VINCENT’S CREATIVITY, ON CANVAS AND IN LIFE

I completed my bachelor of social work degree in Kansas City several decades ago and I remember having to[…]

You Love What You Know: Hearing Mother Earth

Council of All Beings Our message will come in a different form this morning.  Today we will have the[…]

Reflections

I recently saw an interview with Starhawk, the famed author and ecofeminist.

In this clip she was talking about being interviewed in New York by a reporter about ecological concerns, and in the course of that interview the reporter commented that for most New Yorkers the environment was sort of unreal.

The reporter clarified that folks there support the environment…you know, Save the Whales and all.  But overarchingly, in this person’s estimation, the environment – environmental issues – were not really understood as definitively real by most people in the Big Apple.

This exchange took place in the early 90’s, 30 some years ago.

Surely by now, one tells oneself, the folks in New York City, and anywhere else in the country/on the planet are plugged into the real-ness of the environment, if you’re at all attentive.

About ten days ago I was reminded that such assumptions can be naive (otherwise known as incorrect).

The reminder came in the course of a conversation I was having with someone I superficially know (we’ll call him John), enough to cheerfully say hi when our paths cross…

Enough to know that he efficiently oversees the physical plant of a sizable local organization.

At the time of our chat late in that week, it was about to get unseasonably warm over the coming weekend, and John was saying he thought he’d turn on the air conditioners throughout the buildings he managed.

When I asked if this is the time of year that the AC is typically flipped on, he said no, in years past it’s been in early May, but that it gets warmer earlier and earlier every year.

That clued me in (I thought!) to his appreciation of climate change, so I light-heartedly quipped, “Aw come on, you don’t really believe in that silly climate change stuff!”

To which he warmly, but unapologetically replied, “I didn’t say anything about climate change.   I think that God has his seasons, with ebbs and flows, and sometimes his will is for warmer periods than others.  But I’m pretty sure God never said anything about climate change.”

My assumptions about this person’s concrete understanding about the realness of the environment and its state, and how we arrived at this state, were just that…

Assumptions.  Regrettable assumptions, sprinkled in by me with a little sarcasm about a topic that wasn’t served by such cynical quips as that day.

The conversation didn’t go much further than that…it wasn’t the time or place for that kind of discourse.

We amicably bid each other farewell shortly thereafter and went on with our day.

The exchange has been on my mind ever since, though…

-the unexpected positions that people can have, despite your impression that you halfway know them,

-it helped me to better understand how much Big Oil and other ecological-adversary conglomerates are helped by millions of middle-America Johns

-And our chat underscored how God, deities are often incorporated into however it is that we personally understand the natural world, regardless of what our personal beliefs end up being.

God was very much a part of John’s conception of nature’s ebbs and flows, as the Sacred is interwoven in the movement of nature for many of us here.

If I were guessing I’d say John is a Christian….mainstream, probably well-versed in saying the Lord’s Prayer, the most commonly uttered of all Christian prayers.

I bring up this prayer because I know of a lovely alternative version to it, which is called the Earth’s Prayer.

The differences between the two versions parallel the differences in mindset of how we are in relationship to this mysterious and holy entity we call God, including how we blend theology into our understanding of ecology.

Listen to how the varied versions change the tenor of the prayer:

[line by line I’ll give you the traditional version, followed by the Earth-based version].

Our Father who art in heaven/

Our Mother who is here on Earth

Hallowed by thy name/

Timeless may you reign and may we never take your compassion for granted

 

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven/

The time is now, your spirit be served, with our full intention and energy,

to create a Planet Earth as abundant and blessed as Heaven

 

Give us this day our daily bread/

Give each person today, their daily grain so no one goes hungry

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us/

and affirm our inherent goodness to care for one another

Lead us not into temptation

as we give thanks for those who today in their actions put the collective good ahead of personal self-interest and remind us to do the same

But deliver us from sin

And inspire us in all things to maximize our potential for the greatest good

as we preserve and protect the legacy we leave for future generations

For thine is the kingdom, the power, the glory now and forever.

For this is our planet, with problems and possibilities, to do with what we can in the time we have.

 

That was rather analytically delivered.  Now let us hear it as prayer.  Please join me in a spirit of prayerful reverence …

Our Mother, who is here on Earth, Timeless may you reign and may we never take your compassion for granted. The time is now, your spirit be served, with our full intention and energy to create a Planet Earth as abundant and blessed as Heaven. Give each person today, their daily grain so no one goes hungry, and affirm our inherent goodness to care for one another, as we give thanks for those who today in their actions put the collective good ahead of personal self- interest and remind us to do the same.

