Photo by Anika Huizinga obtained on Unsplash.

The Gift of Earth

If we look around us, wherever we are at this moment, there is nothing we can note with our senses that is not gift of Earth. It does not matter how far or distant from nature the elements we are observing are, the source is Earth.  The ceiling of the Sistine chapel, the Sydney Opera House, the local shopping centre, the instrument you are using to read this paragraph, all sourced from Earth, channeled often through human creativity and expertise.

But we too are Earth and, sadly, often distance ourselves from all that is natural, all that is created.  Humanity places itself apart from the natural world. Our faith, however, tells us all creation does not come from nothing but from God, whom the mystics describe as No-thing but unmeasurable love.

In one of his poems Thomas Merton cries out: ‘Come home, come home ye islands from afar!’ This cry echoes one of the major themes of Merton’s writings, the theme of unity.  Merton constantly reminds us that our journey is to recover our original unity. We are the separate islands needing to recognise the call to unity. New Science reveals how essential to this planet’s survival is this ecological and spiritual imperative to become one. Humanity is called to recognise it does not stand outside creation but is an essential part of it. As human beings it is essential we let go our idea of duality as a basic truth.

The theme of Earth Day this year is Save the Species. Humanity is as threatened, through its own hubris, as much as any species. As we forget our essential unity with creation, so we forge attitudes and actions of destruction.

John Philip Newell offers a summary of statistics we all read constantly and ones we must no longer ignore. They are frightening once we allow those facts to become reality within our consciousness. “The slaughter of innocents includes the extinction of 300 species per week.  We have viewed non-human species as having no essential rights. . .the nearly ten billion years that it took the universe to give birth to Earth, plus the four and a half billion years of Earth’s unfolding diversity of life forms, are being reversed in what is like the blink of an eye in Earth’s history.” (J. P. Newell, A New Harmony. 66)

But Newell also writes: We live in the midst of a new consciousness of life’s interrelatedness.  And this awareness relates both to life’s essential oneness and to life’s shared brokenness. Like never before in the history of humanity, we are becoming aware that what we do to a part, we do to the whole, that the parts will not be well as long as the whole is neglected, and that the whole will not be well if the parts are neglected. . . Wellness is found not in isolation but in relationship. (J. Philip Newell, XVII, A New Harmony)

Earth is a living system and we are a part of that system. What we do to Earth we do to ourselves. Earth day is a moment in time which reminds us to listen to the cry of Earth, to pause, reflect, heal and love our common home. Perhaps, as Thomas Berry says, this is the great work to which we are all called.

Colleen O’Sullivan rsj