The Space Between . . . The Book in One Page

Ahah! I’ve been trying for months to write a one-page description of my current thinking, based on my still new book The Space Between Church & Not-Church ~ A Sacramental Vision for the Healing of Our Planet. Here it is.

Statement of the Problem ~ a Twofold Description

There are two reasons why we’re not making significant headway in addressing the ecological distress of the earth community. One is, humans still think we’re top dog, and can pretty much do anything we want no matter how it impacts the earth. Although the science is telling humans that we do not sit at the apex of creation, the humans aren’t listening.

Whether this sense of human entitlement is biblically warranted, culturally normative, whether it emerges from ignorance or indifference, or greed really makes no difference. The point is, we cannot – because it’s simply not possible – address the magnitude of the degradation of the earth until we release our insistence on human primacy.

Two, although we have all the ecological evidence we need to know precisely what we’re doing to the earth community, the science alone isn’t changing people’s hearts, and, therefore, not their behavior either. It’s the spiritual, even religious energy, that changes people’s hearts.

So, people of churches can’t accomplish the environmental work, because we want to do our stewardship from an anthropocentric perspective. And the environmental movement alone can’t accomplish the work because its working paradigm rarely embraces the kinds of pathways that are best suited to change the human heart.

What needs to happen? How do we partner the ecological and the spiritual?

The Journey ~ Lose the Luggage (The Art of Release)

All people – including the religious among us – need to release the erroneous concept of human primacy, which finds its expression in what I call a theory of accommodation. We will do exactly enough (and no more) “greening” to ensure that we get to maintain our death grip on our consumptive lifestyles.

This is not easy for people of churches who tend to argue that to address the ecological problems of our time requires nothing more than appropriate stewardship. Not! Hard as it is to hear, the very notion of stewardship implies management and oversight; to be a steward of the earth, then, is to manage it or oversee it. The fallacy ought to be self-evident: humans are not managers; managers derive their role from a place outside the ecosystems of the planet. As humans are, in fact, intrinsic to the earth community, and interdependent, the role of humans must emerge from our appropriate place from within.

For those environmentalists and others who may have no church affiliations, the invitation is to recognize and embrace the power of intentional ritual. For it is the sacramental nature of the universe – revealed through the elements of earth, waters, wind, and fire, and then finding expression in art, poetry, music, movement, and ritual that changes hearts and ultimately behavior.

Our human destiny lies in a renewed clarity of place, through which we rejoin the biotic community. And it’s from our proper sense of place that the moral imperatives and practices of mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, and service can emerge.

For all of us, no matter our perspective, the process is one of letting go – a process of release unlearning, or of unsaying. Perhaps a better word is “un-encumber” which allows the possibility of relief in addition to the bias against sacrifice. The word is apophatic, and only through such self-emptying process can a space open up – I have come to know it as the space between – in which a partnership can be forged whose ethical focus is the healing of the earth community through the moral transformation of the human heart.

2 comments on “The Space Between . . . The Book in One Page

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Rex Nelson on November 4, 2011 1:06 am

“For environmentalists and others who have no church affiliations, the invitation is to recognize and embrace the power of intentional ritual. For it is the sacramental nature of the universe – revealed through the elements of earth, waters, wind, and fire, and then finding expression in art, poetry, music, movement, and ritual that changes hearts and ultimately behavior.”

_But where are the leaders who will take us there, create and lead us in those rituals?_
You know what I think? I think if you keep writing like this, it is possible you may eventually step into that role. I know- I hate to say it, but not as much as you hate to hear it, I’m sure.

My hope is that we are on the leading edge of a huge wave of change, of people being sick and tired of swallowing the shit that comes “down” from all the places that create it- corporations, power-hungry government, corruption, etc. I think the basic fed-up-ness started with the Tea Party, and is spreading to the Occupy movement. Look how quickly it has spread worldwide.

People like me, and I think there are lots of us, agree enthusiastically with what you’re saying, but what do we DO about it?! I’m clueless, and am looking for people like you to step into that vacuum, the one that you’ve so nicely articulated.

Does this vibrate with you at all, or am I way off base?

Maybe your role is in identifying, grooming, supporting someone to head in that direction. Dunno. I’m just swinging in the dark, hoping to connect with something. Maybe your part has been to help articulate the need, to sweep it back out from under the rug, to say the words The Space Between out loud, bring the concept into our language. Dunno. But I’m seeing a ray of hope here- I’m just not sure where it’s coming from.

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Caroline Fairless on November 4, 2011 2:54 pm

Thanks, Rex. I think a lot of us are swinging in the dark trying to connect with something. That’s the hardest part, maybe, finding each other. I did a five week book discussion around The Space Between, at the local Library. It was so great, really. A dozen people, sometimes more, showed up and have chosen to stay together and explore our local future. I love that so much, and yet it feels like so little. I know I have been given to know what I write about. The process has been unfailingly consistent except when i try to push it. What I want to develop are opportunities to speak with people.

I DO think we’re on the leading edge of a huge wave of change. I hope we are brave enough to sustain it, and I want to do my part.

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