September - Sacred Balance
When I observe sunsets, especially from the Crow’s Nest at La Vista, I am drawn into what Thomas Berry calls the great cosmic liturgy of the natural world. Referring to medieval Christianity Berry wrote, “Dawn and sunset, the rise and setting of the sun, the passing from night into day and day into night, these were recognized as moments of special presence of the divine and the human to each other”.
September seems a good time to re-claim that sacred sense as we move toward the autumnal equinox on the 23rd. Equal hours of daylight and darkness remind us of the sacred balance unfolding for eons on our rare and precious planet. I love the phrase sacred balance which I have borrowed from David Suzuki’s 1997 classic Sacred Balance:Rediscovering Our Place in Nature. The 25th anniversary edition came out in 2022, and Suzuki noted in the introduction that it is as relevant today as it was then. As a scientist, Suzuki shows how our actions have thrown Earth’s life support systems off balance. He concludes that to protect all life and our planet, we need to change our ways and restore sacred balance.
In a review of the new edition, author Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests that with those two words, sacred balance, Suzuki gives us both a vision for the future as well as guidance for how to get there; however, she notes that we are further from this balance than we were in 1997. She comments that now we actually know what to do, but we don’t do it! She muses about what holds us back and offers this suggestion, “The answers are legion, but if I had to name a root cause of our willful deafness to the suffering of the Earth, it would be the anthropocentric worldview that has powered the losses of colonialism and extractive capitalism and has us teetering on the brink of ecological catastrophe. This calls us to undertake a transformation from a worldview of domination and exploitation to a kin-centric worldview that acknowledges our dependence on the life-giving gifts of other species, before whom we can only bow in gratitude”.
In the encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis agrees that modern anthropocentrism is a fundamental problem calling it distorted, misguided, and excessive. In various paragraphs he lays out a more balanced approach, inviting us to move away from destructive behaviors and toward what Kimmerer calls “kin-centric” ones:
from being masters, consumers, and ruthless exploiters, to feeling intimately united with all that exists (Par. 11),
from indifference to universal solidarity (Par. 14),
from dominion to a relationship of mutual responsibility (Par. 67),
from being confrontational to extending a friendly hand (Par. 106),
from being disconnected from the rest of creatures to being joined in a splendid universal communion (Par. 220).
If we embraced the vision of Pope Francis, David Suzuki, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, we would be much closer to truly caring for our common home by restoring the sacred balance we are reminded of at the autumnal equinox. (Photo: Sunset from the Crow's Nest - Kevin McLaughlin)