When “We” Is Missing

My thanks to those who commented on my last blog (Make Time to Transition) showing readers’ appreciation for the concept of developing a “we” awareness with all life. 

An essential aspect of ecospirituality is just that: becoming ever more conscious of the sacred interdependence of all creation. Our brains were wired otherwise for centuries, so it takes time and awareness to transition from thinking of everything as separate and in either-or categories that often result in unhappy hierarchies and thinking in us-them, win-lose headings. Our brains have to develop new pathways to become comfortable with the truth that, as Thich Nhat Hahn says, creation actually does more than interrelate; it “interbe” ’s.

Fortunately, this “we” mentality is becoming more common and is fostered by talks, books, articles, organizations, and heartening exchanges such as this one:
“I try to be a ‘we’ in the activities and associations I live with. You know how much I love the sea and, in respecting its purity and dealing with its violence, I have developed a “we” level of respect for it.” 

St. Francis “got” the relationships within existence long ago. Various scientific and religious advances have been nudging us all toward a greater development of a “we” mentality and its resulting active care for all creation. Pope Francis laid the foundation of his first encyclical on Francis’ worldview, and he starts Chapter Four of Laudato Si’ with this paragraph, bolding by me:
“Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions.” (par. 137)

But what about the many examples of lack of respect? Daily news causes real pain to many when it documents absence of respect
. for the unborn, now and future generations;
. for infants and children from causes ranging from separation from parents to lack of clean water, shelter and nourishment;
. for those with whom we disagree or who have perhaps wronged us;
. for the “other,” the less fortunate, for those fleeing war, violence, and climate disasters;
. for air, water, soil, flora and fauna;
. for endangered species;
. for those reporting demonstrable truth;
. for the governed by autocratic or narcissistic leaders in many countries.…

Being disrespectful and belligerent toward people we judge responsible only worsens the situation, because even negative energy affords them energy — and it shows limits to our own sense of “we.” As with the benefits of grieving for extinct or endangered species, perhaps we would profit from grieving the lack of respect that saddens or enrages us.

If you agree that grieving would be helpful, you might want to use or adapt the following ritual. For a 2-sided pdf, contact terrishcj@aol.com.

 Grieving the Absence of “We”

BEGIN: Breathe deeply, grateful for the gift of life-giving air. Remember that we are part of our sacred interconnected creation that has existed for billions of years, and that invisible atoms connect us to everything else in the Universe. No one and no threats can endanger the continuance of the Universe Story in which we are embedded. Be grateful to know, and to be part of, this story.

READ TOGETHER: “Today, in my body I bear the story of the birth and evolution of all creation. My cells are alive with the echoes of the movement from nothingness-into-being. This is the heritage I share with every other created thing, a common ancestry of forces, particles, swirling clouds of matter and stars, unfolded within the activity of the Creator.”    Toni Nash, CSJ

BRING TO MIND the news that disturbs and demonstrates denial of the truth of our unity. Allow yourself time to LAMENT, using a litany something like this one:

I treasure our planet Earth. I grieve the reluctance or refusal to act to limit human-caused climate destruction. I lament the denial or unawareness that we are all interconnected, what we do to others, including our resources, we ultimately do to ourselves. (Pause to feel the pain of this loss.)

I treasure human life. I grieve the attacks upon it by all methods of violence. I lament the denial or unawareness that we are all interconnected, what we do to others, we ultimately do to ourselves. (Pause to feel the pain of this threat.)

I treasure …. 

LISTEN Lyrics for lamentation usually focus on human or species loss. I recommend the following music that we can “feel” without knowing the translation. Skip any ads: 

Ishbel MacAskill, Gradh Geal Mo Chridh, 4.27 min.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfDtTHC8BoY

 

REMEMBER and be grateful for people and groups striving to help us become more aware of our “we”ness with all creation. Use a litany following a pattern something like this:

I give thanks for Deep Time Journey Network [and/or similar groups groups] because they are working for greater awareness of unity.

I give thanks for my prayer group, because discussing unity with them helps me remember that I am part of a sacred global community.

I give thanks for .…


REFLECTION TIME 
How can I contribute to greater global awareness of “we”ness leading to respect for all creation? 

SHARING, if in a group.


LISTEN TO OR SING any song of hope. Some examples:

Morehouse College – We Shall Overcome – YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aor6-DkzBJ0

Keep Holding On – Avril Lavigne (lyrics) – YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gcrx2Ab0FM

Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles Tribute – YouTube**

www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgiQD56eWDk

** Feel yourself rotating toward the Sun.

City of God dan schutte – YouTube

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zRAUH8yBcQ

Mutual hugs and well-wishing might be appropriate!

Make Time to Transition

Recently I went to Chicago’s Macy’s to meet a friend for lunch in a restaurant there that is frequented by so few people that it’s possible to converse with no strain of hearing. 

Entering the building, people are asked to use the revolving doors to pass between the Chicago streets on one side and the shopping area on the other. That’s not unique; many places use this clever invention to limit the wind on cold days, something especially helpful in this Windy City. A regular door is available for those who cannot manage the revolving one, but the inner and outer air are immediately mixed. When one is in the revolving door, one is on neither side. It’s a transition spot.

Perhaps it was the shock of leaving the chilly air-conditioning and walking smack into  the oppressive heat that prompted my reflection on transition times. I wished I had had more time to adjust between extremes. Might that offer some wisdom for our troubled times?

 It seems to me that many people are overwhelmed by the changes in our culture, lifestyles, technology, values. The existing problems of inequality, pollution, environmental destruction, violence, migrations, isms, group hostilities, fill-in-the-blank are so overwhelming that we often feel helpless and hopeless. We cheer those making untiring efforts, but also see people making every effort to shore up the failing order and justify the continuance of structures that we know threaten our future. Fear and frustration — and worse — are tempting, but useless, responses. 

