Gosh, that seems to sum it up in one simple phrase! Nothing more need be said.
This is the tag line of a conference called Engaging the Heart at NYU, March 18-19, 2016 put on by Steiner Books/Anthroposophic Press.
Gosh, that seems to sum it up in one simple phrase! Nothing more need be said.
This is the tag line of a conference called Engaging the Heart at NYU, March 18-19, 2016 put on by Steiner Books/Anthroposophic Press.
Once again, it is stated that human-Earth relations depend on sound human-human relations.
“Every being has a right not to be abused by humans, a right not to be despoiled of its primary dignity whereby it gives some manner of expression to the great mystery of existence, and a right not to be used for trivial purposes.”
– Thomas Berry, “An Ecologically Sensitive Spirituality”, 1996, in
The Sacred Universe by Thomas Berry, 2009, Columbia University Press.
A comment by Rob Ham, M.A.
Of course Thomas was referring to the Earth’s nonhuman creatures and systems. It is true that they must be respected if our species is to survive. However, while we are fostering respect for the nonhuman, shouldn’t we also protect the marginalized segments of the human community from abuse by other humans? How will the poor and people of color ever devote themselves to the love and respect of the Earth community necessary to avert global environmental crisis until they are confident in the love and respect of their own human family? Love of the Earth community and love of the human community are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they must be achieved simultaneously if we are to survive.
Telling the human story within the larger context of Earth and Cosmos is not new, even to us westerners, apparently. Look at H.G. Wells’ The Outline of History (1920). He calls Book I “The World Before Man” with chapters entitled thus: Chapter 1 “The Earth in Space and Time”; Chapter 2 “The Record of the Rocks”; Chapter 3 “Life and Climate”; Chapter 4 “The Age of Reptiles”; Chapter 5 “The Age of Mammal”. Book II “The Making of Man” begins with Chapter 6 “Apes and Sub-Men and Men”. He used the same story-telling structure of nested holons that Teilhard, Thomas Berry, and Brian Swimme use to tell the Story of the Universe: Universe, Earth, Life, Humans. Wells was thinking about the context of the human story.
The first sentence of the tome begins:
And first, before we begin the history of life, let us tell something of the stage upon which our drama is put and of the background against which it is played.
Wells uses “stage”, “drama”, “background”, and “played” like the Chorus/narrator of a Shakespearean drama. He tells us he is embarking on the telling of a story and wants the reader to be thus prepared.
Shifting voices his second paragraph reads:
In the last few hundred years there has been an extraordinary enlargement of men’s ideas about the visible universe in which they live. At the same time there has been perhaps a certain diminution in their individual self-importance. They have learnt that they are items in a whole far vaster, more enduring and more wonderful than their ancestors ever dreamed or suspected.
He moves straight to point out the human-Universe relationship and the evolution of consciousness brought to us by the scientific venture, then addresses the deflation of the Western ego in this new knowledge. Interestingly he tips his late 19th century-early 20th century cosmological cards when addresses humans as “items” – we might address them as “subjects” or “persons” – but then goes on to appreciate how full of wonder – “wonderful” – it is to be alive now to know this story.
Script and Recitation: Andrew Levitt
Music for Solo Cello and Guitar: Scott Walker
A 90-minute performance intended for adult audiences
We are now booking performances in North Carolina and beyond
Cost: $1,000 within a 60-mile radius of Greensboro, NC
(Additional travel/accommodation costs at a greater distance)
If you are interested in booking a performance, please contact Center Director, Peggy Whalen-Levitt at beholdnature.@aol.com.
When asked how we might serve the children at this time, Thomas would say, “Tell them a story.” Any encounter with Thomas Berry was an encounter with the story of the universe as a great story encompassing vast reaches of time and space and also as an intimate story about you and me and him and the bluebird singing in the dogwood this very moment. In his presence one sensed the beauty of every aspect of life on earth; one felt the wonder of the extraordinary in every ordinary element of being; and one experienced our intimate kinship with all beings with whom we share the earth. When he spoke one was inspired by a sense of the place of the human in the story of the unfolding of time in the universe and by the moment of shared presence with a fern unfolding in springtime at one’s feet. In his own words we can hear again how Thomas wove the immediate into the grandeur of things and how he heard each note in time for its contribution to the unfinished symphony of the cosmos.
“The Meadow Across the Creek: Words From Thomas Berry” is a performance piece in Thomas Berry’s own lyrical and inspiring words. Growing up in Greensboro, NC, Thomas Berry had a “Meadow Across the Creek” experience when he was eleven years old that became a touchstone for his life and work. Mirroring this moment of mystical rapport in childhood, Thomas’ prose and poetry invite others into a deep presence to Earth and Cosmos.
