We’re one with the earth, which now needs our help
Nature is a nourishing and wise circle. Like babes in the womb, we are being nourished within that circle every moment as we breathe in the oxygen provided for us. Outside of this circle, we cannot survive. We live together, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, black, brown, yellow and white, not as detached individuals, but as womb-mates, interdependent parts of the whole.
The earth is busy adjusting its temperature and humidity and oxygen levels so that we can all stay alive. The sun and the earth keep their proper distances so that we don't burn up or freeze to death. The trees, oceans, clouds, winds and the rain keep circulating our water so that we don't dehydrate. These elements communicate with each other uniquely in different parts of the world to keep a relative balance that allows life to blossom.
The trees breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. If there is an excess of CO2, the oceans can absorb a lot of it and their currents carry it down to the ocean floor. True, nature can be a destructive force -- as we recall the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Hawaii's earthquakes and Florida's hurricanes, but all in all, nature provides a sustaining balance to further life.
This ecosystem has worked for eons. But for the past 30 years we are learning that Earth's balancing act has been overwhelmed. It can't keep the temperature stable. It can't keep the air or the water clean or the ozone layer intact. Industrial and corporate humanity has been engaged in acts of terrorism -- not against the government, but against life on Earth.
We need to stop and relearn to live in communion with the great natural systems, to love the whole, which nurtures and sustains us. St. Augustine used to begin his prayer with the statement, "Someone wishes to praise you, Lord, someone who is a tiny speck of your creation." That's what we are, tiny specks. As parts of the whole, we will never understand the whole, but within the whole we live and move and have our being.
We are not on the earth, observing it; we are inside, being whirled around constantly. Life and energy flow through us and around us. Animals and plants are not "inanimate" or "dumb," but are part of a living whole filled with wisdom and spirit. We exist only as part of a living, breathing whole that is much wiser than we are, that is inclusive of all.
By thinking we are separate, we cut ourselves off from the wisdom and the pulse of the whole. Cut off from the whole, we human beings are fools bent on our own destruction. St. Paul was writing about a community when he declared that we are all members of one body, dependent upon each other. What he said of the early Christian community applies equally well to the present living earth. St. Paul asked, "Can the hand say to the foot, 'I have no need of you?'" To amputate one part of the living sphere sends shivers throughout the rest of the sphere. We are all members of one living earth body.
The poets and mystics recognized our kinship with a sacred living whole. Francis of Assisi spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon; he addressed earth, air, fire, water and animals as his relatives.
Loving the Lord God with all our strength and all our soul is a fairly abstract notion. But embracing the earth and all the creatures on it is at once an earthy and a spiritual passion. It makes Democratic and Republican platforms and corporate agendas pale. It means being part of a living whole and choosing to finding ways to protect and nourish that whole.
We are a destructive as well as a creative race. Call it original sin, illusion, addiction or the human condition, we always have to deal with a tragic story, but there continues to be a thread of goodness, hope and renewal within that tragic story. The last chapter isn't completed yet. The spirit of solidarity with the whole is growing all over the earth. People are taking a stand and we seem to be drawing on each other's knowledge and energy. We must attempt to stop the devastation and the greed that surround us. We are the earth's hope. With hands joined together locally and globally, we are now one of Earth's crucial life-support systems.
The Rev. Nancy Conley is director of the Spiritual Life Center.