Made of Water (And Stardust and Carbon)
It’s a privilege to introduce you to some people doing wonderful work at Climate of our Future, for whom the blog post below was written. In their own words, “Climate of Our Future is a blog meant to open a discussion of global climate change by providing articles, resources and opinions that provoke our readers to thought and action. We’ll attempt to describe how our world’s climate is changing, what’s causing it, and how we can correct it.
Although the discussion of climate change and its man made causes can be controversial, we can all agree that it’s important to do everything we can to safeguard our environment and its natural resources. Toward that end we’ll also be providing links to information that will allow us to reinvent ourselves as a more sustainable society.
Do you ever wonder how we humans have evolved into such a hard driven, over-scheduled, stressed out, anxious, addicted, collection of souls who tend to forget that – contrary to what we might think at any given time – the world does not revolve around our particular needs, opinions, beliefs, and interests? I wonder this! And I wonder when was the last time I remembered with intention that the universe is far deeper, more complex, more mysterious, more astonishing than I can even imagine. Maybe I had this passing thought two days ago, maybe a week ago. I would like to be remembering this all the time, because it matters, the lenses through which we experience our lives!
As long as humans believe ourselves to be the most valuable life form on the planet, existing external to the network of all life – the living web – then we will continue to exploit the earth, waters, air and all life forms for our own use, and we will continue to exploit one another. We are an anthropocentric bunch, believing and behaving as though the world revolved around us; that we are the most important; that the earth exists for our use as we see fit. We couldn’t be more wrong.
I am not sure it matters how we name the ecological crises which frame our conversations, our politics, and our behaviors: climate change; acid oceans; mass extinctions; habitat destruction; pollution; carbon footprint – it’s the same problem. And until humans come to understand ourselves as intrinsically connected to each and every life form of our planet – created of the same stardust, in the words of Neil De Grasse Tyson – the human disconnect and isolation from the earth community will only increase.
The questions I am holding are the questions of heart and soul, and, in fulll partnership with the science are the ground, I believe, for all our efforts to engage in healing.
Although – and to my regret – I never met Thomas Berry, I claim him as mentor. “I speak of the earth as subject,” he wrote, “not as object. We are born of the earth; the earth is our origin, our nourishment, our support, our guide. Our spirituality itself is earth-derived. If there is no spirituality in the earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.”
What we do to the earth and the waters, what we continue to do regarding destruction of habitat, we are doing to ourselves and each other. That’s what it means to be part of this living web and not external to it. Every name we assign to our continued degradation of the planet – every way we describe it – is a reflection of our spiritual sickness. If we knew our proper place within the biotic community, it would not be possible for us to do what we do.
In The Space Between Church & Not-Church ~ A Sacramental Vision for the Healing of our Planet, I introduce a man who modeled the partnership of ecology and spirituality. In Southern Maryland lived a scientist/educator/songwriter, Tom Wisner, whose lifetime commitment had been directed to the healing of the Chesapeake. A few years ago, Tom extended an invitation into the community for a “beautiful something” that would capture the hearts and imaginations of the Bay area Corporations and D.C. area politicians, compelling them toward such a glorious vision of a restored Chesapeake that all objection and resistance and self interest would simply melt for the sake of this sacred body of water and watershed.
The iconic “something” was imagined into being, with the help of plywood, PVC pipe, chicken wire, and water-resistant glue for the papier mâché. She emerged as a tundra swan, a species formerly but no longer a resident of the Bay, thirteen feet in length and seven feet high, with the identifying black bill and gracefully curved neck. She carried her cygnet in her wing, and the two embodied the sacred story of life and death and the battered hope of new life, an ancient story finding new shape and form, a call to hope and rebirth.
One of Wisner’s many Chesapeake songs is titled “Made of Water,” and its lyrics are a call to remember our very identity.
I’m made of water
sun and salt
and winds that blow.
Though my bones
were formed in the mountains,
it’s through my blood
this river flows.
June 2009 marked the twenty-second year of the annual Patuxent River Wade-In, and for Wisner, the man who inspired the ever-evolving ritual, it was his last. Later that month my husband Jim and I were among those who gathered with Tom in the living room of his old farmhouse. Tom’s eyes focused slightly beyond us, eyes holding years of remembering. “For a brief moment,” he said softly, and to no one in particular, “a moment which might have lasted a lifetime, I could forget about the river.”
At that my head shot straight up. What did he mean? How could Tom forget about the river? We all knew what the river meant to Tom, and we knew that the Wade-In was the most significant ritual of his year. “When ritual is live and imbued with meaning,” he went on, “it makes me one with the river in such a way that I can forget about it. I lose awareness of the water itself for the sake of the . . .” he struggled for a word. “Fellowship. I couldn’t tell where I stopped and where the diatoms and the blue crabs began.”
As Tom found the words to describe the experience, he shared with those of us around the table that the ritual had dissolved the separation between himself and the river. “The separation is of the ego,” he said. To claim no memory of the distinction between self and river is to release the egoic piece to become one with the water. This is the experiential, and I have come to believe it is the first step in the shift to a biocentric perspective. Such experiences awaken our capacity to change and to learn, and, as we learn, the shift in perspective is strengthened.
Many of us are catching on, and it’s reason for radical hope. The rise in environmental activism, I think, has a direct correspondence to our internal yearning for connectedness, our desire to remember our proper place within the earth community. We already have language and imagery that speak to our longing; it’s the language of poetry and music, the imagery of beauty. This is the spiritual sustenance for our healing work, derived from our deep internal knowing of the sacredness of all creation.