Last week, Daniel and I drove 7 hours to Nazareth, Kentucky to attend the annual Kentucky Council of Churches conference at the Sisters of Charity Convent and Retreat Center. You may be thinking: "Why would two Virginians go to a conference tailored to Kentuckians?" Well, I've sort of been keeping a secret for the last year.
I was asked to give back-to-back workshops on Conscious Consumerism! This year's theme was Justice and, while most of the sessions were, quite appropriately, on racial justice and reconciliation, they wanted to include a section on "lifestyle justice," as well. I tailored my talk around a uniquely Christian perspective on what it means to consume ethically, making sure to prioritize empathy, prayer, and meditation. While it matters what we consume, it also matters why we're consuming, and how that dependency on consumption affects us emotionally and spiritually. Right action is good, but it's better if it stems from a change of heart. I used this quote by Doug Frank (read the whole interview - it's great) in the presentation to drive home that point:
If you’ve got a rage for the good, as I did, then shifting your focus from personal morality to social morality doesn’t make you any less of a narrow-minded legalist. Instead of trying to be good enough by not dancing, drinking, lying, or cheating, you’re trying to be good enough according to the standards of social progressivism. It’s still a very tiring treadmill.
|Daniel and my parents hiking at Clifton Gorge|
|Looking totes profesh at the conference|
I identify very strongly with the tiring treadmill of trying to be enough. It's become a huge goal of mine to do the right things out of a deeper calling than just "How do I make people think I'm good? How do I convince myself I'm good?" I believe that, for those raised with a Christian world view in particular, it's vital that we confront that insecurity before we can really make healthy choices. So, while the talk included particular definitions, models, and ethical companies, it was really about taking a hard inward look and growing from there. If anyone wants a copy of the slideshow, I can send it over. Just email me or leave your email in the comments. I don't think the whole thing was recorded, so you'll miss all my antics. Sorry about that.
|Wildflowers at Clifton Gorge|
|The Stillhouse at Heaven Hill|
We realized a few days before our trip that were would be right in the middle of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so we spent a day and a half after the conference ended touring distilleries. I'm not a huge fan of bourbon - though I certainly like it more after several tastings - but I LOVE learning. Bourbon is a truly American product with a long, humorous, sometimes harrowing history, and our tour guides at Heaven Hill, Maker's Mark, and Bulleit were extremely knowledgeable. I liked the dark, quiet, spookiness of the stillhouses, too. If you ever want to know about the history of bourbon, I am happy to talk your ear off, but I'll leave you with just one fun fact for now:
For bourbon to be classified as bourbon by the US government, it must be aged in a new, charred oak barrel. While this might seem wasteful at first, the barrel actually gets to take a lively journey around the world, adding warmth and spice to several other aged liquors. After 6-20 years of aging bourbon, barrels are sent to Scotland and used for scotch. Once the aging process is complete there, they're sent to Mexico to age tequila. And finally, nearly 80 years later (if all goes as planned), they'll be sent to the Tropics to age rum. What a life!
|"The Tree with the Lights in it" in Louisville, KY|
It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. Then one day I was walking along Tinker creek and thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells un-flamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.