The Center premiered it first performance of “The Meadow Across the Creek: Words from Thomas Berry” on November 7, 2014 at the Greensboro Historical Museum as part of the city-wide Thomas Berry Centennial. Here’s what people are saying:
“The performance was absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for that hour’s powerful experience.”
~ Tom Droppers
“I am remembering the show last night and wishing that I had a CD to listen to it all over again tonight. There was so much to live into and take in during that performance. Andrew, you were wonderful, what can I say. The music was very moving and rich and layered and when you both were performing at the same time it was a perfect weaving. I really loved the piece on Cello that went along with the story of Greensboro. It was lively and fun and one could really feel the passage of time! There were several moments when I felt Thomas’s presence… I loved the space, the simple stage, the blanket over your shoulders. I really would love to hear it again, at my own pace, so that I can hit pause on the CD player and take in deeply what is being conveyed. I can still see the violets and the stars.”
~ Sandy Bisdee
“Didn’t see you, Andrew, at the end of the program so didn’t get to tell you how very much I enjoyed it, how lovely it was, all of it lovely: the dialogue, the readings, the music, the gathering of people – many of whom I knew. I enjoyed every minute of it!”
~ Gay Cheney
“What a wonderful evening. It was a beautiful reverie! Andrew and Scott did a superb job. I was so struck by how I felt Thomas Berry was telling his story.”
~ Mary Hartsell
Andrew Levitt holds a BA in English from Yale University and a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. He trained as a mime with Marcel Marceau and with Paul J. Curtis at The American Mime Theatre. In his career life, he has worked with silence and words. He performed and taught mime professionally for over thirty years. He then helped found the high school at the Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill, NC where he taught Humanities and directed theater for seven years. As Dr. Merryandrew, he currently works as a cosmic clown in the Pediatric unit at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital.
Scott Walker has taught strings in the Greensboro area for over 30 years. Scott plays fiddle, guitar and cello and founded The Walker Family Band in 2002, which has delighted audiences throughout the Southeast with a distinctive take on traditional styles. His career has been dedicated to teaching young musicians in a variety of public and private schools, and as a private instructor of Suzuki music technique on cello and violin. Scott’s love of traditional Irish fiddle tunes resulted in the founding of Walker Street Fiddlers in 2009
In law, the right of using and enjoying all the advantages and profits of the property of another without altering or damaging it. A term Thomas Jefferson wrote about.
Or, to put it slightly differently: In law, the right of using and enjoying all the advantages and profits of the property, land, air, water, soil, creatures, atmosphere, bioregion, Earth of another generation without altering or damaging it, poisoning it, blowing it up, making it radio active, damming it, extincting it, eating it all, cutting it all down, mining it all, paving it, dumping on it, emptying it, taking it all.
Even though humans are derivative of Earth, human-Earth relations will always be derivative of human-human relations.
An exclusive, personal report from Ann Amberg, MCS.
November 7, 2014
In September I had the privilege of attending, along with over 325 others from 50 countries, The New Story Summit: Inspiring Pathways for our Planetary Future, a pivotal event held at the Findhorn Foundation and Community September 27– October 3, 2014.
I sense it may take years for me to digest the deep movements of unfolding stories and processes of this larger-than-life shared experience. Part of that incorporation for me is to take time to reunite the powerful impressions in my inner/outer heart and soul and nurture the momentum of my capacity to let go of an old story.
I can say that I was impressed with many things: the way that the 40 Findhorn Fellows beautifully held a sacred and strong container for our emergent unfolding, the financial support offered through gifting for many to be there who otherwise could not—including myself—, the commitment, integrity and sensitivity of the indigenous leaders who held and guided healing processes every day and night from the opening ceremonies to the closing of the four directions, the strength and courage of women standing, telling their stories of truth from wounded worlds, and our willingness to grieve, sing, collaborate in spaces of not-knowing, commune, wait and listen, improvise, show up fully, dance, ask questions, meditate, mediate, be vulnerable, and celebrate together.
But saying that I am “impressed” comes from separateness; from my ego, from old habits of standing outside and comfortably distanced from discomfort, and this is a way of living in an old story. As we know so well, the old stories at every level are breaking down…and it’s uncomfortable. What I want to share here is a small witnessing of a groundswell of unfolding change from my personal, particular, inner experience. In the last few months I have been relinquishing an old personal story, shaped by old family habits, that I have not always wanted to see or release. It’s hard work. I have been tracking how that feels in my body and psyche, informed by events in nature.
