Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christian Environmentalism II

Just a very shorty short expansion on the previous introductory thoughts on how Christians should approach “environmentalism”.

What happens to our brains when we go for a walk in the woods or fields?

Mine slows down. I relax my head more than my body. The ten-mile-a-minute thought processes and the scatterbrain flitting from one set of ideas to another shuts off and I can concentrate on one thing at a time.

My mind drifts, like lying in the sun on a floating log at the beach at Nanoose Bay when the tide is low, the water warm and steady, your bare feet trailing in the water, just brushing the shale on the bottom of the bay, the gulls calling and the waves making a noise like a million whispered voices over the pebbles of the beach...

I find that this is the mental condition I need to communicate with God. I have almost no capacity to resist temptations to distraction when I'm at home. I fight my brain in Church. I'm at war with my thoughts in almost every other situation.

But walking the fields, looking deep into the mysterious depths of hedges for the source of a bird's call, watching the steam of the cows' breath blowing out of their big square noses...

those are things that have an autonomy, an independence from my thoughts and ideas, that makes it possible to take myself out of myself for a moment. And not being wrapped up in our little selves, and our little ideas, is what prayer is supposed to accomplish, and where it is supposed to start.

A Christian concern for the environment, for nature and the world's systems, then, must start with an acknowledgement of the otherness of natural things. It may be a hint at a way to start understanding the otherness of God.

Nature is real. So real that it does not respond to you, your preferences, your ideas or opinions. It is so implacably real that all your actions in regards to it can themselves only be based on real things. The natural world is one of the best cures for ideologies there is, if it is taken honestly. Nature can teach us that we are not as in charge of things as we often like to think.

Once free of those delusions about our powers that grow in our cozy, safe, controlled un-natural environments, we might be able to clear away some of the mental rubbish and start asking questions about The Real. The implacable otherness and realness of nature where we are stripped of our illusions of power, may, possibly, lead us to questions about origins, and the real nature of our relationship with the world, and our responsibilities to it.

* * *

Right. If any of that made sense, please let me know.

That's all the free-floating stuff for today.