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Center for Action and Contemplation
Encountering Reality
Encountering Reality

A World of Beauty

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

In her letter “Earth Hope,” Ghanaian theologian Mercy Oduyoye calls on future generations to encounter the reality of the earth and our place in it.

The long and short of all this is that if we want to live long, and have a healthy earth with healthy waters, we have to stop being self-centered. Life is stronger than us but life is also fragile and vulnerable in human hands. We are greedy and inconsiderate and so degrade the earth, the waters, and other human beings. If we are to leave a beautiful world for you and your grandchildren, we have to take seriously the fact that creation does not belong to us; we are part of creation. We cannot do what we like with earth, water, and other human beings. God expects us to keep the earth in good condition. The earth takes care of us and we have to take care of the earth and of each other.…

The spirit of God the Creator has been with us and we are all fired up like the disciples at Pentecost. We shall go out to tell others that another world is possible. I hope you will also tell all your playmates, classmates, and schoolmates that a possible world of beauty is in sight. [1]

Theologian Larry Rasmussen writes letters to his grandchildren, reflecting upon wonder, beauty, and our planet’s future:

Did you know that before your generation, no humans of any stripe ever lived on a planet as hot as this one?…

Still, the world has not stopped being beautiful. You will remember our days on the red rock mesas of New Mexico, “this beautiful broken country of erosional beauty where rocks tell time differently and the wing beats of ravens come to us as prayers.” [2] You’ll remember our adobe-style house, too, and many patio hours sketching with colored chalk or doing a puzzle together. You may also remember dark skies of bright stars, even here in town, and the blue and pink stripes on the horizon at dawn.

I guess the Greeks had it right. Their word cosmos means “order”—those stars in their courses—and it also means “beauty,” as in cosmetics, though cosmetics is a bit trivial for the life and death of a hundred billion galaxies! Or for a striped dawn.

Cosmos as beauty and order belongs to life, [grandson], so go Greek and claim the beauty that exists. Let it guide you. Beauty is its own resistance, contending with all that is ugly and chaotic.… If the tumultuous world has not stopped being beautiful, neither has love stopped being love: “Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy.” [3] That’s my latest most favorite author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and she’s right: if we choose joy over despair and love over hate, it’s because Earth offers love and joy daily. [4]

[1] Mercy Oduyoye, “Earth Hope: A Letter,” in Ecowomanism, Religion and Ecology, ed. Melanie L. Harris (Boston, MA: Brill, 2017), 82–83, 86.

[2] Terry Tempest Williams, email message to L. Rasmussen, December 2015.

[3] Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass (Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2013), 327.

[4] Larry L. Rasmussen, The Planet You Inherit: Letters to My Grandchildren When Uncertainty’s a Sure Thing (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2022), 11–12, 13.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. We learn from the coyote curiosity and exploration. We also learn curiosity about our own perception and projection onto another being: what is the first thing we think when we see a coyote?

Story from Our Community:  

For a long time, I tried to extricate myself from my evangelical roots because it lacked the cosmology and depth that my spirit longed for. I felt that I fought against the reality of what is. I’ve followed CAC for over 15 years and recently, I have noticed a trend towards mystical metaphysical wisdom that I am so grateful for! In the Daily Meditation on January 8, this phrase struck me: “The only way out and through any dualism, including that between action and contemplation, is a kind of universal forgiveness of reality for being what it is.” —Frances I.

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