"Go back to your books, and your armchair. Plant your trees, watch them grow. If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place." ~Thorin Oakenshield
“In the ecological age, we need to see the universe as a community; particularly the planet earth; and particularly in the biosphere.” ~Thomas Berry, C.P.
The idea of peace, and cultivating peace in the natural world, begins with self-peace. We cultivate peace within ourselves, and then we are able to cultivate peace in our families, our communities, to suggest peace-driven ecological policy, and cultivate peace in the natural world.
Even as a teenager I had an intuition that the ideas of peace and ecology were interconnected. I chose as my confirmation name “Francis,” after the 13th Century friar, Francis of Assisi. Similarly the current Pope, Francis, has been inspired by the Italian saint, using the saint's famous Canticle of the Creatures to model his 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato si’, or “Praise be to you!” "The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things." Pope Francis's work certainly seems to come out of Berry's scholarship. Laudato si' is not anthropocentric. It is either ecocentric (ecology centered) or theocentric (God centered), though how you understand the words ecology and God can affect whether you think ecocentrism and theocentrism are different or the same.
When I was receiving the sacrament of confirmation, the only Francis-inspired prayer I knew was the 1912 “Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” which has been set to music many times. Though it's not written by Francis, it seems to be modeled after one of Francis's earliest followers, Giles.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
The modern ecology movement grew out of the peace movement of the 1960s, which is evident in names of groups emerging from this era, such as Green Peace. Nuclear war and nuclear plant meltdowns continue to be an ecological concern taken up by many groups.
I hope to cultivate peace with human and non-human beings living together on this planet. How do we get there? Another poem. This one mine:
The tree’s leaves are seen each year, but roots are hidden; they seldom appear
And when they do, they trip me up
The truth of roots beyond my sight, the work of day requires night
Breathing out and breathing in, sound and silence, the other, kin
On soil I stand with roots for life, with a rake and a garden knife, with my son and with my wife, with neighbors and with wildlife
With history and the songs of place. Ways of cooking. Ways of grace.
Roots unseen within these walls, where “profession” and where “money” calls
I run headlong to be a “grown up,” but that’s when roots trip me up
Just then roots trip me up
When I look down impatiently, to hurriedly get back institutional-me, there it is, my history, and there it is, the mystery, of roots
Which, if I recall, is genuine-me
The insight I offer in my scholarship, perhaps, can be boiled down to these five points:
1. Today's global capitalist system destroys the natural environment by taking away the intrinsic value of all creatures (humans included, but not only), and placing them into a oft-devastating system of monetary value. If a mountain has a monetary value, however high, some billionaire can buy the mountain that God (or Mother Nature, or ecological systems, or all of the above) made millions of years ago, and rightfully destroy it because they "own" it. What an absurd idea!
2. The natural world has many sonic aspects that we can experience. These are nature's beauty and ugliness, and have deep spiritual meaning for us. If nothing else, we evolved with more-than-human soundscapes, and this is where their meaning lies. Once destroyed, these soundscapes cannot be easily remade. Not within millions of years anyway.
3. We are ourselves uprooted by forces connected to our global system (jobs and war are two uprooting factors), which hinder our ability to cultivate healthy communities and defend local places from environmental destruction.
4. We must reroot ourselves in local communities through family, friendships, and local organizations.
5. Before or during enacting any of this, we must wage peace upon ourselves (not absolutely correct--"cultivate" is a better word--but I like the turn of phrase from "waging" war on nature), so that we can begin to think about what solutions will actually work here and now, and set those goals.
The Hobbit: The Battles of Five Armies. Directed by Peter Jackson. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros., 2014.