After spending the summer in Italy and England with friends, housesitting, visiting Schumacher College, walking blissfully on the moors, and continuing to work remotely by computer at my part time job, I had planned to end my summer abroad by participating in the Summit. I had never been to Findhorn and had been looking forward to visiting. I felt grateful to be supported by my community to attend and contribute to the event.
In the week before the Summit, rather than feeling excitement and anticipation, I was not ready to participate or immerse myself in a large social gathering. I feared that the energy there would be so big that I might feel completely overwhelmed. I was in an introverted state; I felt tired and drained from the intensive soul-work I had engaged in during the summer. I had much to integrate; I wanted to withdraw and crawl under a rock. I had visions of being a potato-bug, and was looking for lovely undisturbed darkness, solitude and peace…
In fact I felt completely resistant to going. The day before I was to leave for the gathering, I was walking with my friend in a seaside village in Lancashire along an inlet, when a public warning blast sounded. I was told this is the alarm that warns of an unusual, large tidal swell about to come in suddenly. When I went into a shop, the water level was at low tide. When I came out out fifteen minutes later, there was a charge in the air; I noticed that the world seemed suddenly filled up with energized, flooding water, very close to the walkway, in an almost-overflowing high tide, and there was no beach left. It was unbelievable and a bit eerie. I felt the power of this tidal swell and I sensed it was connected to the coming new story about to unfold.
I almost relinquished my place at the gathering at the last minute and stayed in the sublime Lake District. But I forced myself to move on and go north into Scotland. When we arrived at Cluny I had had very little sleep and was exhausted, very much overwhelmed, energetically traumatized and stressed. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the opening ceremonies. I got on the bus with everyone else, from many countries, young and old, and took my place in the Universal Hall with hundreds of people. I could not keep my eyes open, and my body hurt. As I listened to the stories of pain and woundedness of humans and earth, brave truth-telling, feeling the building energies in the space like big water coming in, I realized the only way I would survive the event would be to let go, into relationship.
I offered my resistance, separateness and overwhelm to the mystery and flow of the group process, which was love. I knew the container that we created in the center that first day was rooted enough to hold anything. I trusted it, and so I let that sea of trust hold the breaking apart that was happening within me. It worked—I allowed myself to be folded into all that was happening, even the not-knowing, and it gave me energy to go on. I did not have to hold myself alone anymore…I was held by everyone there. I was still exhausted and tired, but I was no longer in a pressure-cooker of resistance. I was in a field of love!
I remembered that this is what the universe does….it builds and builds its structures—its stories— and then when the time is right, that story is finished, and it is destroyed, it collapses, is no more. Like the supernova star that burns hydrogen for billions of years, as it burns off layers its temperature and pressure rise to unbearable limits, and suddenly it implodes and there is seemingly nothing left….it dies.
What does it feel like to resist letting go of the old story? Does it feel like a pressure cooker—like being held in the grip of unresolvable pain and stress? What does the supernova “feel” before it releases itself? In the framework put forth in the 2004 DVD series The Powers of the Universe, by evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme, this is the experience of “cataclysm” as a primary cosmic dynamic. It is the death and rebirth cycle that reshapes and transforms. We are in the pressure-cooker of the loss of untold numbers of species disappearing every day, the sweeping, dangerous shifts in global climate patterns, and growing poverty, injustice and inequity. The structures and systems we have built as part of the dream of the modern industrial era are shattering and are maladaptive, we know we have to let them go, but we don’t know exactly the outlines of the new stories and structures that are emerging. We are not quite comfortable yet with the idea that we are being invited to become colleagues with the universe as part of that emergence; it is a human/earth collaboration.
To remain creative and agile within the space in between stories is our present challenge. It’s all part of the process of cataclysm— of release—happening on a global cultural scale. All that unfolds on the stage of our inner/personal experience reflects the larger collective story unfolding and reforming, transforming. In this way my inner journey and your inner journey are not unrelated, rather they are a guide and a map to the evolution of an emerging way of being human that may at first seem unfamiliar and new, and that will work better for the flourishing of the whole.
One of the highlights of the week was an elegant and simple sacred marriage ceremony of the feminine and the masculine in communion with the earth. Becoming transparent to the beloved Other in this powerful way could not have taken place before the grief ceremonies, wobbly chaotic emergent moments and long council processes that preceded it. The Summit was truly one grand and authentically improvised ceremony of love and new possibilities.
