Green in Spirit ~ Green in Action

The intentionality with which I am learning to offer my eco-spiritual writings into the world has been a stretch for me, and a steep learning curve. Many “green” websites and organizations are providing their services as resource centers for projects of all kinds – recycling, urban farming, green housing, organic clothing – the list is extensive, and the sheer numbers of such web communities help to insure that the commitment to shrink our human footprint is becoming normative.

Of those, only a few seem to step outside the bounds of green action into the realm of spirit, willing to explore the connection.  It’s a privilege, therefore, to be a guest blogger on a website to which I subscribe, Green Talk.

For those of you who are becoming familiar with my way of thinking about things, talking about the space between . . . (I hope) is becoming a part of your vocabulary. For those of you who might be new to this site, I would encourage you to explore the category by the same name, to get a sense of the significance of the space between . . . The preface to my book begins in this way: There is a space between things, between all things. The space is sacred and it is rich with blessing. I know this because I have lived in one such space for more than a decade, and I speak from it.

For the purposes of this conversation, the space between . . . holds ecological and spiritual content both. Eco-spirituality has begun to show up in Google searches, which says to me that we are becoming accustomed to the partnership. What I am discovering is that the partnership requires new vocabulary. Elsewhere on this site I have begun to explore new language and the meaning it holds for the space between . . . with this post I want to continue the exploration of the meaning of sacrament which, in the context of Green Talk, makes the connection between spirit and activism.

I believe that green activism is the outward expression of an inner longing for connectedness to the earth community. In the language of churches, a sacrament is defined in just that way – the outward expression of an inner spiritual propensity. So I hope that you’ll read my guest post. I’ve linked to it above, and I will paste it below.

Our Need for Spiritual Connection with the Earth (As posted on Green Talk)

It’s a wonderfully hopeful thing, to have access, direct from fingertip to keyboard, to environmentally sustainable resources that range from urban farming, to rooftop gardens, to household cleaning products, to the challenge to go plastic-free for a week. Web communities that serve as clearing houses for such resources are of immeasurable value.

The cynics among us speak of the warts in the concept of “sustainable living”, and yes, underneath the sarcasm lie concerns worth exploring. Yet this is not the time for the cynics among us. Prophets, yes, but not cynics. Our earth community is in too much trouble, and there is too much work to be done.

From my perspective, what’s motivating us isn’t just “feel good environmentalism” or some kind of nagging moral thorn in our side that says we ought to be doing this.  From where I sit, all these efforts – to clean up, to recycle, to establish farmers’ markets, to replant indigenous seed – all of them – are the action/expressions of the deepest sort of longing, and it’s one that we may not even be aware of. These are the outward expressions of our innate longing for connectedness to this planet.

It’s a spiritual longing, and serves to remind us that our care of the earth, the waters and air, and wildlife habitat are spiritual endeavors. We are spiritual beings, and the spiritual dimension belongs not just to humans alone.

The words of Thomas Berry make me want to dance with joy. “The earth is our origin,” he writes, “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.”

The only way humans can understand ourselves as spiritual beings, then, is to understand our own spirituality as linked to, and inseparable from, the spiritual dimension of all life forms.

To make the claim, as many do, that humans alone are possessed of and share a spiritual life apart from earth community, is utterly false. This eco-spiritual component doesn’t yet carry a lot of weight in legal arguments, nor in moral persuasion, and certainly not among the religious, yet it is this connection – and this alone – that serves as the ground of true planetary healing and restoration. It follows, then, that the human-to-earth connection is the very ground for human healing and wellness as well.

I’ve been blessed with mentors such as Thomas Berry, Alice Walker, John Muir, Margaret Wheatley – some living, some not – who have insinuated themselves deep into the core of my true knowing – a knowing which is all too often eclipsed by a surfeit of information and righteous opinion – mentors who have insisted that I open my eyes to the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life forms.

The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us that all life consists of “chemical elements forged in the center of high mass stars, unstable at the ends of their lives, which then exploded to scatter their enriched contents across galaxies, forming into gas clouds which in turn collapsed, forming stars, and planets, and life.”

