Especially for Families – Balance
by Fiona Heath
There is Hindu festival called Holi, the Festival of Colors, that is taking place in India right now. One of the things it celebrates is the balance of good and evil.
In 2010 Lara Jacobs was asked to audition for the role of Balance Goddess in Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna. The unique act has the Balance Goddess creating a world in equilibrium with a mobile made of thirteen palm leaf ribs. The routine is carried out to a spare soundtrack emphasized only by the sound of her breathing. Her movements are slow, deliberate and almost meditative as she concentrates all her attention on building this structure, reminding us of the fragile nature of harmony.
One of the ways to understand balance is to explore science and mathematics. We live in a mathematical universe. Math makes a hidden and deep balance in our universe. There are some beautiful and miraculous things which happen with balance!
For the younger children, introduce the wonder of numbers. For the older children, explore the wonder of Fibonacci numbers, fractals and Pi, especially since Pi starts with 3.14, March 14, designated as National Pi Day.
Here is music that was composed using the numbers from Pi translated into notes.
Parachuting Cats to The Rescue
A true story.
The mosquitoes in Borneo were terrible. On bad days, the people of Borneo would be covered in mosquito bites. That’s right — those mosquito bites made them itch and scratch like mad.
The itching made them uncomfortable, but the real problem with the mosquitoes was that they carried a sickness called malaria. This meant that sometimes the people who got bitten by mosquitoes would get really sick or even die.
Scientists from an agency called the World Health Organization wanted to stop the people of Borneo from getting sick and dying from malaria. They decided to do something about those mosquitoes. They sprayed a chemical called DDT all around the villages of Borneo, because they knew that would kill the mosquitoes. It worked. The mosquitoes died and the people stopped catching malaria.
Everything seemed fine, but what the people didn’t know at first was that the mosquitoes weren’t the only insects that the DDT had killed. Some wasps died, too. These were parasitic wasps whose larvae ate caterpillars. Without the wasps there wasn’t balance in the ecosystem. Because they were not there to eat the caterpillars’ larvae, the caterpillar population began to grow and grow. More and more caterpillars were born and they were hungry. They ate, and they ate and they ate.
The problem was, the people of Borneo lived in houses with thatched roofs made out of grasses. (Leader — Ask, “What do you suppose those caterpillars liked to eat?” When someone suggests the roofs, continue with the story.)
That’s right, the caterpillars ate holes in the thatched roofs and soon the roofs began to fall in. The people of Borneo replaced the roofs, but … (dramatic pause) there was an even bigger problem to deal with.
The wasps weren’t the only insects that ate the DDT. Cockroaches and other insects did, too. So, the cockroaches and other insects began to get sick. And these insects were the food for Borneo’s small lizards, the geckos. The more cockroaches and other insects the geckos ate, the more DDT got inside the geckos. The geckos started to die, too.
And the geckos of Borneo were eaten by cats.
That’s right, the cats began to die. But even worse … (dramatic pause) the cats were important because they killed rats. When the cats died there wasn’t balance in the ecosystem. There were not enough cats to kill the rats. So, the rat population of Borneo grew and grew. The rats began to overpopulate. More and more rats were born.
The trouble with rats is that — just like mosquitoes — they often carry serious diseases which people can catch from them. Now the people of Borneo worried that they might have an outbreak of the plague or another illness that could kill lots of people.
The people of Borneo realized they needed more cats to bring back the balance in their ecosystem. Some were borrowed from neighboring villages, but they still needed more. And that is why in 1959 members of the British Royal Air Force flew over Borneo in a helicopter and sent 20 cats in parachutes to the ground. Can you imagine that? Twenty cats in parachutes — all because nature got out of balance.
In our Unitarian Universalist Principles, we say that we believe there should be justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, and that we want a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. One of the things that those principles mean is that Unitarian Universalists think fairness is very important. We believe that when things aren’t fair, it’s important for us to be like the dog and speak up and try to make things fair.
The Dog and The Heartless King
Adapted, with permission, from “The Heartless King,” an Indian folk tale adapted by Sophia Fahs in From Long Ago and Many Lands, second edition, by Sophia Fahs and Patricia Hoertdoerfer and illustrated by Cyrus Leroy Baldridge (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1995).
