Action from hope

Yes­ter­day I went to a work­shop at St Ethel­bur­ga’s, a church in the heart of the City of Lon­don that has devel­oped into a cen­ter for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and peace­build­ing. The title of the work­shop was “Kick­start a Spir­i­tu­al Ecol­o­gy Hub” — some­thing that I would even­tu­al­ly like to do in the Nether­lands. With about 25 peo­ple we talked and med­i­tat­ed all day about our rela­tion­ship with the Earth and the action we intend to take from there. It was very inspir­ing, not in the least because I met all these peo­ple. The day start­ed with the trail­er below, which intro­duces the book that I dis­cussed ear­li­er.

The work­shop gave me more insight into the prin­ci­ples of Spir­i­tu­al Ecol­o­gy. With­in this approach, envi­ron­men­tal activism does not start with doing things and run­ning around, but with sit­ting still and lis­ten­ing. We did an exer­cise where we lis­tened to a news sto­ry about how bees are threat­ened by pes­ti­cide use in the UK. We had a moment of silence to rec­og­nize our feel­ings about this. We trans­formed these feel­ings into a prayer and then lis­tened to our heart (which I’m not yet very good at to be hon­est…) if it required a response from us. Dur­ing the dis­cus­sion after­wards, we shared this with some­one else and set a dead­line for doing our our actions. I’m for exam­ple going to search for an peti­tion and sign it.

By approach­ing prob­lems in this way, your actions become hope­ful rather than angry and frus­trat­ed. Many peo­ple said they do not even fol­low the news more because there is so much mis­ery. I have that expe­ri­ence with reports about fac­to­ry farm­ing. For exam­ple, this week a super­mar­ket in the UK announced that they will stop sell­ing cage eggs in 2025. I did not even know that these eggs are still sold here. Because I feel so strong­ly about that, I actu­al­ly don’t even want to know about it. But it is impor­tant to make con­tact with that feel­ing. As Joan­na Macy says:

Don’t apol­o­gize if you cry for the burn­ing of the Ama­zon or the Appalachi­an moun­tains stripped open for coal. The sor­row, grief, and rage you feel are a mea­sure of your human­i­ty and your evo­lu­tion­ary matu­ri­ty. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.

I am still get­ting used to engage with the Earth in this way, and it is per­haps easy to do off as hazy hip­pie-talk. But I think it goes to the heart of the cli­mate prob­lem: it is a spir­i­tu­al cri­sis. We humans have lost our rela­tion­ship with nature and treat any­thing that is non-human as an object, a com­mod­i­ty. I think such an atti­tude can­not be defend­ed from the Bible, but let me know if you wish to dis­cuss this.

Riverside Country Park

I gained a lot of ideas and link­ages. I met Thom Bon­neville from (i.a.) the Inter­faith Ani­mal Alliance. For me, this work­shop has con­firmed the deci­sion that Fred­dy and I made this month: In Octo­ber I will quit my job and we are hope­ful­ly going to Chile to vol­un­teer on organ­ic farms for half a year. I look for­ward to be work­ing out­side every day. It will be a time to lis­ten to nature and to God, before the wild plans can take shape. Thich Nhat Hanh empha­sizes that we can only make a dif­fer­ence in the world if we have a base that we can fall back on:

Many peo­ple are aware of the world’s suf­fer­ing; their hearts are filled with com­pas­sion. They know what needs to be done, and they engage in polit­i­cal, social, and envi­ron­men­tal work to try to change things. But after a peri­od of intense involve­ment, they may become dis­cour­aged if they lack the strength need­ed to sus­tain a life of action. Real strength is not in pow­er, mon­ey, or weapons, but in deep, inner peace.

Moon in Gillingham

Ref­er­ences

  • Joan­na Macy, ‘The Green­ing of the Self’, In: Llewellyn Vaugh­an-Lee (edi­tor), 2013. Spir­i­tu­al Ecol­o­gy
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, 1991. Peace is Every Step: The path of mind­ful­ness in every­day life