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Center for Action and Contemplation
Loving a Suffering Planet
Loving a Suffering Planet

Welcoming Reality 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Brian McLaren offers the phrase “welcome to reality” as a helpful acknowledgment of the devastation and uncertainty that the increasing climate crisis brings:   

Our global civilization as currently structured is unstable and unsustainable. Ecologically, our civilization sucks out too many of the Earth’s resources for the Earth to replenish, and it pumps out too much waste for the Earth to detoxify. Economically, our civilization’s financial systems are complex, interconnected, fragile, and deeply dependent on continual economic growth. Without continual economic growth, financial systems will stumble toward collapse. But with economic growth, we intensify and hasten ecological collapse. In addition, our global economic systems distribute more and more money and power to those who already have it, creating a small network of elites who live in luxury and share great political power, while billions live in or near poverty with little political power…. As we face increasing ecological and economic instability, social unrest and conflict will also increase.… [1] 

Welcome to reality.  

That simple phrase … helps me slow down for a few moments and acknowledge that we do know some things with high levels of confidence. (For example, we know carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere trap heat; we know water melts at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius; we know several different ways to produce electricity.) But about other things, we have much less certainty. 

When I say “welcome to reality,” I am saying, “Welcome, self, to reality, both what I know and what I don’t know.” And I am also saying, “Welcome, reality, whatever you are, both known and unknown, into my awareness.”  

To hold both knowing and unknowing in a delicate, dynamic, and highly creative tension … that is one of the primary skills we will need if we want to live with courage and wisdom in an unstable climate, whatever scenario unfolds.  

We need to face what we know. And we need to face what we don’t know. Only what is faced can be changed. That is why I say, and I hope you will join me, welcome to reality. [2] 

Father Richard describes how contemplation helps us meet and welcome reality:  

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form, without filters, judgments, and commentaries. Contemplation allows us to recognize and relativize our own compulsive mental grids—our practiced ways of judging, critiquing, and computing everything—as well as blocking what we don’t want to see.  

This is what we’re trying to do when we practice contemplative prayer, which is why people addicted to their own mind and opinions will find contemplation most difficult, if not impossible. No wonder it is so rare and, in fact, “the narrow road that few walk on” (Matthew 7:14). 

When our judgmental grid and all its commentaries are placed aside, God finally has a chance to get through to us, because our narcissism and pettiness are at last out of the way. Then Truth stands revealed! [3]   

[1] Brian D. McLaren, Life after Doom: Wisdom and Courage for a World Falling Apart (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2024), 23–24. 

[2] McLaren, Life after Doom, 34.  

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Yes, And…: Daily Meditations (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2013, 2019), 391. 

Image Credit and inspiration: Renzo D’souza, death and new life (detail), India, 2020, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. How can we care for the tender seedlings on the parched soil of our beloved earth? 

Story from Our Community:  

The theme of Radical Resilience really resonates with me this year. Amid multiple surgeries, the deaths of several dear friends, and other unrelated crises in my life and in the world, I find hope in the possibilities of holding in tension these unresolved issues. I am coming to accept that I do not have to rush to find the immediate resolution. I can learn to wait, knowing I am held by God in the midst of it all. —Linda J.

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