Reflecting on the Paris Summit

Earth, our home and mother, is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited.

– Thomas Berry

Barbara Harrington, OP
Blog by Sr. Barbara Harrington, OP

TJ blinked his disbelief: “Water is not a resource?”

In response: “What do you love about the water here?” A spontaneous full-throated eruption from TJ’s band: “Frogs!” These kids love frogs. In the tip of each spring they rush upstream to where green frogs bask among the water irises. As the season warms, you’d find frogs leaping downstream, kids loping after them; some would whoosh over the waterfall into the pond; others would whoop in delight. Can you guess which group the frogs were in?

The children were fascinated with frogs and ponds, stones, stream. They’d run up to the wetland intentionally poking their noses into skunk cabbage, laughing over Earth’s magic – acrid, delightful. Animal prints in the mud and birdcall swooped through. Child-like, their attention became webbed, nuanced, like silt and soils, air, clouds and water. They were evolving, discovering community, wondering at their “belonging” with it all.

We too wonder about belonging. The Paris Summit is upon us. The debates and jockeying to save and distribute “resources” are layered in distress. Who gets the needed resources to continue to grow? What creative alternatives can be resourced in order to maintain our standard of living? Which cultures will be submerged, subsumed? How can we be safe from ecological refugees? Who pays? Will we flourish? What’s fair?

Fear shapes these utilitarian arguments. Seeing the world as “a collection of objects” to be exploited for maximum value, even if distributed judiciously, reveals a fault line. Every time we put gas in a car, choose an airplane seat, eat processed foods, drink bottled water we have an opportunity to explore that fault line in a way that can become a spiritual contributions to planetary “blessed unrest.”

How does this spiritual unrest become incarnate? Our involvement in and beyond COP 21 is vital. Some critical ecological agreements can be worked out only within the planetary sphere. There will be petitions to be signed, campaigns to participate in, prayers for creativity among the suppressed voices in Paris. For global negotiators we pray for conversion. May they widen their identities to decide as subjects in communion with the greater whole.

Interdependent and indivisible from the global response is the abundance of communal wisdom for household and local actions. These proposals may be perceived as moral agents, the “anawim,” refugees of a consumer society, critical to disrupting our consciousness, shaping our souls’ view, arousing a deep reverence for the mystery of being.

The spiritual crisis that came unbidden upon TJ and his friends opened their imaginations to explore designs for cleaning the waters of Crystal Spring. In that year and a half, the moments of creative tension were palpable. Drawing on the patterns of the New Story of water meant thinking through experiments with a fresh kind of awe. Muddied perceptions worked their way to clarity. The community of water evoked a dialogic approach with the children. In the end, water molecules and frogs and humans were felt as members of the same sacred community. Exhilarated with a sense of having been plunged into a communal baptism with microbes and stones and the spiritual/material attributes of water, the children came to experience themselves as “water cheering!”

Tenderness, the converted power of humility, draws us into the well of religious imagination. In the star-lit evening of our lives, in the vast hues stirring dawn, the pain of a withering planet is becoming our pain too. There will be no shelter from sacrifice. The young of all species are no longer waiting for us; they are throwing us a rope to belong to their future. “Risk unto the Unknown. Become refreshing drink for God,” they urge, cheering us on.

Posted in Just Reflecting

4 responses to “Reflecting on the Paris Summit

  1. “Disrupting our consciousness” indeed! T.J. and his band “throwing us a rope” are a challenge for us as again, the children lead us. Your reflection is rich…my thanks too!

  2. I just saw a YouTube of a clip from Fox News in which a Republican Senator is reminding the country that any decision made at the Paris conference by our president will have to be ratified by congress, as if to say “Forget it!” All the more reason for our prayer.

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