March and Ecological Humility

March 3, 2020

 

Some say the season of spring begins with sound, and I surely have found this to be true.  For fifteen springs I have driven down Levis Lane on my way to La Vista, and each year I am charmed by the bell-like sounds of spring peepers emanating from a small pond behind Westminster Presbyterian Church. A little research confirmed my experience since they are known to be among the first frogs to call in spring.  Small and brown, they hibernate during the winter under logs, piles of leaves or even tree bark and come back to life not long after ice melts on the ponds where females lay eggs. The natural sound I so enjoy is sung by males filling their vocal sacs and belting it out in search of a mate. 

 

Do you have a favorite spring sound like the running water in an unfrozen creek,  the drumming of pileated woodpeckers, or the early morning cacophony of the spring bird migration? For those who have no recollection of spring sounds, I could suggest hearing aids; on the other hand, maybe what is needed is the healing of spiritual autism.

 

Thomas Berry thinks this is what has happened to the human community in our times.  “We are talking to ourselves.  We are no longer talking to the rivers and forests; we are no longer listening to the winds and the stars.  We have broken the great conversation, and by breaking it we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of this spiritual autism.”

 

That is quite a claim!  If it is true that we have shattered the universe with our spiritual autism, we have to find out how to cure this illness, and quickly.  While autism may be an apt metaphor, healing any kind of autism seems daunting; so, I prefer thinking of it as a matter of nurturing the virtue of ecological humility.  This seems more doable.  What practices might be involved in acquiring this virtue?

 

Learning about beings like spring peepers and developing respect for them could be a start.  Taking a walk in the woods with the awareness that I am amidst processes so complex no human being really understands them might help.  For sure broadening my ethics to include the rights of other-than-human beings would be a step.  Shifting from a human-only jurisprudence to an Earth jurisprudence would be included. I might listen to those calling for a change from utilitarian to reverential ecology.  I could spend time examining my worldview and questioning if it is more anthropocentric or biocentric.  Would these efforts have an effect “all the disasters that are happening now”?  This is wonderful food for thought as we move into springtime, hope and renewal.

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La Vista Ecological Learning Center

4300 Levis Lane

Godfrey, IL 62035

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A Ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate