LOVE THE WORLD AS NO ONE HAS THOUGHT TO LOVE IT

(Title adapted from Rainer Marie Rilke) Not long ago in human memory, Aldo Leopold was in the adrenalin rush of his career.  Tasked with getting a mountain in tip-top shape for deer hunting, he wondered if killing off the wolf would make for a hunters’ paradise.  One afternoon, watching a young pack welcome an old wolf “with a melee of wagging tails and playful maulings,” he saw the mother wolf die. “We never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack….When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down.  We reached her in time to watch a fierce green fire die in her eyes….I realized then that there was something new in those eyes, known only to her and to the mountain….seeing her and the green fire die I sensed that neither she nor the mountain would agree with [my] view.”
Blog By Sr. Barbara Harrington, OP
Beholding the cascading destruction of his “over the top” zeal, Aldo Leopold came into communion with the mountain.  Embedded in deep time, mountain intelligence reverberated freshly within Leopold’s awakening. Over population of one species becomes a defoliated mountain, “the starved bones of the hoped-for herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of dead sage….” This is more than a cautionary tale.  Don’t you see the possibility of new love stories? Where previously, killing off the enemy seemed good enough for the “happily ever after” effect, Leopold developed the land ethic by “thinking like a mountain”. The climate crisis now urges the unfolding of a planetary ethic. Adaptive measures to climate disruption are the talk of the moment. Widely touted plans preserving comforts for the humanly privileged, but not by any count creating the greatest good for the greatest number may be akin to “We never knew heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf.” The ethical challenge now upon us is to bring to light that which is hidden: to think like a planet. Reimagining how we are to live as Earthlings is undoubtedly a stretch.  But it is also raw necessity: noticing the sparrow who falls; the civilizations crumbing; the mother hen, with tenderness gathering blind destructive powers under her wing. Thinking like our planet infuses gospel stories with new vigor. The prairie, the plains, forests, deserts, the waters, estuaries, the night sky, emerging cultures of food and place are no longer used as backdrops to buttress communion with the Divine; they become what we are to contemplate.  Absorbing their revelatory pulse widens our stunted identities. These are Earth communities -some severe, some sweet, all verbs, voices, summoning us, stirring faith, spawning a felt possibility of humans re-inhabiting Earth. Streaming through the pores of our skin are ecotones of new psalms; praises we never knew that we knew reweave our ruptured selves with the land, our holy mother. Humility rouses us to participate actively, reverently as sacramental beings. There is nothing not kin in this sacramental revelation.  An inner climate change indeed. The eye of fierce green fire welcomes the vista of moral virtues developing in response to climate chaos: gratitude to those who photosynthesize; reciprocity, choosing to invest our love in healing relationships with each other and with the land; self-restraint through ecological practices building communities of peace and economies protecting the abundance and variety of other lives; intergenerational justice transforming our “too-much” fear into legacies of reverence; moral courage creating a world beyond war. (KDMoore and RKimmerer) In the vast immediacies of our moment leaps a new ethic of planetary affection. Midwife like a planet, no matter the cost, no matter the outcome.
Posted in Just Reflecting, News

The Power of Small and Big Kindnesses

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

The other day someone posted an Advent calendar of Small Kindnesses on Facebook, suggesting it as a possible Advent daily project until Christmas. I appreciate things like this that can help me be intentional about doing kind acts. And you never know just how powerful a small kindness can be in the life of another. To download this Advent calendar, click here.

On Nov. 16 CBS ran a story by Steve Hartman about John Metzler who still keeps the letter written by a girl in the sixth grade over 45 years ago. He was a 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper in the Vietnam War, and didn’t know the girl.

The letter arrived on Christmas Day 1970 and it simply read in part, “Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home.” – Donna Caye. That simple letter, John said, got him through the Vietnam War.

Because he had such deadly job in such a thankless war, that little girl’s note mattered. Obviously, it could have gone to any soldier. But John took it very personally. “Fact is I think it means more today than it did when I got it,” John said. It’s because she said thank you.

It was just a small kindness, but with power beyond that small girl’s imagination.

I personally have mixed feelings about expressing my gratitude to persons who have or are serving in foreign wars. On the one hand I AM deeply grateful to anyone willing to risk his/her life to defend our country and keep all of us safe—even though I’m not really clear against what we are being defended or kept safe.

On the other hand, I am deeply troubled that our national and international leaders keep choosing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of countless men and women in ‘forever’ wars that they and we know cannot be won–like Vietnam and Afghanistan. It makes me wonder: do we really need to be defended or kept safe from ‘forces’ that require sacrificing our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in wars that leaders perpetuate rather than have to admit failure and put an end to it?

Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist, wrote: “It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry.”

What if, instead of training and sending people to war, a portion of our defense budget were diverted to train them instead for this work of conversion? It would certainly be a big kindness for humanity, with power to transform all life on Earth in ways beyond our current imagination!

Posted in Associate Blog, News