Monday, September 5, 2016

The Meaning of New Creation

Some call it “The Great Unraveling.” What we know is that all around the planet, living systems are under stress and some are breaking down. What we know is that the atmosphere is warming rapidly, weather is becoming more chaotic and unpredictable as climate responds to the heat, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising, flooding our shores and threatening island nations. What we know is that everywhere we seem to be facing crises of toxic contamination – in our water sources, in our soils, in the air we breathe. We also know that the rate of species extinctions is accelerating at a rate not seen in millions of years.

Something has gone very wrong with the way we humans live here.
And it all happened very fast with the rise of industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels. Especially since World War II, population growth, economic growth, growth in human extraction and consumption of the Earth’s most vital, precious “resources,” have brought us to a moment of reckoning. 

We are consuming more than the planet has available for us. And we are putting more waste into the planet than it can absorb, break down, dissipate. We have changed how living systems work without regard for the consequences, many of which are simply unknown. A planetary system of life in which we are embedded created the conditions in which humans could evolve, and we  are shredding that system or, better, that vast interconnected eco-community within which we dwell, our very planetary home.

That’s one part of what this project seeks to address. We humans are in trouble, and it’s not going to get better any time soon. We are on a dangerous, destructive path. Economies of extraction, production, consumption, and waste driven by exponential growth in population and “wealth” are still in the driver’s seat globally and where they are taking us is not a place we really want to go. There’s a cliff just out there on the horizon and we are headed straight toward it at greater and greater speed.

This crisis of the human species is complex and real. While it relates to an economic way of life, underneath that are dynamics more basic and profound rooted in culture, history, and beliefs. We have become hooked on an economic way of life that is wholly unsustainable. In reality, it is no longer an economy of “growth” at all; it is an economy of ecological depletion, using up, it is about diminishment and loss. We need to know why this is. We need especially to know why, despite all the signs and evidence that show this description to be accurate, an accounting of reality, we are having a very hard time accepting it.

We need to understand ourselves, to see ourselves and our predicament clearly.

So, we begin here not by articulating the meaning of new creation, but rather the reason why we need one. Not that it is our task to create a new Earth – she did just fine long before we arrived. No, rather it is our task to begin anew to learn how to live here, how to live with the Earth we have.

Credit: Margaret Swedish

The other part of what we want to address here is the meaning and content of the term “new creation,” and to fully appreciate that it is a task already emergent throughout the world. We don’t have to start something here, to call for something that does not yet exist. Instead, like the crisis itself, we want to reveal that emergent new creation, especially where it is happening here in this part of the world, within this culture, a culture that is already in a process of transformation regardless of the intense resistance to it. Wild with diversity and creativity, and partnering with other beings and places with whom we share this planet, communities are coming together to defend and protect their threatened places, to create new local resilient economies, sharing economies, with an entirely different motivation than material wealth and acquisition. These communities are integrating the work of peace and justice with the work to heal the planet, because if we don’t, there won’t be peace or justice in any case.

Back in 1979 a group of women in a Northern Virginia suburb created this little non-profit as they met over morning coffee. They were inspired by this passage from the prophet Isaiah in chapter 65:

“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. The things of the past shall not be remembered, or come to mind. Instead there shall always be happiness and joy in what I create. For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying…None shall hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” [17-19, 35a]

That was written for a different time and a very different context, but it speaks to an aspiration deep in the heart of the human. If we ask what most of us want in life, what kind of world, we know it does not look like this one – one where mountains are blown to bits for coal, where forests are stripped for tar sands oil, where rivers all around the world are contaminated, where the air we breathe makes millions of us sick, where violence and stress overwhelm and numb us, where we fear one another more than celebrate and honor one another, where we can no longer see the stars at night, and where we find depression to be an epidemic among the human community so lost have we become.

Mountaintop Removal Coal-mining - Vivian Stockman

Most of us do not want to live in a world in which ecological grief is becoming a major theme within the field of psychology – because the losses of so much that we love are mounting.

In North Dakota and Iowa right now, thousands of people have been coming together to defend their land and water from a new oil pipeline that poses grave dangers to the places they love. It has been deeply moving to see this movement grow to the point where you feel this tipping point being reached. Whatever the outcome of this particular struggle, you can feel a “rising’ from deep within the Earth, from the roots, including our human roots, re-finding our place within the whole and wanting that whole to remain intact for future generations.

And that’s what so many have called “The Great Turning.” It accompanies the Great Unraveling, and will for some time as we go through this transition. I’m counting on the Turning to get us through. I’m trusting this new emergent energy among us to get us to the other side of the crisis as we create new ways of life that will make us more deeply human than ever before, conscious of our place here, the role we have to play, the honor and gift that it is to be here.

We’ve been at this work now in the evolving life of the Center for New Creation for about ten years. This isn’t a new beginning, it’s a continuation. But a brand new website provides a great opportunity to say again what we are and what we are trying to do. We hope you will return often. We hope you will want to be part of this conversation.

New life arises out of diversity, complexity, trial and error, new explorations, new questions never asked before, new discoveries, and amid all our interrelations. That’s another way of saying you are all a part of this. 

Credit: Margaret Swedish
I often tell people, when they ask me about hope, that for me hope is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s not a thing we have or possess, it’s what we do. So let’s do hope together, shall we?  

~ Margaret Swedish

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