Some experience world-to-come fears from seeing unfamiliar religions and cultures (and colors!) that threaten to change the world in which they have been comfortable. Some are loathe to alter their cultures and lifestyles. Change and the unknown can be very unsettling. Again, fear and frustration — and worse — are tempting, but useless, responses.

One way or another, facing the future is challenging, and legitimately so. We need what Einstein and others call a “new consciousness,” a new worldview to form a future borne of deep layers of compassion and awareness of our unity. 

Programming in regular times for awareness — even in small amounts — can help us to transition from the world we’ve known to what comes next. It can give us a sense of our own ability to contribute to its formation. 

For example, taking time to look at creation’s long history with the realization that it is OUR history — proven by faith and by science — would assure us that our story proves we are not the first to face overwhelming challenges. Our Universe solved the problems thanks to the extraordinary power residing in it — a power called by many names, including God. In the past it managed to do this without humans. Now humans cause many of the problems — and we can create the solutions. Whatever we call the power in evolution, the more united with it we can be, the better prepared we are to create a future that benefits the whole. 

Life of Earth originally consisted of various types of single-celled microorganisms. After billions of years, some of these microorganisms evolved a way to capture the energy in sunlight: photosynthesis. Amazing! But that process had a toxic byproduct: oxygen. Oxygen was poisonous to most microbes that had evolved in an oxygen-free environment, making it the world’s first pollutant. So Earth evolved microorganisms with methods for protecting themselves, using oxygen as a powerful new energy source. Awesome! (For beautiful details of this process, see Betsey Crawford’s recent post: https://thesouloftheearth.com/photosynthesis-living-light/.)

About 65 million years ago  the dinosaurs would have had reason to believe they were invincible — until volcanic activity increased, meteors hit Earth, and dinosaur-life ended. Bad news for them, but this allowed for the eventual development of the human line.

I suspect that, if they could have thought, final members of most species along the evolutionary line would have assumed they were the best and last, and that they would rule creation forever. Yet evolution moved on.

How well do we know, relate with — how much do we appreciate — the sacred community that preceded us here for billions of years? Deepening our appreciation will surely help us in our transition times. 

Fall in love, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, advised. “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything….” (www.ignatianspirituality.com/…/fall-in-love). The power that has kept creation going is still making life possible. Life is never static, not even for a split-second. How much time do we spend with that source of life? Where are we most in touch with it? When do we feel the power of love?

Some find that words in Scriptures, their own and others’, can alter their lives for the better. Reading sacred words — even when Nobody reads it more than you (!) — will do little good without taking time to love the Good News message and let it deepen our compassion by meditating, learning to calm the mind in stillness….

Some fall in love by spending time with those on the margins, being with the poor and handicapped, with children, with the dying. These experiences help us to pause “between worlds” and motivate us to care about the future one. 

For many, the answer includes being outdoors, not just enjoying good weather (when it comes), or sports or outings — important as they are in a balanced life. But taking time with ONE flower, one bird, one blade of dune grass: studying it in detail, pondering its history and potential future, listening to what it might say to you — what it IS saying to you. In some cases (for example, surviving members of endangered species) we might not actually be with them, but we can learn about them and befriend them from afar. We can ponder the inconceivable immensity of the universe, of which we are an intrinsic member!

Many find poetry and music and other arts to be important ways to transition. 

Some combination of things already listed can be especially powerful. Combining nature and poetry reminds me of a poem by Elizabeth Mary Strub, SHCJ:

 Be Still and See

What can I do about that tree?
It’s green beyond green
against blue beyond blue,
too, too surprisingly there.
And there’s not a thing
I can do about it.

Jump up and down?
Shout to it, “You’re marvelous”?
That still won’t do.

Oh, what can I do about that tree?
“Nothing,” it says to me,
“but see, see, see,
see, until we’re a we.”

I think a deep awareness that we are a “we” leads to life-giving transitions and gives us the power to form a future built on compassion for all life!  It helps us live consciously and peacefully — albeit actively — within an evolving world where change and complexity cannot be avoided. 

If you have found ways not mentioned that work for you, please share them here.

July 20 – 21: Tisha B’Av, Temple Earth 

I receive weekly emails from Rabbi Arthur Wascow (theshalomcenter.org). These include essays and suggestions connecting religious and spiritual themes to peace and eco-social justice.

A recent one informed me about Tisha B’Av, the annual Jewish day of mourning  for the destruction of Holy Temples in Jerusalem, celebrated this year from July 21 evening through July 22 evening. 

Rabbi Wascow noted that we can also mourn what is happening to our beloved planet, Temple Earth, now under attack by Carbon Pharaohs, just as the Temple in Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonian and Roman Empires. As with the original intent of Tisha B’Av, we bring hope for the future to this mourning. 

Recognizing the sacredness of each atom of our interconnected Universe, the time it took for biosystems to evolve and develop, and the various cultures under attack, we might wish to join in this ritual, in whole or in part. 

Tamara Cohen (Barbara Bick Memorial Fellow of The Shalom Center) has written a reinterpretation of the ancient Book of Lamentation for this special day: Eichah / Lament for the Earth: Tisha B’Av.  Anyone who wishes to commemorate this Jewish fast day of mourning can access her ritual by clicking https://theshalomcenter.org/node/1733.

We can adapt and use the text, alone or with a group, to challenge the greed of corporate powers that are destroying Creation, to renew our appreciation of Our Mother Earth, and to deepen our commitment to care for her.