One of my favourite books of 2020, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, has helped to shift my perspective on loving the natural world. In her book, Kimmerer raises an interesting question:
I sat once in a graduate writing workshop on relationships to the land. The students all demonstrated a deep respect and affection for nature. They said that nature was the place where they experienced the greatest sense of belonging and well-being. They professed without reservation that they loved the earth. And then I asked them, “Do you think that the earth loves you back?” No one was willing to answer that. It was as if I had brought a two-headed porcupine into the classroom. Unexpected. Prickly. They backed slowly away…
So I made it hypothetical and asked, “What do you suppose would happen IF people believed this crazy notion that the earth loved them back?” The floodgates opened. They all wanted to talk at once. We were suddenly off the deep end, heading for world peace and perfect harmony.
One student summed it up: “You wouldn’t harm what gives you love.”
Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.
It is interesting to consider that question: Do you think the earth loves you? The Christian story teaches about a God who loves us. The same God who spoke or breathed all of life into existence. Science tells us this world as we know it began with a big bang when a different sun than ours died, giving birth to our sun. Big bang, expulsion of breath or word, all that we know is this planet and the cosmos were birthed by a large “explosion” of energy, suggesting the Creator’s essence is contained in the creation.
Panentheism is the belief that God/Great Mystery/Holy One is present in all creation, and also extends beyond time and space as we know it. I’ve come to understand this God as the God of here and now and the God who moves ahead of us, pulling us into our highest best selves (hence evolution). Many times it feels like wrestling with jello to try to understand God/Great Mystery!
What I do know is that if God’s presence permeates the natural world – and God is the source of Love – then it is possible for the earth to love us back. The question that emerges for me as I contemplate this is “what if we learn to see all beings as containers of divine life/holy energy and understand kinship that way?” Truly then we would understand Love and perhaps we would understand the sacred bond and interconnectedness of all life in such a way that we would no longer harm one another and the natural world.
I think this month I’ll send Valentines to brother Sun and sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air and Fire, Sister Water, and Mother Earth. I wonder if they’ll send something back!
Rev LeAnn Blackert works with Michele Walker and Lesly Comrie in ministry with Wild Church in Kamloops, Sorrento and the Okanagan (wildchurchbc.org). She lives in an evolving world and finds her own understanding of God/Great Mystery/Holiness also evolving, and loves exploring questions of faith in a community of seekers.