After arriving at Berkeley, I put in several years studying at the Graduate Theological Union--focusing on Stewardship and Spirituality. Using St. Francis of Assisi, Meister Eckhart, and Hildegard of Bingen as my mainstays when it came to any sense of Christian stewardship, I weaved them into a panentheistic approach to the universe--and, thus, to Nature. I was attempting to endow some deep sense of "specialness," when it came to our Mother--the Earth. Embroidering these great medieval mystics into the fabric of our current environmental issues made for some fairly interesting scholarship. Yet, while in the midst of this program I wondered *how* I might apply this approach once I left the confines of academe.
Having kept touch with my Oblate Director at Christ Church Abbey--via e-mail, which had finally become available--I talked over my concerns with her. Wondering how I could spread the word, so to speak, about Stewardship and Spirituality. This good lady monastic provided me with some excellent advice.
She suggested that I write and submit articles on this subject to various Benedictine periodicals. With her help, I managed to have an on-going series published in the American Benedictine Academy Newsletter, the American Monastic Newsletter, and the American Benedictine Review. Rather than eking out a book, it seemed my talents resided in writing articles. This didn't surprise me, since I wrote nearly tons of manuals and reports when in the Army. We were trained to get to the "meat of the matter," in the most short and swift means available. So I was a natural when it came to these shorter articles.
While busy writing all these articles I began to think about how we might present the topic of Stewardship and Spirituality into church retreats and workshops. Eco-Spirituality was still very much a new topic around religious circles. I felt that the key to this--for any such program--was *literacy.* It's hard to persuade people to pitch-in if they don't have at least a minimal knowledge-base. So I felt that I had to look around, first, to educate myself in a new field: Eco-Literacy! I couldn't be persuasive for others if I didn't know what I was talking about.
I had to become a volunteer in order to get what I needed. Some friends told me about the docent program at the San Francisco Natural History Museum, which was under the aegis of the California Academy of Sciences. After undergoing almost nine months of curatorial training, docents would work in an Eco-Literacy program geared towards younger children--ranging from kindergarten through the sixth grade.
Well, not having had any close-up experience with children, I wasn't too sure about this volunteer program. And I kind of looked at myself askance, as a "once and mighty" Army officer trying to teach a bunch of kiddies. Pride was getting in the way, but I pushed it aside. And after I entered the docent training program, I met a goodly number of retired professional men taking part. I felt a lot better.
I must admit that we received really valuable training in the following areas:
- Classification Systems (of Species)
- Desert Terrains
- Evolutionary Theory
- Marine Life
The above is quite a spread of knowledge. I never realized that this so-called volunteer docent training would entail so much. It was very demanding, and it was also very professional. At the end, I felt that the knowledge I received far surpassed any such possibilities that might have been offered at an university. And it was all free, money-wise!
The pay out, however, was my spending a number of years, at least twice-a-week, working as a museum docent. We had both "Out Reach" and "In Museum" programs. In Out Reach we nearly had to start at the crack-of-dawn, piling exhibits into our museum wagon, and be at a selected school by 9:00 a.m. We would spend the morning working through various grades. I was always amazed how interested these youngsters were, when it came to their understanding better the intricacies of Nature. And when flocks of school children came to the museum, we literally had a hard time calming them down. Up close to the exhibits, they just turned on their "joy button."
This docent experience really proved to me that human beings are born to engage and enjoy Mother Nature. It's the worldview we have produced, which is an outdated mechanistically inclined view, that has perverted our relationship with Nature. And the Good Lady has been biting back. I came to realize, even with this one docent program, that if we could begin to instill in this young generation of children a sense of respect towards Nature, than maybe they wouldn't "trash" the place! Multiply these sorts of Eco-Literacy programs by the hundreds, at museums and other outlets, we then can see that we are moving forward.
None of this effort was "spiritual," in the strictest sense. But maybe it was, somehow in some way. Perhaps ironic, once again finding myself in the "secular" realm, taking on the challenge I once thought would be more a spiritual quest.
In due course I actually found myself a paid position at the museum. The Education Department needed knowledgable writers to update the docent training publications. This introduced me to yet another facet of Eco-Literacy. Beyond this, the museum was more and more moving into both projects and lecture series that focused on adult "Environmental Responsibility." Eventually I started writing support articles for this new museum program.
Consequently, in order to improve further my own knowledge base, I took some museum field training at some interesting places. In the Sierras we went to a huge Solar Energy Farm, replete with solar panels that seemed to stretch out for miles. Down at Palm Springs we visited the Wind Turbine Facility. And near the Salton Sea we toured a Thermal Energy Plant. Gads! I even got some up front experience with Photo-Voltaic Roofs. We were just beginning to enter into "Green Architecture."
Overall, I felt satisfied--meeting this special challenge, when it comes to the human interface with Nature. These were the early years when it came to Eco-Spirituality, Eco-Literacy, and Environmental Responsibility. I had wielded my Templar sword once again, but for a far better cause. I felt good through and through. But I was beginning to wear down, what with all the activities and demands. Getting older, for sure...
Thus, the thought began to creep-in that maybe it was time to slow down, retire myself, aim towards more solitude. I knew I wasn't going to get this more quiet existence in the San Francisco- Bay Area. More and more I looked towards "home," towards Tidewater Virginia.