Climate Change: Artists Lead Us From Despair & Apathy to Action

Healthy artists, working from a spirituality base, can awaken us to our “selfishness, greed and apathy” that were named by a scientist in the previous DM as the fundamental problem in climate change.  So can teachings of great mystics like Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas who speak to the causes of such problems as apathy. 

“Lethargie.” Photo by Tobi Stockinger on Flickr.

Years ago, when I spoke at the Schumacher Lectures in Bristol, England, I followed on a talk by Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute in which he called for an “Environmental Revolution” and said that the number one obstacle to that revolution was human “inertia.”  Surely that is the same as “apathy.”  What to do about it?  How do we melt apathy and inertia?

Our ancestors understood inertia and apathy to be part of the capital sin of acedia.  Acedia, says Aquinas, is “the lack of energy to begin new things.” 

Getting in touch with the Earth. Photo by CDC on Unsplash.

How does one recover that energy once it has vanished or seeped away? 

Says Aquinas, “zeal [the opposite of acedia] comes from the intense experience of the beauty of things.”  Beauty.  Falling in love again.  Not just with a two-legged mate, but with creation itself—the Earth and her marvelous forests and oceans, rivers and valleys, birds, animals, insects, skies and valleys and so much more—that is the Falling in Love that will undo inertia and awaken zeal.

Is that one more reason why we need artists at this time and mystics also—to remind us of the beauty and lovability of a world that is rapidly declining before our eyes?  To move from despair and woe and recitation of bad news to love and gratitude and action?  To passion culminating in compassion?

Adapted from Matthew Fox’s Schumacher Lecture, “Religion as if Creation Mattered,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 32-51.

Also see Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.

See  also “Professors receive grant to study emotions and climate change” | Royal Roads University

Banner Image: Youth Climate Strike: North Bay: Hundreds of young activists joined the Youth Climate Strike 2019 in Santa Rosa to demand action on climate change. Photo by Fabrice Florin on Flickr.

For a TRANSCRIPT of today’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

How do you see breaking through apathy?  Is it possible?  Do you agree it is necessary to save the planet as we know it and our species as we know it?  Does Aquinas’s teaching above speak to you and to our times?

Recommended Reading

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

Upcoming Events

“Wisdom, Grace, Love” – a 3-part online lecture series by Caroline Myss, Andrew Harvey, and Matthew Fox, September 8, 15, and 22, 3:00-4:30 pm Pacific (GMT/UTC-7). Learn more HERE.

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2 thoughts on “Climate Change: Artists Lead Us From Despair & Apathy to Action”

  1. Avatar

    Like many others during this pandemic, I discovered the art and yes even the mysticism within gardening. Within the little plot of land that I and my husband steward, together we created a kind of Zen like retreat. We planted deep vibrantly colored flowers, scented herbs, and a few vegetables. We hung various types of wind chimes and placed them in the trees. We bought a beautifully sculpted water fountain in the shape of large cascading poppies that created the sound of gentle flowing waters. This sacred space became a haven of peace and calm, that nurtured, comforted, consoled and yes even counseled us at times. Other creatures of nature enjoyed this sacred space too… all kinds of birds singing there songs, butterflies dancing their dances, foxes, groundhogs, sand cranes, owls, hawks, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, ravens, dragonflies, bats, and geese flying in unison. Each one taught us something, as we began to really see and listen to the beauty all around us. What we often seek.. is so much closer to us than we really often notice. All was and is a gift to be treasured.

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