Below is the first part of an essay I wrote for the book, Order of the Sacred Earth, authored by one of my mentors, Matthew Fox, along with Skylar Wilson and Jennifer Berit Listug. I will include parts 2 & 3 subsequent post. Enjoy!
Life is a reflection of its environment. Throughout the 200,000 years of its history, humans have responded to their environment in order to survive. Our history and self-sense has been shaped by our experiences under various conditions on this planet. In our migration out of Africa into the various corners of the world, we’ve had to adapt to the places we found ourselves. This planet, with its plentiful, colorful, and robust forms of life, has molded and shaped our humanity into its current manifestation. We are among the multitude of morphing expressions of the evolution of our planetary system, and we are at a critical phase in this process.
How shall we proceed along this process in the midst of the myriad concerns we face from global warming to poverty to political destabilization that threatens the existence of life as we know it? What must we do to make the evolutionary leap to a more sensible and sustainable coexistence on this earth? I believe we must find a means to build bridges and coalitions to tackle the global issues that we are faced with.
Below, I extend my thoughts on the matter, and share why I support Matthew Fox and friends in their desire to create a collective organization/movement that is Earth centered, spiritually centered, flexible, non-dogmatic, transgenerational, and inclusive of various domains of human understanding.
Throughout our tenure on this planet we have exploited our environment in order to survive. Yuval Noah Harari in his seminal work, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, eloquently cautions our tendency to overly romanticize our history on this planet. We’ve left our mark wherever we’ve found ourselves and it hasn’t quite been a harmonious, peace, loving coexistence with nature. In the process of meeting the demands of our own survival, we’ve fostered the extinction of many forms of life on Earth. I state this to remind us that the basis of our current actions are not that extraordinarily different from that of our ancestors. Throughout our history, humans have selfishly sought to maximize its own existence at the expense of others. However, we are at a juncture in the human evolutionary process where we can wreak havoc in ways our ancestors could not have imagined.
We have entered the Anthropocene, the phase in our evolution where we have become the dominant influencer on the environment and the planet as a whole. Throughout our history we have shaped the environment as it has shaped us. But now, due to drastic increases in human population and the advancement of powerful technologies, we can coerce the earth to our will on a much grander scale never before seen. And, consequently, we are not faring too well at this current juncture. We are dangerously playing a game of self-destruction. We are on a course of destroying ourselves, and most of life on earth, in ways incomprehensible to our forebearers.
Can we reverse the course and shift the tide? I think so. It will require reflection, re-evaluation, and a commitment to change. We must come together and bring together wisdom from various domains of knowing in order to transform our situation. I believe that my dear friend and mentor Matthew Fox along with Skylar Wilson and Jennifer Berit Listug are proposing a cogent contribution to our progressive culture by creating the Order of the Sacred Earth (OSE).
My appeal to OSE stems from my commitment to mitigating suffering and maximizing wellbeing, love, kindness, and compassion in the world. I have spent my adult life attempting to make sense of the human experience in order to inspire the cultivation of those values. My original locus of attention was maximizing health and healing within the African American community. As an African American male, witnessing the suffering of poor health quality within my community had become unconscionable. I felt I had to do something about it. So, I began to investigate into the root causes of poor health and suffering. Over time, I soon came to understand that the wellbeing in the black community is inseparable from that of everyone else and the planet as a whole.
We are all in this thing together, and are in need of each other in perceivable and unperceivable ways. We are dependent upon and share this spheroidal ecological system we call Earth. What we each do influences the balance of this system, consequently impacting each other’s experiences within it. We all depend on the same air, the same water, and the same earth for our sustenance and survival. The quality of the systems on Earth informs the quality of our lives.
From the resources of the Earth we have created comforts of consumption we’ve come to take as basic necessities of life. With this, we are reliant on each other to extract the Earth’s resources, produce, and distribute the artifacts of our needs and desires. As our population increases and as individuals demand more, we will need more complex economic and social systems to meet those demands. The viability and sustainability of such systems necessitate cultural agreements by collections of individuals working in some kind of cooperative fashion.
Our current systems are at a critical juncture where we need to reexamine the cultural agreements that foster them. We are feeling the brunt of their failing from poor health quality to a general malaise; from material, intellectual, and spiritual poverty to wealth and income inequality; from political disarray to a burgeoning global ecological disaster. These issues of concern are messages encouraging us to reevaluate our current narratives about how we live. Are we listening? Are we grasping the gravity of these messages? Their resolution demands our collective involvement in many areas of society on many levels. We must engage our individual agency to overcome the perceived boundaries between one another that limit our capacity to find common ground in the face of these challenges. Yes, it is possible for us to do so, and nascent collective agreements such as OSE attest to that fact.
We are responsive and adaptable creatures. Our evolution until now speaks to our extraordinary capacity to respond to our environment in order to prolong our existence. The complexity and immensity of our current set of issues will require sophisticated, coherent and well-integrated ideas to combat them. I believe we have the capacity to meet the demands of these challenges. It will not happen by simple wishful thinking. It will require our collective attention, intention, and action. We must adopt a worldview likened to that of a universalist scientist who makes observations from various modes of knowing, who collects and analyzes complex data from various mediums, and who can, from those observations and analyses, create a new story about how we are to live together on this shared Earth. This story must be sustainable, global, comprehensive, inclusive, durable, flexible, intelligent, and sophisticated.