Once upon a time there lived a king who cared for nobody but himself. He had grown rich from the high taxes he had forced his people to pay, while they had become poorer and poorer. He lived in a gorgeous palace, while the poor people who built it for him still lived in thatched huts and tumble-down hovels. The king’s table was always heaped with delicious foods, while most of his people had only one plain meal a day, and sometimes not even that. But the heartless king did not care. If he had what he wanted, that was enough for him.
One day a hunter came to the palace gate, intending to teach the heartless king a lesson. The hunter brought with him an enormous dog. The king was fond of hunting and this enormous dog fascinated him. So, the hunter and the dog were both welcomed into the palace grounds.
But the enormous dog was no ordinary dog, and her bark was like the roar of thunder. The first time she opened her big mouth and barked, the awful noise shook the walls of the palace and frightened the king and all his courtiers. If the dog had stopped with one or two barks, the matter might have been forgotten.
But again, and again her fierce roaring shook the palace and the Earth itself. Before long there was no resting between barks. Nobody in the palace could hear themselves talk. The king was desperate and sent for the hunter.
He asked, “Why does your dog make such a deafening noise?”
“The dog is hungry,” said the hunter.
Immediately the king ordered that a big plateful of meat be brought. In almost no time at all, the enormous dog licked the plate clean. Then at once she began barking again.
A second plateful of meat was brought. This the dog disposed of just as quickly as the first. Again the dog began barking.
Over and over the plate was filled, and over and over the enormous dog quickly ate the whole plateful and began barking as loudly as ever. The king was angry. He called the hunter and said:
“You and your dog must leave the palace at once. We cannot endure this deafening noise any longer.” But the hunter was firm.
“Your Majesty, we have been sent to you by One greater than you are. We are here to stay.” The king was frightened. He grasped the arms of his chair and stared at the hunter. The king was not accustomed to having anyone speak to him in this manner.
“Will nothing satisfy the hunger of your enormous dog?” the king said at last.
“Nothing that is easy for you to give,” said the hunter. “Your Majesty, there are people in this kingdom who are eating all the food and who are not sharing it with those who do the work in the field to make the food grow. As a result, there are people who are always hungry. This dog feels the hunger of every person in this kingdom who does not have enough food to eat. As long as even one person is hungry, this dog will be hungry, and he will keep barking.”
On hearing the hunter say this, the king was even more frightened than ever. It had never entered his thoughts that he had been doing anything wrong. He had thought that the people of his kingdom were simply supposed to always do exactly what he wanted. It had never occurred to him that a king should think of the happiness of anyone except himself.
He was now angry from his head to his feet, inside and outside. Either he would go mad hearing the continuous barking of that enormous dog, or else something would have to be done and that very quickly. So, he called his wise advisors together and said: “What shall I do?”
The wise ones bowed their heads and walked off to think over the question together. But try as hard as they could, the advisors could see only two possible solutions. Either the enormous dog must be killed, or else every hungry person in the kingdom must be fed. No one was willing to kill the dog. So that
meant there was only one thing left to do. Everybody in the kingdom must somehow be fed. The wise advisors were very clear in their minds about it. They returned to the king and told him plainly what had to be done. They had to shout, of course, because the enormous dog was still barking. The king hesitated no longer.
“Put all the servants on the palace grounds to work at once!” he commanded. “Go to the storerooms and get all the bags of rice you can find. Pile them high on carts. Take also meat from my cupboards and gather vegetables and fruits from my gardens. Send servants out with these loaded carts into all the towns and villages in my kingdom. Command the servants to find all the people who are hungry. Give them generously of these foods, and keep on giving food until not a single man, woman, or child in the land is hungry.”
The advisors hurried away to do as their king commanded. Soon there was shouting and laughing, hustling and bustling all over the palace. In fact, the royal servants made so much noise that they could hardly hear the barking of the enormous dog. Presently a long line of carts, piled high with bags and baskets of food, rolled out through the palace gate. All day long, and day after day, the carts kept going until they had gone to every village in the land and until food was taken to every house where somebody was hungry.
At last the day came when the enormous dog really stopped barking and lay down quietly beside the king’s chair. The dog was satisfied. All the people inside the palace ground were happy and at peace in their minds. Everywhere in the land, the people were contented.
For the next few years the enormous dog stayed by the king’s side to be sure the king never reverted to his old ways. A few times the dog barked to remind the king about justice, and each time the king remembered the important lesson he had learned.
