Today, the Pope’s encyclical on the relationship between human activity and climate change will be released. Pope Francis will call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century. He will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us.” In connection with this, we should recall that the earliest and most important voice to describe the importance of the disconnection between humans and the natural world was Thomas Berry. His lifework was dedicated to helping us understand that the destiny of the earth and the destiny of humans are inseparable. He believed that “What we are experiencing in the degradation of the earth is a soul loss, a loss of meaning in life itself that calls for a recovery of a sense of the sacred”. Thomas Berry was among the first to say the earth crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. He said, “We will go into the future as a single sacred community, or we will all perish in the desert.”
Open our eyes
to your resplendent world,
that we may care for the earth
as our companion in creation.
May the pure song
of air, water, and trees
broaden our minds,
lift up our hearts,
and guide us to you.
Read some of the writings of Thomas Berry and reflect on them.
(The Dream of the Earth, The Great Work, The Universe Story)
Quotes from Thomas Berry’s writings:
The destiny of humans cannot be separated from the destiny of earth.
The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice. Thunder and lightning and stars and planets, flowers, birds, animals, trees, — all these have voices, and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related
We have a new story of the universe. Our own presence to the universe depends on our human identity with the entire cosmic process. In its human expression, the universe and the entire range of earthly and heavenly phenomena celebrate themselves and the ultimate mystery of their existence in a special exaltation. Science has given us a new revelatory experience. It is now giving us a new intimacy with the Earth.
The Earth with its layers of land and water and air provides the space within which all living things are nurtured and the context within which humans attain their identity. If in the excitement of a secular technology reverence for the Earth has diminished in the past, especially in the western world, humans now experience a sudden shock at the devastation they have wrought on their own habitation. The ancient human-Earth relationship must be recovered in a new context, in its mystical as well as in its physical functioning. There is need for awareness that the mountains and rivers and all living things, the sky and its sun and moon and clouds all constitute a healing, sustaining sacred presence for humans which they need as much for their psychic integrity as for their physical nourishment.
The Great Work, now as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.
We see quite clearly that what happens to the nonhuman happens to the human. What happens to the outer world happens to the inner world. If the outer world is diminished in its grandeur then the emotional, imaginative, intellectual, and spiritual life of the human is diminished or extinguished. Without the soaring birds, the great forests, the sounds and coloration of the insects, the free-flowing streams, the flowering fields, the sight of the clouds by day and the stars at night, we become impoverished in all that makes us human.
Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.