AN EARTH DAY MEDITATION
This reflection on the planet was written for Earth Day in 1992 or ’93, as a student at Prescott College. I had just organized a visit to Prescott College by Thomas Berry in February of ’92, and the general spirit of this piece, and much of the language, are inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.
–Drew Dellinger, Earth Day 2014
Ecology is the study of interconnections. We cannot understand anything apart from the infinite relationships that comprise the total web of reality. We cannot fully know the spotted owl without knowledge of the redwoods it lives in, the mice it eats, and the enzymes in the mouse dung that promote the growth of massive redwoods. Swooping through the misty branches of the ancient forest, the owl is integral with the evolving dynamic of the ecosystem. Clenching a trembling mouse in its bloody claw, the forest is moving through the apparently separate forms of owl and mouse. All participants in the life system are members of a single, unified process unfolding over millions of years. As Thomas Berry has said, a species isolated from the context in which it functions is an abstraction — it doesn’t exist.
We cannot fully understand the earth without some sense of the context in which it functions: the universe. Nor can we know the human being apart from the community of the earth and cosmos. The universe gives birth to the earth; the earth gives rise to the human. All phenomena are aspects of a comprehensive ecosystem, intertwined through 14 billion years of continuing emergence. The archetypes of the human psyche, the migratory patterns of birds, the fury of an electrical storm, the violent brilliance of a supernova explosion — all of these are universe dynamics. The cosmos is the solitary mover, acting through the pantheon of shapes.
the hour is so late…
Jacques Cousteau says that if we keep dumping toxic waste into the ocean at current rates, the ocean will be dead in fifty years. We all know what that means. This is an ocean planet. If the ocean dies, that’s it — it’s over… and the 14 billion years that it took to evolve polar bears and ostriches, manatees, Michelangelo, and Granite Mountain will have been negated. If we kill this planet, human ignorance and arrogance will have undermined the 14 billion years the universe needed to birth this precious earth — a magic sphere where the incredible complexity of life could unfold; a flowering of the cosmos’s inner dimensions.
If we kill this planet, we humans will have snubbed our nose at the very universe dynamic that gave us our being. If we kill this planet, we will have committed a sacrilege against the beautiful and mysterious dance of the cosmos. What is happening over these billions of years? What is developing on this tiny planet? A planet that was once molten rock and now thrives with this miraculous canopy of living forms.
About four billion years ago the earth was a boiling orb of flowing lava. The rains came pouring down for eons, hissing steam upon the glowing molten surface, evaporating up into an endless hydro-cycle. Eventually the earth cooled and the ocean mother formed. The secret aspects of the earth’s creativity began to emerge into existence. The planet began to express herself as life. First one-celled organisms, then algae. What’s going on here? We don’t know of life anywhere else in the universe and here it is — fish and sharks and crocodiles. Green plants sprout up and cover the continents; lizards are scurrying about and birds are soaring through the air.
Then the last few million years, and the earth begins to articulate herself as the forms we see around us. As Brian Swimme notes, this planet that had once been molten rock now expresses itself as giraffes and clouds, pandas, symphonies, slugs, and canyons. What marvelous beauty is blossoming on this planet, and in what direction is this heading?
The cosmic process, the earth process, and the human process are one process. We are a dimension of the universe. The earth expresses herself through each of us. The earth writes poetry and tells stories. The universe builds temples and discusses philosophy. All forms and activities are the various media through which the one energy is manifest.
When we are moved by the colors of a sunset, the earth is reflecting beauty back on itself.
The radiance of the sun burns through the empty black of space, bounces off the moon, and shines on the smiling face of a human. The human is filled with reverence, and marvels at the beauty of earth’s shadow on the lunar sphere. Every atom in this scene was formed in a supernova explosion. We are born from the death of a star. Stardust flows in rivers and writes haiku.
Ineffable Sacred Presence, moving as space-time; beautiful, mysterious.
–Drew Dellinger (circa 1992-3) Inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme.