March - Benign Presence
Since September La Vista has sponsored an online book discussion of Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community, and our conversations have been engaging and inspiring to say the least. After discussing chapter 9, The Role of the Human, I wished everyone could benefit from Berry’s insights since I found them deeply moving.
Berry calls humans’ role at this critical time on Earth the “Great Work”, and he tells us that it applies to everyone living on Earth. Berry names our task as, “moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on Earth to a more benign mode of presence”.
I love this challenge – to be part of the transition moving humanity into a benign mode of presence. I had to wonder what it would be like to get up in the morning and enter the day thinking this way. When I eat plant-based meals, walk to work, drive less, take my compost to La Vista’s farm, volunteer for Sierra Club’s mining issues team, I could experience myself as a benign mode of presence and integral part of this transition. Do you also see the many ways you are a benign mode of presence?
I then considered the work of La Vista over the years and realized we have constantly involved participants in this transition. For fifteen years we offered organically grown vegetables through La Vista’s Farm, helping people move out of the industrial food system; for ten years we provided an Earth Literacy program educating about many aspects of this transition; at present groups of volunteers practice benign presence when they labor to restore the Oblates’ Woods and the pollinator garden; online and in-person groups read challenging books and articles that deepen our understanding and help us find ways to make the journey.
I also think of the broader context of our lives: the movement toward renewable energy in our country and our world, our greater awareness of how we have mistreated marginalized people and are working to repair those relationships; our expanding consciousness regarding gender; concern for how we manage waste; growing concern about the climate and biodiversity crises. Truly this transition has been happening for a long time and will continue into the future.
Inspiring final thoughts from Berry: “We are…thrown into existence with a challenge and a role that is beyond any personal choice. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role … Yet, we must believe that those powers that assign our role must in the same act bestow upon us the ability to fulfill this role. We must believe that we are cared for and guided by these same powers that bring us into being."
A Lenten practice could be increasing the ways we act as benign modes of being on our precious planet. Lenten blessings Photo: Hand-built Trail Workshop at La Vista