You will need:
For services during the season of Conflatorium you will need the following:
- a bowl of ice cubes with a fossil frozen into each (one for each participant and several additional ones)
- A bowl of hot water
- A hand snack for each participant in the shape of an aquatic creature (gold fish crackers, shrimp, strips of Nori glued together with honey to look like jelly fish)
- a candle
- a bell or signing bowl
- a candle snuff
Leader: Who would like to share?
The participants briefly update each other on how they're doing and what's going on in their lives.
The season of Conflatorium (melting) is the second Liturgical Season in the SolSeed Movement's Liturgical Calendar. It symbolizes and celebrates the emergence of complex life in the Ediacaran and Cambrian periods, after the melting of Snowball Earth 590 million years ago. During this season the Weekly Service Calls use the following Opening ceremony:
We gather to mark the passing of a week
To align our hearts as one.
(Light the Sol candle) (take an ice cube from bowl and hold it in your hand)
Ice ... just ... ice ...
and then ... [gasp] ... Melting
(Drop the ice cube into warm/hot water)
Warm Sun! Open Water! Dry Land! Scented Breeze!
The sea teems with new lifeforms ...
As the ice melts, they emerge to tell their story!
(pour the ice cubes (or big block of ice) that have things (e.g., trilobites) frozen in them, into the bowl of warm water)
Cells transcend themselves
Uniting with multitudes of sisters to become something more;
Complex life explodes into a dazzling diversity of forms!
(Participants clasp hands, or join two hands clasped if you are alone)
Next opens the mouth, the first structure,
Both the feeder of animals,
and the singularity that
gave animals direction.
("Chase" and then eat some food, e.g. seaweed, suishi, shrimp, or goldfish crackers ... participant's choice)
Then come the senses!
Taste, smell, sight, touch, hearing
((Put fingers on mouth, nose, eye, temple, and ear, thus touching all five senses))
The sensing which gave the first animals reason to swim.
The sensing which still directs us today!
Finally, Animals secrete calcium,
Armour, Shells, Teeth, Bones,
Massive, piling, surfaces fold through open water,
A billion allies emerge,
Life learns to make new reefs, new worlds,
(building motions of one hand on top of another going up up up?)
Cells Join to Cells.
Mouths. Senses. Shells.
From silent ice ... teeming reefs!
(schooling fish motion where each finger is a fish)
You are floating in water. But the water seems thick, syrupy. You can't see clearly, but you can tell that there is a translucent shadow off to your left. You torque your flagellum to face the shadow and then spin it smoothly to propel yourself toward the light. Your progress is slow because of the thickness of the water. But as you reach the source of the shadow your collar begins to fill with tiny bacteria which you gobble up hungrily. Suddenly a dark blue-green shadow appears to your right. You spin your flagellum quicker trying to escape it, but it locks on and constructs a cytoplasmic bridge into you. You feel it inject mRNA. You read the message. It says, "Hello Little One."
You synthesize an mRNA message of your own and send it back, "Gaia, when did we become protozoans?"
The message that comes back encodes some joyful laughter and then, "Little one, you have the question wrong, the right question is when did you cease to be protozoans? Remember that at one time your ancestor was a protozoan. The lessons of space-time tell you that although the single cell that was that protozoan has split many times, there was never any way to say which of the daughter cells was the original cell and which was the new cell. In essence, at each division, each of the daughter cells is the parent cell. Which means every cell in your human body, actually _is_ that protozoan. Today, you get to dream about being the last protozoan in your ancestral line."
You continue to travel along accompanied by the Gaia protozoan. You feel that the time has come. For millions of years your kind has begun each individual life as a swimmer, like yourself. But as the individual ages, it finds a good place to settle and attaches to a rock to rest and capture passing food and build up the energy to divide into two swimmers again. The time has come for you to settle. A rock presents itself and you attach a basal stock to the rock and begin to use your flagellum to draw water through your collar filtering out bacteria. You can feel Gaia doing the same beside you. Sometimes lots of bacteria come and you feast and grow fatter and sometimes there are none and you go hungry and shrink. But slowly you feel yourself growing more than shrinking. It takes a long time. The days pass in waxing and waning light.
You synthesize another mRNA to Gaia, "It feels good to do this. As a human I would be bored out of my skull, but in some sense, I am happy doing this. Especially when the sun shines."
The message you get back is a poem,
"Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. "—Gerard Manley Hopkins, (excerpt from Poems and Prose, 1985, "As Kingfishers Catch Fire")
You go back to silently filtering water. Slowly as the days pass you begin to feel it is time once again. Mitosis happens. There are two of you. You are neither one nor the other. You struggle to be one of the other. After a while you settle into the being of the left one. The two of you yearn to swim but something has gone wrong. You are not only still attached to the rock, you are attached to the other. You cannot swim. You cannot take separate action. You feel your separate agency being subsumed. You are no longer able to do what you do. Instead you are a mere slave. You are a mere part of something bigger. Most of your agency is flowing upward away from you to the superorganism that is you plus that other cell.
"Gaia, I am no longer me, but instead a mere part of something bigger. I no longer control my existence, but I am controlled." You send the mRNA through your private channel to Gaia.
