Wonder

The Natural World: Week 2

Wonder
Friday, March 16, 2018

Thank you Lord for all you’ve made. Thank you for the trees, flowers, butterflies, animals, and people you have created in your image. Thank you for letting me share in the joy of your beautiful creation. Your light shines bright in my heart and I will do your will to protect the paradise of Earth. Thank you for blessing me with the gift of the world and making me in your image and creating me with the beauty of all things you made. I am grateful for the love you have shown me by placing me on this Earth with all the other things big and small. I love you God. Amen. —Tea Gonzales, St. Therese Catholic Grade School, Albuquerque, New Mexico [1]

Theologian Fr. Thomas Berry (1914-2009) was a true friend of and advocate for nature. Like Joanna Macy and many others, he saw that we are on the cusp of a new era, a new way of living that is in harmony rather than competition with nature. Berry highlighted several important elements to this shift:

Renewing Earth: From Anthropocentrism to Ecocentrism

The task of renewing Earth belongs to Earth, as the renewal of any organism [even the church] takes place from within. Yet we humans have our own special role, a leading role in the renewal, just as we had the dominant role in the devastation. We can fulfill this role, however, only if we move our basic life orientation from a dominant anthropocentrism to a dominant ecocentrism. In effecting this change, we need to listen to the voices of Earth and its multitude of living and non-living modes of expression.

We should be listening to the stars in the heavens and the sun and the moon, to the mountains and the plains, to the forests and rivers and seas that surround us, to the meadows and the flowering grasses, to the songbirds and the insects and to their music especially in the evening and the early hours of the night. We need to experience, to feel, and to see these myriad creatures all caught up in the celebration of life.

Extinction Is Forever

We especially need to hear the creatures of Earth before it is too late, before their voices are stilled forever through extinction occurring at such a rapid rate. Once gone they will never be heard again. Extinction is forever. The divine experience they communicate will never again be available to humans. A dimension of the human soul will never be activated as it might have been. None of the wonders of the human can replace what we are losing. . . . We have lost sight of the fact that these myriad creatures are revelations of the divine and inspirations to our spiritual life.

Wonder, Beauty, Intimacy

Our inner spiritual world cannot be activated without experience of the outer world of wonder for the mind, beauty for the imagination, and intimacy for the emotions.

References:
[1] Tea Gonzales, “Gift of the World,” Generations Caring for the Earth (Belfort and Bastion Publishers: 2017), 28.

Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community, ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (Orbis Books: 2014), 77-78.

Image credit: Starry Night Over the Rhône (detail), Vincent van Gogh, September 1888 (Arles), Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars. —Joanna Macy

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