Recently there was a series of articles in the Toronto Star on autism. In China children with autism are called ‘children of the stars,’ they shine bright and alone and are unreachable. There are many forms of autism but often parents and teachers don’t always know just what is getting through as they try to communicate with the ones they love and care for.
Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry claimed that we humans are autistic when it comes to our relationship with the rest of God’s good creation. We are not hearing what the earth is trying to say to us, we are not reading the signs. Remember the number of times I’ve used the quote ‘we did not weave the web of life; we are strands in the web and what we do to the web we do to ourselves.’ We humans still have a long way to go before we come to grips with the truth that we are immersed in the life systems of the planet and our life styles, our consumerism, our exploitation of earth’s resources have a negative impact on wellbeing of the other life systems of the planet. Again remember, ‘the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth and what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves.’
We know this from our own lived experience. If a member of our family suffers from an addiction he/she refuses to admit the whole family suffers, especially if they avoid any kind of confrontation. Matters will only get worse. It’s called the elephant in the living room.
We humans have an elephant in our living room, it called global warming or climate change. We avoid facing the truth. Our addiction to consumerism, our need for the latest technological fads, and our constant unbridled exploitation of earth’s resources has a negative impact on the life systems of Earth.
Thomas Berry posed the question, ‘after we burn our lifeboat Earth, how will be stay afloat?’ Our life boat Earth took a direct hit recently when Hurricane Sandy devastated the eastern seaboard and in a matter of hours brought hundreds of thousands of people to the harsh reality of no electricity, no heat, no water, no shelter, and no transportation. Stone Age conditions.
This past year our neighbours to the south have experienced the worst drought in ages, raging forest fires and destructive floods. This past week Venice had the highest tides in ages and parts of Italy are under water. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of some environmental disaster somewhere on the planet.
Going to the gospel – We are refusing to ‘look at the fig tree’ – the signs of the times. Our fig tree is withering away, it is not healthy. The news is full of items about the emerging China and India with their billions of people all looking for the American dream, the American life style. Earth cannot sustain a second North America, or another Europe, our partner in consumerism.
The gospel speaks of a darken sun and moon and falling stars. If and when the earth is destroyed it won’t be from outside forces, it will be from within. The devastation of Earth is already in progress but we are so addicted to the exploitation of Earth’s land and sea to satisfy our wants that we deny the Elephant in our living room, our addiction to ‘the good life.’ We can’t face the demands of cutting back, doing with less, living simply upon the earth so that others may simply live.
We are good people and we want the best for our children but we’ve bought into the allure of the ‘good life’ and we get caught up in the process of buying, consuming and trashing. What Mother Earth is trying to tell us through such realities as climate change and the warming of the planet, what hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy are telling us is that the life sustaining systems of the planet are diminishing in their ability to sustain us in the style of living to which we are accustomed.
We are good people but we have to take an honest look at our personal lifestyles, our consumerism. It would be great if we could each make a personal commitment to the motto we had last Lent that each of us live simply that others may simply live.
Someone asked the author G.K.Chesteron ‘what’s wrong with the world’ and he answered, ‘I am.’ Each one of us is responsible for the wellbeing and the healing of Earth. What are we willing to do in our own little way?
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist may our common prayer be; Lord delivered us from our autism. Better still – help us admit the elephant in our living room.