Everything is Connected

I have been hearing three voices to challenge and shape my prayers and desires in recent days:

  1. A week of silence and spiritual routine at the Abbey of the Genesee, reawakening my connections with wind, ice, earth, sky, river, heartbeat, non-human creatures, and Spirit.
  1. Rereading of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, reawakening my sense of the connectedness of all things: “St. Francis would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. Such a conviction cannot be written off as naïve romanticism. For it affects the choices which determine our behavior. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of St. Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.”
  1. And then, religious ethicist Larry Rasmussen sharpens the Pope’s “connectedness” reasoning even further: “While there is a deep human longing to belong to the same order that threw the galaxies across the universe and the planets into orbit, most of the cosmological and biological processes that gave us birth do not register in our sense of ourselves…. Modernity’s prized bubble – the built environment as our true habitat – leads to “apartheid” consciousness at the species level. Like whites in apartheid South Africa, we think that “our kind” can develop separately. Human beings collectively become the center and focus, drawing upon all the rest as needed. We do not regard ourselves internally related as kin to the rest of a shared and indispensable community that also lives embedded in the earth and cosmos. This constricted and alienated sense of ourselves is the species counterpart of self-absorption…. And while, as biosocial creatures by nature, we might acknowledge that our deepest human need is for social bonds and committed relationships – the opposite of self-absorption – we for some reason do not extend these bonds and commitments to other-than-human life. The outcome is the kind of anthropocentrism that smothers the cosmophelia (love of the cosmos) and biophelia (love of life) native to the kind of creature we are. Biophelia, the yearning for contact with other-than-human life, and cosmophelia, the yearning to belong to the same order as the stars, then languish, and we forget we are human beings tethered marrow and bone to evolutionary cosmic processes” (Earth-Honoring Faith).

For years, my friends have heard me throwing around references to the gospel as finding its source in “God so loved the cosmos” (Gr. “kosmon”) and its consummation in “the reconciliation of all things” (Gr. “ta panta”)  and its final word as “Behold, I am making all things new!”

And yet my own life hardly reflects this unity and community with the wider world of God’s creation. On the contrary, I see in myself heart-deep patterns that resist all of these redemptive connections: frenzied commitments to career, neglect of time in nature, a false sense of superiority arising from the unexamined references to the “image of God,” and tribal instincts that extend to nation, ethnicity, social class and religious tradition. And I recognize those same traits writ large in our nation as we retreat into exceptionalism, militarism, ethnocentricity, xenophobia, wanton disregard for ecosystems, expulsion of foreigners, and elimination of systems to care for the needy. We are not connected; we will build walls; we will arm ourselves with guns; we will sink or swim; we have a bigger button. We are not connected to anything beyond individual choice.

I decry these trends in our nation. But let me start by addressing disconnectedness in my own heart. And look, I’m running late for my walk in the woods…

J. Elwood

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