This Sacred Earth
I have told the story many time of the Indian lady who ran a hardware stall at a local indoor market near us. She said her life seemed to revolve around that stall. It took up so much of her time, so much in fact that she rarely had time to visit her temple for worship. “But,” she said, “my stall is my temple. I care for it. I keep it clean and polished. The stock is properly on display and I treat all my customers with the greatest courtesy and respect. I practice my religion by running my stall as a sacred place.”
The story resonates with me because it is also a lesson in how to live on our sacred Earth. Humanity generally does not see the Earth as sacred. Humanity sees the Earth as a resource that can be transformed into commodities for consumption. The resources are not replenished. If one resource starts to run out, then the search is on for an alternative. The woodland have gone to produce fuel and building materials. Trees that once grew in the Middle East were used for smelting copper. Now they are all gone and the ground has become a desert. Coal and oil through burning and chemical processes are making the Earth’s atmosphere increasingly toxic for humanity.
Humanity to alter the basic building blocks of nature and produced plastic and other chemicals, but like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it keeps producing more and more but has no idea of how to dispose of what it has made. The oceans are being filled with plastic waste.
There is a growing awareness of what humanity is doing to the sacred Earth, but the Earth is not treated as sacred. Those who protest for it are mocked and treated as vandals disrupting the economic supply chain. Most of the world remains blind to the exhortation, “Look at what you are doing to the sacred Earth!”
Sometimes I think humanity really is a parasite and feeds on its host the sacred Earth. Unless the parasites can find more to consume or can find another Earth somewhere out in the galaxy to move to and consume, they will die along with their host.
Thomas Malthus wrote that the problem for humanity is that the earth’s resources increase as an arithmetic progression while humanity increases as a geometric progression. Humanity’s progression, he said, is kept in check through war, famine and disease. There is a side of humanity now that says these are not acceptable so they cannot be allowed to be rampant. It is that side of humanity that can change its course towards recognizing the Earth as sacred as any temple.
Humanity may be hurting the earth but it will not destroy it. What will happen is that eventually the Earth will become uninhabitable for humanity. With or without humanity it will still continue turning through twenty four hours a day and circling the sun once a year. As it does so, it will either repair itself or be beyond a critical point and waste away to become devoid of all life.
The religions of the world have little or no time for sacred Earth. To most religions what is important is not the sacred Earth, but the sacred soul of the individual, the essence of the human being. Religion’s priority is to awaken the should and urge it to respond to its immortality. God and all the gods of religions are physically separate from humanity. Worshippers meet and pray to abstract forms of the gods. They teach that the Sacred Earth and the progress of humanity came as gifts from the gods. What happens to the Earth is not a worry for the gods. The gods need to be worshipped and may respond with the blessings on humanity, but not for the sacred Earth.
Humanity has the technology to restore much of Sacred Earth to health. Fresh water can be extracted from the salty seeds and oceans to flow into the deserts to reverse the degradations. Trees and crops can be grown, fish can populate the oceans again, the land can be managed, the hungry can be fed – but in today’s world there is not the economic or spiritual will to make this happen. Sacred Earth needs to be the temple of humanity just as the market stall was the temple of my Indian friend.
Sacred Earth needs to be treated as a spiritual being that is as much part of the cosmos as ourselves. Earth’s health and well being should be our priority.
I believe it helps us to connect to the sacred Earth if we celebrate its cycle the year festivals, if we keep in mind the legends and traditions of the Earth gods and goddesses that have been present throughout the ages, if we develop rituals and writings to remind ourselves and express our feelings and sentiments about the sacredness of the Earth. We should continually show our obligation to preserve it, not just for ourselves but all life forms that share the Earth with us,
Let us be able to say, “The song of my heart is for Sacred Earth” and keep singing.
This comes from Tony Mcneile, a retired Unitarian minister who lives in Bolton, UK. He has been active for many years in the Unitarian Earth Spirit Network, which is CUUPS’ sister organization for Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists who live in the British Isles.