The year, in my view, has reflected where we are as both a society and species currently in terms of its relationship to ourselves, our communities, nations, and the earth itself.
Jonathan Freedland from The Guardian referred to the symbol of 2020 not as being a mask, taking the knee, an elbow bump or even a huge uptake in zoom meetings…
Rather something simpler – a magnifying glass- exposing and magnifying where we are at as a species today…
2020 – “it did not remake the global landscape so much as reveal what was already there, or what was taking shape, just below the surface”.
“The pandemic has illuminated deprivation, inequalities and political unrest, while reminding us of the power and beauty of nature and humanity”. Jonathan Freedland
2020 highlighted the huge disconnect we have with both ourselves, others (be they 2 legged or non-two legged) and the planet.
It demonstrated how the micro relates to the macro. We finally discovered we are not invincible and separate from nature, in fact the complete opposite. We learned just how very fragile, delicate, and interconnected we are.
Just over five hundred years ago the printing press was invented- this ushered in a new breakthrough in learning and communication – albeit text based. The world saw remarkable innovation and progress at an industrial, scientific, and economic level. Just Like Alice we entered a Wonderland of opportunity. Humanity was in control of its own destiny, not nature or the sacred. Here was progress, or was it…
Fast Forward to 2020 – Our desire to gain more produce from the planet has cut us off from the very thing that sustains us. We have measured progress in anthropocentric (human centred) terms not planetary terms.
Our economics and infrastructures rely on human values not planetary values and in doing so we bring down the rest of the Creation…
This progress reached a critical point this year with the global pandemic. (let alone the constant urgent issue of Climate Change- of which Covid is a consequence).
The Earth systems for the last century have been able to a degree “ride this out “so to speak, however there is only so much credit we can borrow from the Earth. And… make no mistake the Earth is a vigilant bookkeeper…
We must understand, and understand extremely fast, that we are part of an interdependent web, we are all connected.
“What happens to one, whether joy or sorrow, happens to me “
Meister Eckhart – Mystic
Or if you prefer the Scientific approach
We must start with “the whole, not the parts” David Bohm
How the f##k did we get here?
Ultimately, we have lost a sense of self, community, of soul and cosmology.
Our Wonderland is in fact a wasteland of our own making.
We are more tired, bored, apathetic, and cynical than we are alive, excited, passionate, and optimistic.
It does beg the question Thomas Berry, the Geologian, asks
“What exactly are we looking for in life”
Individually we are uncertain about our own roots and identity, we look for things outside ourselves to define us – anything to make us feel better about ourselves- or is that to avoid ourselves? We consume to feel better – then when that fails to deliver, we consume more… (of course this is not helped by our advertising infrastructures which suggest we are far from perfect and tease us with even more things to consume from the Wonderland Shop, more things that will make us feel better about ourselves). Essentially, we look outside ourselves to define ourselves.
Our immediate communities have ceased to be places in which we share experiences and support each other. Instead, they have become a battleground of competition – not just keeping up with The Jones’s but beating them hands down.
Our communal spaces are shopping centres which lack any real possibility of interaction with others or nature. They have become Temples of Consumption rather than sustainability and conservation. Of course, there is a strong need for local business to thrive and support communities economically, however, the arrival and dominance of multi-national companies serves only to slowly cripple any real local identity. All of this whilst the homeless sleep rough in shop front doorways.
There is a bunkering down and an isolated mode of existence as a rule in our communities. My house, my drive, my parking space, my right of way…anything that vaguely challenges this is seen as a clear and present danger.
We have developed an inability and lack of desire to dialogue with anyone not in our tribe.
Tribalism is fine in providing identity and a sense of belonging however too often it becomes my God is better than your God, my politics are better than your politics, my way is the right way and yours is not.
This leads to fundamentalism (not just religious but fundamentalism in all its forms)
We see this in the UK with a worrying Nationalistic Fundamentalism developing. Brexit has inevitably highlighted this separation.
An increasing blame game is occurring with those we deem to be different, those who are not in our tribe- be that the EU, people of different faiths, political views, gender, class, race, sexual orientation etc.
There is a total disconnect from anything that we do not understand or that is different. A reluctance to engage or commune with.
And therefore, onto the biggest disconnect of all…
That of our relationship to the Earth itself
On our current protectory we have less than ten years left before we do irreparable damage to the eco systems of this earth. The oceans are warming, the ice sheets are breaking, sea levels are rising, our weather systems are changing. Our human activities continue to perilously affect the Earth’s Climate – which is not static and is affected by natural and human drivers.
Our consumption will be our undoing – we ourselves will be consumed…
Since the Enlightenment period in the 18th Century, we have embraced the mantra
“Scientia potential Est “or “knowledge is power”
The Enlightenment emphasised the importance of science and reason ahead of Religion, Spirituality, and wisdom. No bad thing at all – it advanced real social and political progress – it led to the formation of ideas such as liberty and democracy – rather than the rights of people being based on the Church, a monarch or government whim. It also of course stared an explosion of scientific discoveries and possibilities which led to the Industrialisation Era.
Our newfound Gnosis, or knowledge, has an annihilating sting in its tail.
It is based on parts not the whole. It is a model of a Newtonian clockwork machine universe. It sees things as objects in nature not subjects of which we all are part of. In compartmentalising it separates, it becomes dualistic, not holistic.
In objectifying nature, we become detached from it, we become cut off, isolated. We fail to see interconnectivity (or what Thich Nhat Hanh would call “interbeing”).
We have lost a sense of the sacred, of radical awe and amazement that our ancestors pre-Enlightenment or Indigenous Cultures across the globe have no problem with. A sense of belonging, a sense of being part of a bigger picture, of not being isolated but instead within a global and cosmic community.
This Community is not just anthropocentric but includes and welcomes the existence of all of creation and nature.
Ironically, it is not Religion now but the New Quantum Science that tells us we are part of a whole. We are all 13.8 billion years old, we are all made of stars. We can all see the greatest light show in town every night because when we see these stars, we are seeing the remnants of creation itself, the big bang. The Native American tradition believe the stars are the bonfires of our ancestors.
Surely this and other stories should inspire us to both respect and furiously defend the Earth and the Universe. To appreciate and be grateful.
Meister Eckhart sums this up
“if the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough”
Out of that marvellous sense of being part of something much bigger than ourselves we embrace biophilia- a love of life, not death, but of life.
We see the commonality and connectivity in all which leads to compassion- which is where peace and justice kiss (not a fluffy feeling we get)
That requires us to fight injustice and to celebrate life and community.
The word Community comes from the Latin
Com munio – a common goal a common aim
Surely our Communio for today should be to honour cherish and defend the Earth – which she so desperately needs now.