We have been meditating lately on empires and patriarchy and misogyny and theocracy and authoritarianism or fascism—heavy topics indeed. But necessary lest we run and hide from the “signs of our times” which include signs that disturb.
I think it is time to interrupt these important meditations briefly and visit a bit at a spiritual oasis, to come up for air and renew ourselves amidst the dark news that is making headlines.
In a recent DM, we heard from Martin Buber how, among all animal species, only humans indulge in lying.
A human-centered consciousness has pre-occupied us during the modern era and is deeply responsible for the eco-emergency we find ourselves in. Invariably, our human narcissism considers other species as objects to be used by humans and ignores the many spiritual gifts that the more-than-human world bestows on us.
Animals gift us regularly. They, like the rest of creation, are truly original blessings. Do animals not need religion because they are already spiritual?
What lessons do animals teach us about spirituality? Consider what Job has to say (12:7-10):
Ask the animals,
and they will teach you.
Ask the birds of the air,
and they will tell you.
Ask the fish of the sea,
and they will declare to you.
Who among you does not know
that the hand of God has done all this?
In God’s hand is the life of every living thing,
and the breath of every human being.
Job sees all of creation as a giant classroom of life and wisdom. Animals, birds, plants and fish all have something to teach us humans. Think of your cat or your dog as starters.
Rabbi Heschel reminds us that “our kinship with nature is a kinship of praise. All beings praise God. We live in a community of praise.” He talks about the “sound of holy joy” that is the work of the community at worship. Worship is a community thing.
For Heschel, it falls on humans to lead the
…silent worship of the rest of creation. We are its cantors. The cosmos is a congregation in need of a Cantor….It is humans who are the Cantors of the universe, and in whose life the secret of cosmic prayer is disclosed.. [And] when we sing we sing for all things….The universe is a score of eternal music, and we are the cry, we are the voice.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, p. 94.
See also Matthew Fox, “Animals and Compassion”, in Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp. 158-171.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Shelter dog Benjamin Arturo reclines in a nursing home resident’s lap, part of a visiting program to spur adoptions and ease elders’ loneliness. Photo by Eli Christman on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
What spiritual or life lessons do you learn from animals in your life? When you sing is it for all things? Are we the cry and voice for other species as well as our own?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice
In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register