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Religious & Spiritual Life



Impacts And Resources related to the Ending of DACA

This past year there have been a series of Executive Orders and changes that impact students who identify as international, immigrant, Muslim, undocumented, and DACAmented. The University enrolls, welcomes, and supports all of its members, and will continue to provide services and resources to all members of our community to support their ongoing success.

As Chancellor Chopp stated in a message to the DU community, the University will continue to provide access to legal counsel through Catholic Charities to help members of our community impacted by the recent decision to end DACA. This includes the opportunity to meet individually with an immigration attorney in a confidential off-campus setting. To access a voucher to utilize these services please contact the University Chaplain, or visit the Center for Multicultural Excellence or VIP.

We have limited funds available through the Student Emergency Fund to assist any student facing an immediate financial hardship. 

the world in a tangerine

     For several years I've taught an Honors Seminar at DU called "Pets, Partners or Pot-roast". It was an examination of the various ways humans interact with non-human animals. We began by looking at how various disciplines (science, philosophy and religion) draw the distinction between "us" and "them" (everything from genetics, to reasoning capacity, to clean/unclean). Then, the remainder of the course was devoted to the arenas of interaction:  environment, service animals, research animals, livestock, pets, and food. That is, what the students had to do was decide how they distinguished between "us" and "them", and then decide what difference that might make when considering whether to use animals for cosmetic research, or what happens when Fluffy runs afoul of a coyote in our suburban neighborhoods, or what conditions are "humane" when raising/slaughtering livestock. At the end of the first year I taught it, I realized it was a class in applied ethics; decision-making isn't easy!
     An exercise I had the students "do" when we got to the "Environment" week was an variation of Thich Nhat Han's "Tangerine Meditation."  I give each student a "Cutie" (okay, they're not tangerines, but in February, they're plentiful and inexpensive!), and ask them to look deeply at the fruit, smell it, peel it (and notice the difference in aroma), and finally taste it. And then we talk about all of the factors that were necessary to produce that fruit and get it into their hands. Everything from soil nutrients, rain, fertilizer, the folks who make the trucks, who pave the roads, who make the little mesh bags in which the Cuties arrive, those who pick the fruit, who stock the store-shelves -- all of these things are found in the single Cutie. And, of course, the point of doing this exercise on "Environment" day was to highlight the various ways that both big and little, human-caused, things can have an effect on the non-human animal life that populates our skies, forests and waterways.
     While I didn't teach that course this year, I recalled the exercise while reading about a waterway in Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River by David Owen.* The book was the focus of April's "Chaplain's Book Discussion" -- partly in observance of Earth Day. Owen follows the Colorado River from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to its terminus in the sands of northern Mexico. Along the way he observes the multiple sources (i.e., tributaries) of the river, as well as the various places the "water goes". And he talks with folks whose lives and/or livelihoods are dependent on the river. I was floored by what I learned.  For example, micro-irrigation may SAVE water in one way, but prevents the "overflow" from doing good in other places. Or, we "export" water in the produce and meat that we send overseas (the effect being that the water is NOT returned to the Colorado River watershed). And then, of course, there's the matter of all that water that is diverted from the west side of the Continental Divide through a series of tunnels to satisfy the thirst of Colorado's Front Range (on the eastern side of the Divide, for you non-Coloradans). Like looking at a tangerine, when thinking about the Colorado River, it is clear that there are SO many factors that have an impact ON the river, as well as so many ways the river's water (or lack thereof) has an impact on the environment and people both along its banks, as well as within reach of miles of diversion tunnels and canals.
     As we approach Earth Day 2018, I invite folks to consider the many, many, ways we experience "Interbeing" (to use Thich Nhat Han's word).** How are we intertwined with people near and far, from farmers to corporate executives to politicians -- all who have an impact on our environment? What happens to insect life when we refuse to recycle? And what about that hamburger? This is the only planet we have; just about every religious tradition suggests that we have a responsibility to take care of it.
     Look to your right, and pick up any item that is handy.  Spend just a few minutes considering all that it took to get to that place next to you. Be it a sharpie, or a cell-phone, or a Cutie . . . It is your teacher.



* Riverhead Books, 2017.  A "Colorado Matters" podcast with the author can be found here.
** A very full description of the concept can be found here.

PS: If you would like to comment on this reflection, please surf on over to my blog "On a Bike and a Prayer" at