I appreciate what Gigi Coyle, a Findhorn core team member, writes in her blog posting on the New Story Hub: “Maybe we need cultural translators, bridge people, good storytellers and more, willing to live some of the best stories we have.” See her full post here:
My trust and hope is that we might marry our awareness of our personal stories of transformation to our collective experience of change, as an action of partnering consciously with the cataclysm and release now taking place in our time.
— Ann Amberg, MCS
“What Does the Universe Do?”
Travis’s work is important for the Ecozoic era because it includes the subjectivity of the farmer, the land, and the non-human beings on the land in the conversation of what it is to farm. And thus to eat, and to be. Beyond the techniques of organic we need relational practices – rituals – that honor the whole.
You can soon watch his informal presentation at CIIS here http://pccforum.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/travis-cox-transpersonal-agroecology/ or read-on for his article from The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2014, Vol. 46, No. 1.
Travis E.B. Cox, M.A. (now PhD)
Industrial agriculture has taken over as the dominant form of food production globally, resulting in alternative production methods converging as a sustainable counter. Unfortunately, the ideological and metaphysical underpinnings of these alternative agricultural philosophies have been ignored as have the metaphysics of industrial agriculture. Using transpersonal ecology as a disciplinary analogue, this paper demonstrates an ideological commonality among alternative agricultural theorists, such that the term transpersonal agroecology covers their beliefs like the term transpersonal ecology covers the commonality of deep ecologists. The commonality is threefold. First, theorists are united in opposition against the scientism and economism that make up the productionist mentality. Second, there is awareness that in the practice of sustainable agriculture there is a process for and experience of identification with the beings on the farm, and with the farm itself. Finally, theorists contribute to the transpersonal conversation through their emphasis on values, alternative methodologies, and spirit.
Sustainable Agriculture, Transpersonal Ecology, Identification, Agroecology, Environmental Philosophy.
For most people, sustainable agriculture pertains to the on-farm activities of practitioners, such as cover crops, integrated pest management, and no-till. This is true even for the off-farm activities of consumers, who choose to purchase their food locally or look for the USDA organic seal. However, a study of the progenitors of sustainable agriculture—people such as Albert Howard, Masanobu Fukuoka, and Rudolf Steiner, who developed organic agriculture, natural farming, and biodynamics, respectively—indicates that there is something more than just practice to sustainable agriculture. There is something deeper at the level of the mind-set of the farmer.
By employing transpersonal ecology (TE) as a disciplinary analogue, including direct quotes from the aforementioned theorists, as well as many others, this article shows that sustainable agriculture has implications for the worldview of its practitioners. These implications include an opposition to the scientism and economism of industrial agriculture, a sense of the process and experience of identification with the farm and the beings on the farm, an awareness of alternative methodologies and epistemologies, and an explicit role for values and spirit. The end result of this study is a theory, transpersonal agroecology (TPAE), that conceptualizes the commonalities of these alternative agricultural theorists and thus opens a discussion about the deeper and more human aspects of sustainable agriculture and provides a framework with which to guide such a discussion.
The article continues at: http://www.atpweb.org/jtparchive/trps-46-14-01-035.pdf
“…our civilization has not quite yet reached the point of readiness for a new story.”
This truth hurts. I think Charles is right though for the world continues to be smashed up – we continue to kill ourselves with our current cultural system.
Below are my excerpts from Charles’s essay at http://charleseisenstein.net/we-dont-know-reflections-on-the-new-story-summit/ This is what stood out for me.
Here’s a transcript of Drew Dellinger’s remarks on the opening day of the New Story Summit at Findhorn, Scotland, September 27, 2014.
Drew’s website is http://drewdellinger.org/
“everything is shining in glory
singing a story
if love is a language
then I am just
learning to spell
while there’s a story
that the stars
The first person to introduce me to the power of story was Thomas Berry, the American ecological and cosmological writer and thinker. In 1978 Thomas Berry wrote an essay called, “The New Story,” and it starts like this:
“It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it is no longer effective, yet we have not learned the new story.”
And so, Thomas Berry was very much talking about the function of stories and the power of stories—the meta-story about stories, as David Spangler just referred to. When I was first studying with Tom Berry in 1991 he said, “It seems that we basically communicate meaning by narrative, at least that’s my approach to things: that narrative is our basic mode of understanding. The difficulty that we’re into has come, to a large extent, from the limitations and inadequacies of our story. And what we need, I think, and what we really have, is a new story.
Now, there are several elements to the new story. All of you are bringing a different thread of the new story. But when Berry was talking about the new story, a lot of what he was talking about was our new understanding of the universe and the unfolding of the planet Earth, what you could call The Universe Story. And so, for Berry, this was an amazing opportunity for the Western tradition to reconnect to the sense of interdependence and interconnectedness that Indigenous peoples have always maintained, have always held in their wisdom traditions.
