We are meditating on the “C” called community and currently Howard Thurman is our guide. He applies his teaching of “kinship with all life” and all being that we meditated yesterday to the issue of ecology and our relation with the rest of nature and with Mother Earth.
He warns us:
Man cannot long separate himself from nature without withering as a cut rose in a vase. One of the deceptive aspects of mind in man is to give him the illusion of being distinct from and over against but not a part of nature. It is but a single leap thus to regard nature as being so completely other than himself that he may exploit it, plunder it, and rape it with impunity.
Thurman names the spiritual malaise that has brought about the great devastation of the planet. He takes on the ultimate cause of climate change: A dualistic consciousness that pits us against nature and presupposes our superiority complex when we interact with nature.
We have been living an “illusion” that we are not ourselves of nature but “distinct from and over against” nature — that we are here to “master” nature, as Francis Bacon and Descartes bragged about early in the modern age. The exploitation, plundering, and raping of nature has been the clear result.
Thurman saw this coming decades ago.
Much of Thurman’s spirituality and mysticism was based on the beauty of the earth and the sea. He loved as a young man to sit with a tree at his back and be with the sky and the sea that spoke to him deeply of the divine presence.
He speaks to the price we pay for refusing our kinship with creation.
This we see all around us in the modern world.
Our atmosphere is polluted, our streams are poisoned, our hills are denuded, wild life is increasingly exterminated, while more and more man becomes an alien on the earth and fouler of his own nest. The price that is being exacted for this is a deep sense of isolation, of being rootless and a vagabond.
Often I have surmised that this condition is more responsible for what seems to be the phenomenal increase in mental and emotional disturbances in modern life than the pressures — economic, social and political — that abound on every hand. The collective psyche shrieks with the agony that it feels as a part of the death cry of a pillaged nature.
Thurman makes clear that even if humans feel alienated from nature, they nevertheless suffer along with it. As with hate, this is another form of “suicide,” as humans become “part of the death cry of a pillaged nature.”
For Thurman, the ecological collapse is directly responsible for our modern spiritual crisis—“a deep sense of isolation, of being rootless and a vagabond.” This, he believes, has more to do with the rise in mental and emotional illness in our society than all other causes — “economic, social, and political” — put together.
Do you feel Thurman is speaking to us today about the cause behind climate change, coronavirus and much that is challenging us today? How do his observations assist us to stand up and grow up spiritually to interfere with such destruction?
Do you agree that the “pillaging of nature” is a spiritual crisis, and that we can heal our spirit by renewing our kinship with the atmosphere, the land, and wildlife?