Finally, the dog was convinced the king truly understood the meaning of justice. One morning, she simply got up, walked out of the palace, and went to bark for justice in a new land.
And It Is Good
By Janeen K Grohsmeyer,A Lamp in Every Corner (Boston: Skinner House, 2004).
On a day not so very long ago, in a place not so very far away, a grass seed lay waiting. All through the cold, dark days of winter the seed waited, covered by a blanket of earth. In the spring, when the air was warmed by the sun and the land was watered by the rain, the seed began to grow. It grew roots deep into the earth. It grew a delicate pale green shoot up into the air. As the days went by, the shoot grew into a firm stalk, which waved in the hot summer breeze. It grew bright green leaves that opened to the sunshine, and then grew darker green as more days went by.
It grew and grew and grew, until the seed was a tall stem of grass and was ready to make seeds of its own. In the fall, when the nights turned cool and the leaves on the trees flamed red and orange and gold, the grass plant knew it would soon be dying, and so it set free its seeds. They traveled on the wind, above field and stream and hill. Some of them slowly settled to the ground in a meadow, where they lay waiting, covered by a blanket of earth. And it was good.
Now in that place not so very far away, a small field mouse was looking for food. Winter was coming, and the mouse was hungry. He went here and he went there, sniffing his way through the meadow, ears perked, eyes open, whiskers quivering, careful and cautious always, for there are many creatures that will eat a mouse. And as he sniffed and nibbled and then sniffed some more, he found a few of those grass seeds that lay covered by the blanket of earth. So he dug them up—scritch scratch!—and he ate them. And it was good.
Now in that place not so very far away, a snake was hunting. Winter was coming, and she was hungry. She went here and she went there, gliding through the faded fallen leaves from the trees, and tasting the air with flickerings of her forked tongue. She tasted the scent of mouse, and followed the scent to the meadow. After a while, she found him. So she caught him—quick, snap!—in her jaws, and she ate him. And it was good.
Now in the sky, high above that place not so very far away, a hawk was searching. Winter was coming, and the hawk was hungry. He went here and he went there, soaring on the wind with outstretched wings, looking down to the earth far below. And at the edge of the meadow, he saw the snake gliding through the faded fallen leaves. So he folded his wings and he plummeted, straight down to the ground, and he caught that snake—snatch, catch!—in his fiercely curved claws, and he ate her. And it was good.
The days went by in that place no so very far away. The sun no longer warmed the air. Instead of rain, snow fell. The last of the leaves fell from the trees. The grass froze, and died. Winter had come.
The hawk soared on outstretched wings, lifted high by the winter winds, hunting. But he was an old hawk. His wings did not beat so strongly as they used to. His eyes did not see so clearly. His hunts did not go well. One day, he plummeted to earth for the last time, and he died. And it was good.
The body of the hawk lay on the ground all winter long, covered by snow. When spring came, the sun warmed the air, and the rain watered the land. Flies buzzed in the air. Ants scurried over the ground. Spring was here, and they were hungry. The ants and the flies found the body of the hawk. The flies laid their eggs in it, and the eggs hatched into maggots. The days went by, and the body of the hawk slowly disappeared, the flesh and feathers eaten by ants and maggots, the bones chewed on by small animals, and whatever was left provided food for bacteria and mold. In just a few weeks, the body of the hawk had completely melted back into the earth. And it was good.
Now in the earth where the hawk had melted, a seed lay waiting. As spring turned into summer, and as the sun warmed the air and the rain watered the land, the seed began to grow. It shot a pale shoot up into the air. It pushed roots deep into the earth, which was made up of the body of the hawk, who had eaten the snake, who had eaten the mouse, who had eaten the seeds. And it was good.
So remember, in that place not so very far away, and in all the places all around, there is sun and there is rain. There are seeds and mice and snakes and hawks. There are ants and maggots and bacteria and mold. There are crocodiles and humans and plankton and daffodils and mushrooms. They all eat from each other. They all live, and they all die. And it is all good.
Activities for Families
Celebrate the Science of Circles by making a parachute
Rock Balancing Stone Stacking Art STEAM Activity for Kids
Rock balancing stone stacking art is where rocks are balanced one on top of the other in various positions to produce stone sculptures. Inviting children to balance and stack rocks of different shapes and sizes is a fun steam learning challenge for kids.
May 01, 2020
May 01, 2020
May 01, 2020