Among the greatest blessings of my life has been the mentorship of the late geologian, Father Thomas Berry.
Of the many things he has left us are is his masterpiece The Great Work. Under this rubric, Thomas offers us three questions, three “koans” that we would work with over and over until they transform our way of seeing Earth, our living, communal body.
The first koan to begin the slow, subtle, substantive transformation toward ecological consciousness is: “Is my next thought, word, or deed sustainable for Earth?” I ask it as I go about my day, as I reach for something to sustain me, nurture me, entertain me, benefit me...
The second: “Is my next thought, word, or deed an expression of greater intimacy with Earth?” I ask it as I go about my day in a highly technologized, computerized culture in which I need not leave proximity to a fridge or computer to survive a regular American day. I ask it as I take my own ecological inventory and assess how I am greening or graying my sensorium, my soul.
The last question intended to lead me more deeply into a green mind and heart: “How is my next thought, word, or deed a way of celebrating Earth?” How is it a way of entering into Earth’s marvelous festivals? How might I practice bringing myself to the Great Presence in all the life about me: all the eyes that see me, the ears that hear me, the breaths that breathe me, the great flow of energy that sustains me?
Simple, subtle, revolutionary questions: Thomas Berry’s gift to our ecological transformation. With gratitude and hope we turn them over again and again with each breath for our own conversion and for the life and grace of Earth.
Dr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, is a Professor of Religious Studies, founding director of the Iona Spirituality Institute, Senior GreenFaith Fellow ’08, and co-convener of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue.
Today’s practice is to prepare the ground for yourself or a group you are a part of to make a new commitment to action that will ADVANCE the human rights of people affected by the environmental crisis. If you haven’t already, start a process of discernment about where your growing edge is and what your next step is to deepen your existing commitment. One suggested step of preparation is to learn who is already acting to address suffering and advance rights in local and global communities, and explore how you can follow the leadership of people from frontline affected communities.
Today’s resource for deepening this message are the service learning trips offered by the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice. These experiential learning programs help people of faith and conscience cross boundaries, gain insight, and gain the tools they need to further justice and human rights in the world, in partnership with frontline community organizations. Learn about climate justice-related programs and make a commitment to serving and learning in an affected community.
Commit2Respond's Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.