Day 8: Confronting Our Reality

What may strike most of us as a frightening proposition is the fact that we mere mortals have the capacity now to decide not only our own life paths, but also the fate of the earth replete with all its luscious complex ecosystems of which we are a part.

The notion of earth as an interconnected web is finally dawning on the stubborn belief of human exceptionalism. We are but a trifling part of global existence, but find ourselves in the unique position of imagining its future. Keeping the earth sustainable for future life, a home to innumerable species in decades to come rests now with our own construct of meaning.

In pursuit of quenching the thirst of our greed, we have looked away from the values that shape meaning in our practical lives. We are blessed with the freedom to mold new paradigms in which the real world is no longer defined by the consumption of things. But we are also free to avoid that freedom which has chained us to addictions of insatiable appetites.

If religion is now understood in these contemporary times as shaping meaning in our practical lives, then surely we must stop looking away from the issues that demand our involvement. Protecting unlimited numbers of species and securing a future for our children emerge as the quintessential religious questions of this era.

How do we honor our habitat? What values do we bring to bear in order to sustain the natural world teeming with life? If we pretend to be religious, we can no longer pretend to have values that take precedence over sustaining the earth. Values are not the province of convenience. Values test our mettle, and we can only pray that we meet the challenge quickly.

Rev. Tom Goldsmith is the senior minister at First Unitarian Church, Salt Lake City.


Today’s practice is to reflect on the values you hold and that you bring to bear “in order to sustain the natural world.” Each of us as a person of faith or conscience brings our own unique take on the values that shape meaning in our practical lives. Take the time to write down your core values and do something meaningful with the words—for example, add them to a personal altar, share them with a loved one, bury or burn them, post them on a physical or virtual wall.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is Julia Butterfly Hill’s series of 7-10 minute videos on Spiritual Activism. In 1997 at the age of 24, Hill began a 2-year act of civil disobedience when she took up residence in a 1,000-year-old redwood tree to save it from destruction and raise awareness of deforestation practices. She has since co-founded the organization What’s Your Tree and grounds her work in the spiritual practice of yoga.

In the six short Spiritual Activism videos Hill covers (1) introduction, (2) spiritual activism and the power of breath, (3) making one’s life a legacy, practicing embodied presence, and facing “the disease of disconnect,” (4) living so fully and presently in love that there is no room for anything else to exist, (5) making choices that create and model the world we envision, and (6) rejoicing, and the power of extending our definition of 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.


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  • commented 2015-03-30 23:25:43 -0400
    This one really hit me. Watched all of Julia’s videos with my sons. She so eloquently articulated the whole picture for me. I recommend listening to all 6 parts of her message. I am speechless, and almost breathless with excitement, hope and anxiety. But Julie reminds us, be present with each breath. It is a gift. What am a doing with my gift?
  • commented 2015-03-30 13:55:57 -0400
    “If religion is now understood in these contemporary times as shaping meaning in our practical lives, then surely we must stop looking away from the issues that demand our involvement. " Those of Goldsmith’s words ring loudest for me. In my view, this is the crux of what we as individuals and congregations are confronted with — that we, not others, but we, must change how we live. And, we must act now, because time is passing and our windows of opportunity are closing.

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