John B. Cobb, Jr: What Keeps Us Trying?

John B. Cobb, Jr. , born in 1925, graduated from the University of Chicago Divinity School with a PhD in 1952. I believe Cobb entered the University shortly after the departure of Henry Nelson Wieman, who had infused the school with the thinking of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.
John B. Cobb, Jr.
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In 1958, Cobb began teaching at Claremont School of Theology, and Claremont Graduate University in California. In 1971, he and Lewis Ford established the Process Studies Journal, and soon thereafter co-founded with David Ray Griffin the Center for Process Studies, which became “the center of Whiteheadian process thought” according to Wikipedia. Wikipedia also states that Cobb has been characterized as “one of the two most important North American theologians of the twentieth century (the other being Rosemary Radford Ruether).[1] Cobb is often regarded as the preeminent scholar in the field of process philosophy and process theology—the school of thought associated with the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.[2] Cobb is the author of more than fifty books.[3] In 2014, Cobb was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[4]
Another distinction of John B. Cobb Jr. is that he published, in 1971, again, according to Wikipedia, “the first single-author book in environmental ethicsIs It Too Late? A Theology of Ecology—which argued for the relevance of religious thought in approaching the ecological crisis.[7] In 1989, he co-authored with Herman Daly the book For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, Environment, and a Sustainable Future, which critiqued current global economic practice and advocated for a sustainable, ecology-based economics. He has written extensively on religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue, particularly between Buddhism and Christianity, as well as the need to reconcile religion and science.”
Indeed, ecological interdependence has been an important theme throughout his long career. I read “Is It Too Late?” a number of years ago, and it made a great impact on me (I posted an excerpt on my blog here: https://integralpermaculture.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-titanic-on-earth-day/ )
Why am I writing now about John Cobb? Because at the age of 92, Cobb is still actively engaged – still writing, still working to make the world a better place.  In recent years he founded the organization Pando Populous, with an aim to create an ecological civilization.
Just a few days ago, after Trump’s announcement about pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, he posted an article in which he shares from his years of experience in the ecological movement within the academic community. He speaks honestly about the roles of hope and optimism in the face of the “manifold disasters” the world is heading toward.
“For those of us fortunate enough to have an optimistic temperament, distinguishing optimism from hopefulness is not always easy. But it is important because optimism may fade while hope remains. What I am calling “hopefulness” is grounded in faith and faithfulness. It is because the Cosmic Spirit’s aim can be our aim, that we are never alone. The Cosmic Spirit seeks through us to save this little planet. It has no hands but our hands, as I sang as a boy, but it can direct those hands beyond simply our personal wisdom. That I cannot know what good consequences may follow from some act to which I feel called does not mean that none do. Hope is a kind of trust that we can be partners of a Spirit that guides us, and that can sometimes transform even our sins and failures into stepping stones to something positive.”

Perhaps you’ll take the time to read the entire article, “What Keeps Us Trying?” by John B. Cobb, Jr.

Michael Dowd, Part 3: Grace Limits and Big Picture ‘Apocaloptimism’

Check out Part 1 of this blog post series here, and Part 2 here. Part 3, below, features the third video in a series on the theme “Standing for the Future” by Rev. Michael Dowd.

michaeldowd“These three videos are the culmination of my life’s work to-date and, by far, my most important legacy contribution.” ~ Michael Dowd

Part 1 is about “The Evidential Reformation: Facts as Scripture, Ecology as Theology.” Part 2 is “Reality is Lord: A Scientific View of God on a Rapidly Overheating Planet.” Part 3 is on “Grace Limits and Big Picture ‘Apocaloptimism’: The Great Reckoning as Great Homecoming.”

theo-kitchenerWhat is ‘Apocaloptimism’? Michael Dowd first heard Theo Kitchener call herself an ‘apocaloptimist’. I’m guessing Kirchner is author of this post discussing the term, and she first heard it from NASA scientist Peter C. Griffith. She describes it this way:

Apocaloptimism is embracing the unknown, is embracing transformation. It is being okay no matter what the outcome is, but fighting like hell to steer it in the direction that you want.

Dowd has described himself as an ‘apocaloptimist’ because he is a short term pessimist (or realist), but a long term (big picture) optimist. Listen to a great interview with Terry Patten here.

I provide below some teaser screenshots from this third video, to entice you in and to reinforce some key points.

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The quote from Teilhard de Chardin above is important.  Dowd believes that one of the most important systemic changes that needs to happen in the world is for us to learn to align self-interest with the well-being of the whole. My wife and I found the following quote from the presentation to be very meaningful:

“[One of the] most important systemic things we need to do is to align self-interest with the well being of the whole. That’s how evolution has proceeded to create greater complexity over time.

When the self-interest of the parts and the well being of the whole are aligned, then when the part does well for the whole, it [the part] benefits. And when the part harms the whole, then it harms itself in some way.

So it is in its own self-interest to do the right thing to the whole. It’s called “consequence capture” – the impact of individuals and groups, for good or ill, must be reflected back to them.”

The following introduction to the video is copied and pasted from the webpage “Standing for the Future.”

Standing for the Future (Part 3 of 3) — “Grace Limits and Big Picture ‘Apocaloptimism’: The Coming Great Reckoning as Great Homecoming”

Given our impact on Earth’s climate, the seas, and other species, humanity is already beginning to experience The Great Reckoning. The good news is that this is also The Great Homecoming: the prodigal species, after squandering our inheritance, coming home to Reality (God).

Big History — the Epic of Evolution or Universe Story — is humanity’s first and only inclusive, globally produced, evidence-based creation story. In this culminating episode, Dowd shows how this Great Story provides clear and compelling guidance to help our species ‘obey’ (honor) physical and ecological processes that have been at work for hundreds of millions of years. He offers both practical tools of resilience and an empowering vision of collective action in response to climate chaos and other large-scale systemic challenges.

Michael and Connie are currently engaged in a speaking tour in the northwest U.S., with upcoming vists to Edmonds, Whidbey Island, Seattle, Orcas Island, and Bellingham, WA, in January 2017.  Check out their itinerary here. Our Transition Whatcom event listing is here – Jan. 22nd (Sunday morning) and Jan. 23rd (Monday evening), both at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.