life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

brush fires...

If you have been following the news of California lately, you are probably aware that we are in the midst of brush fire season. There have been several fires burning. One this past week nearly jumped Highway 101. If it had, as all the fire officials noted, it would have burned all the way to the Pacific Ocean. (This is the challenge faced by my alma mater, Pepperdine University. I recall not too many years back seeing video images of the palm trees outside the Hughes Research Lab think tank just up Malibu Canyon Road burning like huge torches.)

Part of the problem with these fires is that they are not only natural, they are part of the cyclical clearing of the land in Southern California. These fires have been happening for centuries, perhaps even millennia, as new growth from abundant spring rains dries out to tinder status. Some of the native plants even rely on this cycle to reproduce. Imported weeds make the fires hotter than they would be otherwise, sometimes even facilitating the permanent destruction of indigenous species.

Now what does all of this have to do with the suture zone?

Put a house in the path of a cyclical fire zone, build a house on a flood plain, erect a house on unstable cliffs above the beach and what’s going to eventually happen? The view can be great, but when the fire sweeps through, when the dam breaks, when the ground saturates with rainwater, then watch out. Tragedy is going to strike.

As my wife and I drove down to see her mom this past Saturday, I noticed that, on the northern part of the San Andreas Tejon hook suture zone, a fire had recently cleared away the weeds and brush that had previously covered the scattered hills. It made me think that not all of what happens on the suture zone happens below ground level. Sometimes other forces, perhaps forces that are cyclical in nature, also ravage the landscape. In the case of the California hills, we had way too much water in last year’s El Niño. Weeds and brush have overrun the hills, overburdening the ecosystem. It is ripe for fire. Unfortunately, something ignited the tinderbox brush and the fire gorged itself on the excess fuel. Several houses were lost.

Maybe the paradigm shift in our world is causing some to deconstruct modernism in the same way that fire clears away the brush... so that something new might emerge. Sometimes the tearing down of the old can be helpful. Sometimes useful structures go up in flames, though, and not all that survives is good.

Now, as with all metaphors, there is a real risk if we push this one too far. As Marshall correctly noted in one of his comments, post-moderns are not turning their backs on science and the knowledge that has been gained through it. Rather, they are not putting all their eggs in that basket. They know, either instinctively or through their observation and experience of the failures of the modern (two space shuttles in pieces, for instance or the rapidly growing incidence of bird flu that could erupt in a pandemic), that science is not, in itself, sufficient to explain the meaning of life nor the mystery they have encountered in the midst of modern failures. Aerodynamics and the explosive properties of jet fuel do little to explain the “why” of the twin towers. It’s as if these paradigm shifters have taken off the blinders and leveled a more realistic gaze at the world and each other. I don’t know. Maybe that’s too optimistic. Maybe we’re still just tearing down the old and nothing new has emerged yet, at least nothing recognizable by most of us.

Anyway, back to my point. (I’m tired. Can you tell?) Not all is burned away. Instead, enough is cleared away (and enough has withstood the flames) to allow our vistas to expand and new imaginations to take root.

Reminds me of the very biblical idea of burning away the dross in the flames. Maybe we’ve had a dross infection in the modern paradigm and it has to be burned away.

I suspect we're in for a very bad fire season in California... and in the world, metaphorically speaking.

For what it’s worth....

Grace and peace,



Blogger Tones said...

As a person who resonates with the deconstruction going on, it is good to hear a warning of caution. I really don't want to burn all that is good with our churches along with the things that need to be burned. It's very, very tempting to me to forget the whole church thing with all its baggage and try to just be a Christian, but for whatever reason I feel that God wants me to stay in the church (but we know how confident I am in my ability to hear and discern God's voice). ;)


8:01 AM  

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