The message comes back. "Little one, you have always been part of something bigger. You have also always been a whole made of parts. Sometimes the parts are physically attached to each other in the present moment, sometimes they are only attached in the past through the four-dimensional brane of space-time. Sometimes the parts have greater agency, sometimes they cooperate more closely to give agency to the greater whole. In this dream you can travel between holonic levels and understand the satisfying fit between agency and contribution."
You want to swim away. That is what your kind does at this point. You each swim and find a new place and start again. But instead you stay attached to the rock and to the other daughter cell. Still you are filtering water. You are doing the same thing, but you are no longer doing it for you. You are doing it for 'we', the superorganism of two cells. The fruits of your labour are not going to you but being sucked out of you by the other cell. And then comes the time when there are no bacteria coming into your collar. But now you do not go hungry. The other cell is now feeding you through the same bridge that earlier was sucking the food out of you. The two of you together grow more quickly than you did apart. Soon you are going through Mitosis again. You choose a daughter cell to be and now there are three others working with you. Again, you find that you are more efficient when you work with others. And so, Mitosis comes again and again. Each time you select a daughter cell to be and then there are seven others attached to you and then fifteen and, well you are a protozoan, soon you can't count that high.
Then after one burst of mitosis you sense dozens of cells detach and swim away. You find you no longer long to go with them. This is no longer what you do. You are your self. A filtering cell in the body of a simple animal. Filtering is what you do. Filtering is you. For that you came into existence.
But then your perspective shifts. The words "I" and "we" become difficult to distinguish. Are you the "I" of that cell inside a "we" of all the cells in the animal, or are you the "I" of the animal itself. At the same time, you feel your collective agency as a multicellular being forming. The "we" of us many cells, becomes the "I" of this one animal and for a moment you experience and understand both perspectives superimposed upon one another. And then the "I" of multicellularity asserts itself and you know that you have become something new.
"Gaia, was that the moment when animals came into existence. From this moment all animals from sponges to kangaroos, from blue wales to sand fleas, from eagles to manta rays, all of them came from this moment that I just experienced?"
"There are no edges, only gradients, little one. This being will produce free swimming single cells sporadically and many of those free swimmers will return to a single celled mode of being and some of those singled cells will repeat this moment. How many times your ancestors oscillated back and forth across the edge of multicellularity is a question that is hard to answer. Even today, you produce single celled swimmers and those single cells grow into new individuals, babies. Life has explored many life cycles among the animals. There is a gradient between the life cycles of single celled choanoflagellates and the haplodiplontic life cycle of most modern vertebrates. Identifying a single moment of transition is not possible."
As you ponder this you return to reality and find yourself with Gaia's People and not Gaia the Protozoan.
Leader: Please join me for seven minutes of silence while we contemplate ...
(Service Leader rings the bell)
(Service Leader rings the bell again at the end of the seven minutes)
Leader: Who would like to share?
The participants take turns talking about what they were thinking about during the contemplation.
Reading of the SolSeed Creed
Please respond to the portions of the Creed highlighted in bold in unison:
- Life is precious.
- It has always been precious,
- it will always be precious.
- Life exuberant
- bursting through boundaries
- to flower and spread
- creates the conditions for more Life,
- in an Upward Spiral
- of ever-growing possibilities.
- As you are alive, and I am alive,
- and in kinship with all other beings
- who call Terra home,
- we are Gaia --
- the body of all Life.
- Gaia's bursting through boundaries is a painful and joyful process.
- It is the pain of Earth giving rebirth to herself.
- It is the joy of a myriad new possibilities emerging.
- The Destiny of Gaia
- is to take root and flower amongst the stars --
- to give birth to a family of living worlds.
- As intelligent sparks of Gaia,
- we are called to express her excellent nature,
- we are called to attend the Rebirthing and the Great Birthing.
- We who answer this call
- dedicate ourselves to Gaia,
- We join together
- in a community of practice
- to align our words and actions
- with our highest aspirations.
- Through awesome experiences
- of cosmic, biological, and cultural creativity,
- we awaken within ourselves and others
- the Cosmic Religious Feeling
- that ignites wonder,
- fosters compassion, and
- inspires invention.
- Our three sacred duties are to
- embrace Passion,
- cultivate Empathy, and
- pursue Wisdom,
- So that our being honors Gaia
- and our striving hastens the Great Birthing.
- Passion drives us.
- Without Passion
- Empathy and Wisdom are lethargic.
- I pledge to stoke the fire in my belly,
- to compassionately care for my inner elephant ---
- to really be me, Happy in the Sun!
- Empathy is transcendent.
- Without Empathy,
- Passion and Wisdom are evil.
- I pledge to love others as I love myself,
- to consider their needs as if they were my own --
- to Grow Ours, not just Get Mine!
- Wisdom is effective.
- Without Wisdom,
- Passion and Empathy are reckless.
- I pledge to train my elephant through regular practice,
- to stand ready to transform my worldview in the face of new evidence --
- to cultivate sound instincts.
- Through Passion, Empathy, and Wisdom
- we have come to know that:
- We are Gaia's People --
- children of the Earth and Sun,
- awakened by starlight,
- discovering --
- We Bring Life!
Leader: We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community or the fires of commitment ... these we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
Leader extinguishes the candle with the Candle Snuff
Leader: May your week be blessed with life and love. Blessed be.