word that continues to gather new meaning. Harvest is the very act of gathering. For as long as there has been something to sow there has been something to reap. The word can be connected to autumn and the farmer’s harvest of crops. A hunter or fisher can return with sufficient catch for family or village. There is hope laced through the harvest. We wish that the abundance will be sustaining, bringing us emotional, spiritual and physical energy. We are all harvesters in that sense.

An urban worker can think that the weekly paycheque is a type of harvest for tasks completed. The feeling of reward that comes from harvesting the results of our efforts can bring much joy. It’s no wonder that history is filled with tales of harvest festivals and fairs. I used to go to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Beginning in 1897, its origins were agricultural yet as time passed it became a celebration of industrial and technological harvest. Annually, we got to see, touch and hear all the newest products and services that were the result of research and development. Likewise World’s Fairs, such as the breathtaking spectacle in 1939 New York show us the results of harvesting the ingenuity of humanity.

Harvest has a lot to do with assuring the future. A successful harvest ensures continued progress and healthy outcomes. There may be insurance for a failed agricultural crop but there is non for a dead planet. When it comes to our planet’s biological resources we have often failed in our harvesting. We have let greed guide the way rather than maintaining a sustainable resource. We’ve made a mistake thinking that the Earth will always provide. Numerous examples around the world show that we can’t continue taking without an eye to the future consequences. When I visited Newfoundland recently I was gobsmacked to learn just how significant the collapse, in 1992, of the cod fishery was to the inhabitants. Harvesting is more than an activity, it can be an entire culture. In this tragic, almost Biblical, scenario I saw meaning of the phrase ‘You reap what you sow.’

Harvesting in the absence of stewardship is irresponsible. Monetary gain has to be removed as a motivator for harvesting non renewable resources. Climate change realities have been apparent for decades. I remember my university environmental science professor telling us in 1974 that the world’s ice fields were melting at a dangerously fast rate. Climate activists are now warning that the rampant harvest of fossil fuels will continue this warming trend and result in the ocean’s rising and flooding of coastal communities.

A responsible harvester takes only what is needed and saves the rest for a proverbial rainy day. Gluttony is ill advised. These harvest values have been the bedrock of civilization. Just as the sun sets and the moon rises, the earth will likely survive with us or without us. I’d like to contribute to the bounty.

Re: Infinity

One of my favourite concepts is infinity. I used to tease my students with the notion that if we had a chance to travel in a straight line in space, we would never stop and we would never encounter a wall. In relation to time, infinity means forever. In regard to space, infinity is limitless. Scientists have tried to calculate the beginning of time and space. Referring to this moment as the Big Bang, they have concluded that the Universe (as close a synonym for infinity as I can imagine) was created almost 14 billion years ago. Every year, during this lesson, one of my students would tease me back by asking; “What came before the Universe?”

Because infinity is so incomprehensible we prefer to think in a finite way. Sorting things into boxes brings us a sense of order. Scheduling things on a calendar or in a day-timer app on our cell phones gives us a feeling that when we start something it will have a predictable finish. Thinking in a finite way reduces randomness and gives us the illusion of control. How else are we to comprehend the vastness of time and space if we don’t create within it, a structure?

In relationships we may romanticize the idea that a special union, like a marriage, can last at least as ‘long as ye both shall live’. ‘Forever and Ever’ is how we may conclude a prayer in the security of believing that some things never end. Organized religion and other power structures have helped us to feel calmer about the shortness of our individual lives in relation to the infinite expanse of time and space. We are encouraged to think that our spirits will live on and our earth will last for future generations. However, we all know that someday our bodies will cease to support and transport our essence. There is no practical way, save for Cryogenics, to extend our body’s natural life span.

The Metis flag is an infinity character on a blue background, symbolically suggesting that a people lasts forever. Indigenous people have an oral history that indicates reverence for the natural and lasting world. Currently, in Canada and elsewhere, aboriginal tribes have gathered to protest against political structures that don’t recognize the sacredness of Earth. When I was a child summer seemed to last forever. I felt secure that water would always flow clean and the land would always grow stuff. I worry that I, along with my white ancestors, have messed up the planet so badly that my grandchildren will inherit an environmental apocalypse.

We are about to begin a new calendar year. We will talk for a while about new possibilities or a fresh start. We may encourage our young folk to believe that their lives contain infinite opportunities. I’m hoping that I will do more than wishful thinking. I am an idealist at heart. Perhaps I’m hopeful in a similar fashion as a grade two student who once said she liked me, “Infinity plus one.”