I need a day with fields in it.
In that time [3.8 billion years], life has learned to fly, circumnavigate the globe, live in the depths of the ocean and also the highest peaks, craft miracle materials, light up the night, lasso the sun’s energy, and build a self-reflective brain.*
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgement comes forth perverted.**
(Habbakuk the prophet)
A day with fields in it is my shorthand for somehow connecting to nature. This has been one of the powerful experiences of the lockdown for so many, finding places of connection to nature: gardens, parks and beyond.
Even when we struggle to find a tree, we can look up:
Till, lying on your back
There is no mountain
Only a cloud
The world’s oldest living tree is to be found in Sweden – more than 9,500 years old. Just think of all that has happened in human history since this tree emerged from a spruce seed. It had been around for around 4,000 years when the first Egyptian dynasty was established or Stone Henge was constructed.
Janine Benyus’ words capture something of the wonder of nature that she argues we now need to learn from and mimic when it comes to designing the future. What has taken billions of years to develop, we are undoing in two hundred or so industrial years and sixty or so years of ignoring the facts.
Reading Habbakuk’s words today, I imagined them focusing on what we are doing to our world, resulting in eliminating 60% or so of all species and one million species making up an endangered list – never mind rising carbon dioxide levels, poisoning of seas and oceans and clearing ancient forests.
We live in a critical moment of human history. Covid-19 has shown us that we are not all-powerful, but it has made it possible to see that we can do things differently if we have to. Not far behind having to is being able to do things differently because we want to:
One of our main tasks now – especially those of us who are not sick, are not frontline workers, and are not dealing with other economic or housing difficulties – is to understand this moment, what it might require of us, and what it might make possible. Change is not only possible, we are swept away by it. We ourselves change as our priorities shift, as intensified awareness of mortality makes us wake up to our own lives and the preciousness of life.^^
This is a desperate time, but it is also an exciting one for those who want to see just how far things can be made better through our imaginations and resourcefulness. Yesterday, I quoted Ken Sleight because of what he believes of our gifts and talents:
That’s how you’re going to fix the world – with your own gifts and talents.*^
This connects with some words I often recall from Frederick Buechner: we will find our purpose where our deepest gladness meets the world’s greatest needs. In this I see the possibility of deep respect and love and connection with our world that will also make it possible for the human species to flourish in a story of becoming:
Our greatest calling his to grow into our authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some age of who we ought to be.^*
(*From Janine Benyus’ Biomimicry.)
(^From Rebecca Elson’s A Responsibility to Awe: Frattura Vecchia.)
(^^Rebecca Solnit, quoted in David Leser’s article: Call of the Wild: listen up, people, time is running out.)
(*^Ken Sleight, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(^*Parker Palmer, quoted in Ian Cron Morgan and Suzanne Stabile’s The Road Back to You.)