The earth is in distress and is calling to us, sending us signs of the extremity of its imbalance through earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and storms, drought, unprecedented heat. There are now indications that its ecosystem as a whole may even be approaching a "tipping point" or "state shift" of irreversible change with unforeseeable consequences.
This book is a collection of responses to the call of the earth. It is not offered as a solution to a problem because the world is not a problem; it is a living being in distress. The signs of global imbalance, the tsunamis, the destruction of the coral reefs, are not just physical symptoms. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, these are "bells of mindfulness," calling us to be attentive, to wake up and listen. The earth needs our attention. It needs us to help heal its body, damaged by our exploitation, and also its soul, wounded by our desecration, our forgetfulness of its sacred nature. Only when we remember what is sacred can we bring any real awareness to our present predicament.
— from the Introduction
Indigenous nations and peoples believe in the spiritual powers of the universe. We believe in the ultimate power and authority of a limitless energy beyond our comprehension. We believe in the order of the universe. We believe in the laws of creation and that all life is bound by these same natural laws. We call this essence the spirit of life. This is what gives the world the energy to create and procreate, and becomes the ponderous and powerful law of regeneration—the law of the seed.
— Oren Lyons, ch 1: Listening to Natural Law
There is now a single issue before us: survival. Not merely physical survival, but survival in a world of fulfillment, survival in a living world, where the violets bloom in the springtime, where the stars shine down in all their mystery, survival in a world of meaning.
— Thomas Berry, ch 2: The World of Wonder
A natural conviction held by every previous human generation is that our children are our future. How can this advanced globalized society sleepwalk into an unprecedented betrayal of inter-generational justice? We need to ask ourselves: in whose interest are we sacrificing the ancient contract with the future of our species? Why can't we find the courage to face the facts, and throw off the dominion of the fossil fuel industry?
That kind of authentic challenge would re-invigorate the human spirit.
— John Stanley & David Loy, ch 5: At the Edge of the Roof:
The Evolutionary Crisis of the Human Spirit
When you look at what is happening to our world—and it is hard to look at what is happening to our water, our air, our trees, our fellow species—it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible.
— Joanna Macy, ch 13: The Greening of the Self
When we forget the earth from where we receive our food, food becomes non-sustainable. Food is life. Food is not just our vital need: it is the web of life.
— Vandana Shiva, ch 10: Annadana: The Gift of Food
The country of the wild horses adjoins the lands of the Stoney Nakoda nation. When she first began to ride there, Maureen asked her Nakoda friends about the location of their sacred places, so that she did not inadvertently disturb or damage them. What they told her was unexpected: you have already found what is sacred in the landscape. The wild horses themselves are our sacred places.
The words are a beautiful reminder that the sacred is not some special, separate category of existence. It is not to be captured and tamed with fixed verbal structures of dogma and belief, or confined in man-made buildings. For sacredness is inherent in the very essence of life and the multiple patterns of its arising. Sacredness is the radiant expansion of the heart, the devotion to life that rises in contemplation of the inexhaustible mystery that is unity in diversity, the One manifesting through the whole of creation."
— Eleanor O'Hanlon, ch. 15: Wild Horses, Wild Self--A Story of Hope
Service is a principle of nature. Nothing could survive without it. The earth supports our every function; the sun gives us warmth, light, and food; the trees and clouds blanket us in cool respite; rivers quench our thirst and need for growth--all without asking for anything from those who take these gifts. It has to be this way, for the magnitude of what is given to us by the natural world is beyond our ability to repay it. These acts of service that we witness every second of our existence give us the incomparable gift of teaching us how we can do the same. My experience has taught me that acts of selfless service are magic. They expand spaces, bodies, minds, emotions, and capability in a way that defies physics. Even the smallest acts are powerful and revolutionary. They turn what is rotten into gold. The joy and love born from these actions can move through time and space at lightning speeds. Selfless service restores dignity and faith in the most lost individual. It is nothing short of incredible.
— Shephali Patel, ch. 23: Darshan
To know oneself is to understand the grand celebration we are a part of and the sacred being that we are. It is to know, without a doubt, that we are loved, profoundly, by the Creator, no matter what has been done to us or what we have done to others. From this fertile ground of self-understanding, there can sprout a real relationship with the Earth. This relationship is a true communion, as it was created to be.
— Lyla June Johnston, ch. 24: Hozhó
Our very suffering now, our condensed presence on this common nest that we have largely fouled, will soon be the ONE thing that we finally share in common. It might well be the one thing that will bring us together politically and religiously. The earth and its life systems, on which we all entirely depend (just like God!), might soon become the very thing that will convert us to a simple lifestyle, to necessary community, and to an inherent and universal sense of reverence for the Holy. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. There are no Jewish, Christian, or Sufi versions of these universal elements.
— Richard Rohr, ch 20: Creation as the Body of God
Scientists are no longer standing completely apart from what they are studying. They are assisting us in witnessing the ineffable beauty and complexity of life and its emergence over billions of years. They are pointing toward a more integrative understanding of the role of the human in the midst of an extinction cycle.
— Mary Evelyn Tucker & Brian Swimme,
ch 6: The Next Transition:
The Evolution of
Humanity's Role in the Universe
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: What do you think has been the effect of our denial of the sacred in creation, coming from this Judeo-Christian story—how has that affected creation itself? We can see how it's been an outer disaster in the ecological devastation—but how has it affected this interior spiritual nature of creation itself, what you call its deep spiritual interior?
Sr. Miriam MacGillis: How I think about it is that we are always hungering for a wholeness, a fullness that would embrace life as it's really given... This is a deep, deep psychic drive within the western psyche and it creates a vast empty part of ourselves that we're trying to fill with meaningless meanings that aren't enough, and the religious meanings we find are still based so much on separation that they don't bring reverence; we don't go out into our back yard and kneel down in front of the soil and know that we are in the face of mystery. It's just dirt to us, it's opaque.
— Sister Miriam MacGillis, ch 7: The Work of Genesis Farm
Soil comes first. It represents nature and sustains the entire world. Everything comes from the soil and returns to the soil. Food which sustains life comes from the soil. Water which nourishes life is held by the soil and so is fire. The sun, the moon and the stars are all related to the soil. For me the soil is a metaphor for the entire natural system. If we take care of the soil, the soil will take care of us all. Through the soil we are all related and interconnected. We depend on the soil. All living beings depend on the soil.
— Satish Kumar, ch 12: Three Dimensions of Ecology:
Soil, Soul, and Society