Restoring The Waters

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Eco-Spirituality ~ An Elemental Perspective

My thanks always to my generous friend Rex Nelson who just gets better and better with his camera. His generosity and kindness have never faltered.

I know that the majority of the people who read this blog and respond to my work are among the many who have left churches and won’t return, or have never attended churches and have no plans to do so. Still, I want to share with people of churches and people not, some of the significant explorations being accomplished out of my former seminary, The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, in Berkeley, California.

In my posts I continue to challenge the institution of the Church and it’s insistence on human privilege and entitlement. I continue to charge that the restoration and healing of the ecosystems of the planet cannot be accomplished unless and until we humans release our sense of primacy and rejoin (appropriately) the natural world. Still I think there are little pockets of hope giving new voice.

Under the ecological vision and leadership of Dr. Marion Grau, Associate Professor of Theology, the concept of Elemental Theology (Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire) is beginning to take root and bloom. A DVD entitled Elemental Theology has just been released as part of a teaching series produced by The Center For Anglican Learning & Leadership; it’s a compilation of half a dozen voices whose deep commitment to the healing of our planet is growing. From the sacred elements of water, the fruits of the earth, light, and all life forms come the stories we’ve been hungering for, a shared narrative from an ecological perspective which challenges faith communities to rethink such biblical concepts as dominion and rule, human privilege and entitlement, and the meaning of justice.

It was a rare occasion that invited my own participation in this teaching series, and a privilege. My hope is to include this work in two ways: first, I have posted my contribution in two parts on the sidebar of the website. I am including both parts in this new post as well.

Second, I am asking that you take a look at the film Elemental Theology in its entirety, and consider its purchase.

What if . . . it’s a question I raise in my part of the DVD . . . what if faith communities could begin to re-imagine the perspective from which they understand the interrelationships of all life forms? I think of the sheer numbers of hands and hearts and minds – never mind political influence – that could address the ecological devastation of our times. I think of the deep spiritual foundation – not doctrinal – that carries the potential for real healing.

Then, of course, the reality sets in – the propensity of religious organizations to focus their resources on those things which prop them up. The cynicism is warranted, no doubt, but I’m not sure it’s helpful. Quite the opposite if it leads to numbness and paralysis as is so often my experience.

I’m asking that you take a look at this DVD, if not in its entirety, then my contribution to it. I’d like to read your thoughts and comments in the the space provided. I really don’t understand how it is that conversational threads are strong on some blogging sites, and not so on others. As there is no more critical conversation that’s needed at this particular moment, I am asking for your help.

Restoring the Earth Community ~ A New Perspective, Vol 2

Here’s the second segment of the series. I can’t say that I am getting more comfortable in front of a camera, so I am grateful to my patient husband Jim. Much of this content exists in an earlier post, so you can consider this the CliffNotes version.

I am increasingly fascinated by the field of biomimicry, a concept new enough to have escaped various versions of Merriam Webster. The content boxed below comes from The Biomimicry Institute.

Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a new discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example. I think of it as “innovation inspired by nature.”

The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on Earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

Like the viceroy butterfly imitating the monarch, we humans are imitating the best adapted organisms in our habitat. We are learning, for instance, how to harness energy like a leaf, grow food like a prairie, build ceramics like an abalone, self-medicate like a chimp, create color like a peacock, compute like a cell, and run a business like a hickory forest.

The conscious emulation of life’s genius is a survival strategy for the human race, a path to a sustainable future. The more our world functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone.

Looking at Nature as Model, Measure, and Mentor

If we want to consciously emulate nature’s genius, we need to look at nature differently.  In biomimicry, we look at nature as model, measure, and mentor.

Nature as model: Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature’s models and then emulates these forms, process, systems, and strategies to solve human problems – sustainably.  The Biomimicry Guild and its collaborators have developed a practical design tool, called the Biomimicry Design Spiral, for using nature as model.

Nature as measure: Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the sustainability of our innovations.  After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned what works and what lasts.  Nature as measure is captured in Life’s Principles and is embedded in the evalute step of the Biomimicry Design Spiral.

Nature as mentor: Biomimicry is a new way of viewing and valuing nature.  It introduces an era based not on what we can extract from the natural world, but what we can learn from it.

Restoring the Earth Community ~ A New Perspective, Vol. One

It’s more difficult than I would have thought to make a YouTube video. Still, I think there were only ten takes involved, and not more than four or five late night editing sessions. sierra leone . Oh, and the computer crashes. . . I’ve decided to make a series of them for several reasons, figuring that it’s easier for a skeptic to watch a ten minute clip before s/he decides it’s worth buying my book. More important, the concepts carried in my book are dense, I’ve been told, and I believe it. And so the intent of this series is to lay groundwork for the conversation I am hoping to generate. Here’s the first of a series of five or six, and I’m hoping that others will add their comments to Judy’s response below (offered with her permission) and my comment which follows.

How do we even wrap our minds around the unlikely task of healing the earth?

I imagine the people reading this blog post are like me – little, seeming powerless, often paralyzed, and wondering what it is we’re trying to make right. So, I believe in little steps, in building community, in changing hearts.

For Reflection

Not long ago a video was posted by one of my Facebook friends. (This has a happy ending.) A dog, attempting to cross a very busy eight lane highway was struck and left lying in the middle of the lanes during a heavily trafficked time of day.

No one stopped, no one could. Another dog, undaunted (although I wonder . . . ) made his way to the wounded animal, and, with his own paws, dragged the injured dog across several lanes of traffic, to safety. What I wonder is this: what would it be like if humans understood our connection to the earth community with this kind of unquestioning – even innate – understanding that we are to help one another, no matter which form a life takes? As you go about your day and the days to come, think on this – “I am deeply connected to everything I see, hear, touch, and equally connected to what I am not seeing or hearing.”

What difference will it make in your life to know that the mouse, hiding in your woodpile, shares your life, your chemistry, your insistence on life. Write me about this; it’s very important.