And inspire us in all things to maximize our potential for the greatest good as we preserve and protect the legacy we leave for future generations. For this is our planet, with problems and possibilities, to do with what we can in the time we have. Now is forever. Aum, Peace, Amen

Such a mindful prayer, especially relational because it’s especially relevant.

I love that idea that prayer is relational, and read a piece recently that said at the heart of prayer is belonging.

It was noteworthy to me how much more of a sense of connection and belonging I experience when praying the Earth’s version rather than the traditional one.

I hadn’t thought of prayer in terms of belonging, but it immediately resonated with me….belonging.  It’s so fundamental to our existence, isn’t it?

And then the article goes on to say that it’s the same with gratitude, with gratitude being an expression of belonging. I hadn’t tethered that either, and it too fit like side-by-side puzzle pieces.

When you say ‘thank you,’ in the deepest sense you’re underscoring a ribbon of connectedness between yourself and the other person.

The unnamed author says that’s why some people have a hard time saying ‘Thank you’ (and ‘I’m sorry’) because underneath these seemingly simple two-word phases kinship and mutuality are fostered.

Some folks aren’t comfortable with this, preferring independence over intimacy and vulnerability…both of which are hallmarks of belonging.

That’s human-to human relations.  Now back to Earth Day.

Let’s try and extend these relational concepts…intimacy, gratitude, kinship, vulnerability…to our relationship with our Mother, the Earth.

We, humanity, and the Earth, are made to be side-by-side puzzle pieces, fitting just so, parts of the same whole.

And when we move away from being grateful in this relationship, and tenderly intimate and vulnerable, things go south. Way south. And to an extent they have.

Listen to what intimacy and kindred-spirit-ness sounds like in this excerpt based on Gregory Petrov’s prayer…

What sort of praise can I give you?

I’ve never heard the song of the cherubim,

A joy reserved for the spirits above.

But I know the praises nature gives you.

In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight

The whole earth offers you prayer,

Clad in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds.

How streams and the birds offer melodious music,

And the mysterious mutterings of the forest, and the stars that move forever

In the depths of infinite space, all rejoicing in you.

It is a pleasure, a delight, to be here,

to be here long,

to be-long here.

 

Many of us think of belonging as being grouped together, belonging together, being clustered together.

But it’s not just being together.  Beyond togetherness, we are of each other, in an eternal dance of connectedness, of reciprocity.

Something is received, something is offered, an infinite cycle of give and take, a holy alliance and reliance.

It doesn’t work to only breathe out, does it?  Cycle, reciprocity.

Belonging is giving and taking.

Let’s listen to words based on those of Delores La Chapelle, who says:

We give-away our thanks to the earth

     Which gives us our home.

We give-away our joy to the rivers and lakes

     Which give-away their water.

We give-away our reverence to the trees

     Which give away fruits and nuts.

We give-away our attention to the wind

     Which brings rain to water the plants.

We give-away our gratitude to the sun

     Who gives-away warmth and light.

All beings on earth: the trees, the animals, the wind, and the rivers

     Give-away to one another so all is in balance.

We give-away our promise to begin to learn

     How to stay in balance with them, with all the earth.

 Mutuality.  Belonging.  Reverence.  Kinship.

So, to celebrate this Earth Day, this Earth year, in addition to reducing plastics, creating berms, planting trees, conserving water – all of which are wonderful and critical – consider doing something that may seem silly to you.

Consider finding some element of nature in your personal setting….maybe a tree, a woodpecker, a bush, an earth worm.

And then (here’s the silly-seeming part), ask it “Who are you?”

Take some moments to consider its essence, its place in the continuum of interdependence of which you and it (or they) are a part.

If you are attentive, if you are soulful in your desire regarding the response, the answer might end up impacting your own sense of self just as much the other’s.

Allow yourself to be taken to that sacred space by these words of Nanao Sakaki…

Soil for legs, axe for hands, flower for eyes, bird for ears, mushroom for nose, smile for mouth, songs for lungs, sweat for skin, wind for mind.  Just enough.

Mutuality.  Belonging.  Reverence.  Kinship.

We’ve heard several beautiful prayers, words inspirationally woven together.

However, a person of faith, a person who knows the relational value of prayer, a knows that most meaningful prayers are not constructed by words, but by ways.

Ways of being…how we live.

How many times have we heard adages about being a living prayer?

Back in February we had the opportunity to write down our intentions about how each of us would more fully step into tending to the Earth’s well-being.

We’ll talk more about that next Sunday, but in the meantime I invite you to revisit your pledge and the progress you’ve made with it in these weeks.

Also, in the immediate meantime, I look forward to hearing any thoughts you might have to share this morning.

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