We Can Reverse Our Own Destruction

That life includes not only humans, but all else as well. I find it thrilling to consider that we are all of the same stardust! The poets write lyrics, and the musicians sing songs. In this world view, Berry’s words ring with startling clarity. In our lifetime, he says, “the glory of the human has become the desolation of the earth. And now the desolation of the earth is becoming the destiny of the human.” In other words, what we’re doing to the earth, we are doing to ourselves. We are charting the course of our own destruction.

We have lost our bearings, but it need not be a permanent description.
If we can remember that healing and wellness – of all life including human life – is a spiritual endeavor, and that one cannot be healed without the other, there is hope. We long for healing, and such longing is given expression by the very actions of green that – we can say in celebration – are becoming increasingly the norm.

We are of the same stardust!

1 Comment

  1. Katrina Anderson on June 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Hello Caroline,

    I’m in the same Courage to Renew cohort as your husband, Jim, and he gave us your web site when we all met last May. I hope you don’t mind my sending this probably-way-too-long comment. Life is very complicated, as you know, and there are no simple answers!

    I read your entry, “Green in Spirit-Green in Action,” with great interest, as I have pondered my entire life our relationship with the rest of the inhabitants of this planet, as well as the planet itself. My foundations of belief and philosophy, though, have never seemed to fully line up with what I read and see around me.

    The essence of what I believe is science-based; that is, when the human brain entered into the evolutionary stage of making the “leap” into what is now called a sapient “symbolic brain,” communication was born, and self-awareness set in. They hadn’t been there before, as we know it. With self-awareness came an uneasy awareness of death, and what death actually meant. During the beginnings of this “cerebral evolution,” by necessity, we actually seceded (or so we thought) from nature itself. It was safer, easier, less frightening, and probably more profitable to think of ourselves as separate from the other beings around us. With that came religion, science, medicine, and other human-designed phenomena, and we convinced ourselves that our existence had ALWAYS carried more significance than all other life on this planet.

    With our ingrained, self-designated “special status,” and our so-called secession from nature, with no actual predators to impede our cerebral growth and evolution, we developed– with astonishing speed– a mind-boggling world of industry, technology, communication, medicine… all unnatural technically, but very, very useful.

    From an evolutionary basis, however, we humans stalled out. Our survival (not to mention the planet’s survival!) is dependent on us coming full circle back to our birthright as authentic, biological ANIMALS. If we can’t accept ourselves, and embrace ourselves, as animals first, and humans second, then we have no real, internalized connection to life around us, and little, if any, internalized connection to the damage we are incurring. We have developed the wherewithal to “do right” by the planet (and thereby ourselves), but until we come full circle as a species ourselves, in terms of our evolution, there is almost no chance.

    I apologize; I know I sound like a nut. And maybe I am. But I grew up with many non-human animals that I considered my friends and colleagues– they were all teachers to me, dogs especially. Not one of them was less than me, nor more than me. But respected and beloved, nevertheless. And my catechism classes told me that salvation and eternal sacred inclusion was a private club for human spirits only. So began my journey for truth!

    All the “green action” in the world is severely impeded if we can’t learn about ourselves as animals, and learn to love ourselves primarily that way. Stardust goes well beyond what we think it does, and loving our animal-ness is as sacred as any “thin place” of the spaces between. There is exquisite beauty in our “ordinariness” as animals, if we allow ourselves to understand that.

    Just as a kind of glib disclaimer to this, I am neither atheist nor Christian, (nor Buddhist nor Democrat nor Republican, for that matter. I’m not even agnostic!) I know what the other animals out there have taught me about life and death and spirituality, and we’re not there yet. Close, maybe, in some ways, but we’ve many miles to go, and time is running out.

    From what I read here, and from what Jim has said about you, I would love to meet you someday. The kinds of questions here are what drove me to the cohort group, and will drive me for the rest of my life. I am glad to know there are people out there who see, question and honor things the way you and Jim do.

    My best to you,

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