So for him this scientific understanding that the universe exploded into existence some 13 billion years ago, expanded out in every direction for approximately a billion years, swirled itself into a trillion galaxies; galaxies that formed new elements in the hearts of their stars; stars that exploded with new element-rich clouds of stellar nebulae that could then swirl back into second-generation stars with planets around them; planets with the inner genius and creativity that they could bring forth oceans and atmosphere, the first cells of life, all of the creatures that we know. I don’t need to recount the whole story—you can get that in books—but what was significant about Berry’s vision was that it was a poetic vision of the interdependence of this seamless energy. He said it’s one single energy unfolding, and we are that. We are the space in which the universe reflects on and celebrates itself, just as the whales, and the trees, and the clouds are manifestations in which the universe celebrates itself.
For Thomas Berry, celebration was a one-word synonym for the cosmos. He’d say, ‘the stars shine, the rivers flow, the flowers bloom, the trees blossom, all in ecstatic celebration.’
So, for Berry, the universe was a communion and a celebration, and the true definition of the human was “the space in which the universe reflects on and celebrates itself.”
Now, for Berry, this was a chance for the Western tradition to restructure all of its thinking, but had a special role to play in education. Tom said once: “What is education? Education is knowing the story of the universe, how it began, how it came to be as it is, and the human role in the story. There is nothing else. We need to know the story, the universe story, in all its resonances, in all its meanings. The universe story is the divine story, the human story, the story of the trees, the story of the rivers, of the stars, the planets, everything. It is as simple as a kindergarten tale, yet as complex as all cosmology and all knowledge and all history…. It gives a new context for education.”
So that’s a little bit on cosmology and the universe story. I want to bring in a few thoughts about the connections between ecology, social justice, and cosmology. That’s been my special area of interest for the last 20 to 25 years: what are the connections between ecology, social justice, and cosmology or worldview?
First, let me say that—as I’m sure you all realize, and as is embodied by this gathering—that the new story is going to be a multiplicity of stories. The new story is going to be a kaleidoscope of stories. The author John Berger wrote “Never again will a single story be told as if it is the only one.”
So the new story, of course, has to come from the voices of women; come from the voices of communities of color; come from the voices of the Global South; come from the voices and the genius of youth. I think the youth who are rising up in Ferguson, Missouri—saying ‘enough’ to racism in policing and in society—have an integral thread, have an integral part to play in what’s going to be the new story. Can we recognize the leadership of the youth of Ferguson, Missouri, as we create this new story?
I think there are many, many inter-linkings and interconnections between ecology and social justice, and the connection is connection, basically; the interrelationship is interconnection. Gandhi said, “Underlying ahimsa, nonviolence, is the unity of all life.” Joanna Macy said “That sense of connectedness with all beings is politically subversive in the extreme.”
Some of the research that I’ve been doing lately has to do with Martin Luther King Jr., and as I really delved into his speeches, sermons, and writings, something began to jump out at me—perhaps because I had studied with Thomas Berry for 20 years—but Martin Luther King was constantly talking about interdependence, interrelationship, interconnection, mutuality. He would say, ‘I can’t be who I’m meant to be until you are who you’re meant to be.’
I would love to go into this more, but let me just summarize by giving an emblematic example. King gave a sermon in the last months of his life called “A Christmas Eve Sermon on Peace” in which he said “If we are to have peace on earth we must develop a world perspective.” He said “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…. This is the way our universe is structured. This is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”
So here’s King, who we think of as an emblematic icon of social justice, civil rights, and human rights; he’s speaking ecologically; he’s speaking cosmologically; he’s speaking in terms of systems thinking: “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated.”
So basically the mission and the message that I carry as I travel around is that we need to build a movement that connects ecology, social justice, and cosmology, using the power of dream, the power of story, the power of art, and the power of action.
And so I’m just going to leave you with a poem that I would like to dedicate to this gathering, and to all of the visions, and the threads, and the traditions, and the stories, and the actions that you carry in your hearts, and that we’re co-creating together.
This poem is called “re:vision.”
open your eyes.
imagine a melody,
a planet of stories
with islands of silence,
her curved surface
milky way blazing
in the sky above the city.
speaking in fractals,
the stars are telepathic
wake the poets.
wake the dreamers.
cultivate the tendrils
in the vineyard
of your heart
reorient our buildings to the solstice,
and from the center of the city,
see the stars.
Thank you so much, New Story Summit. Let’s planetize the movement.
Findhorn, Scotland, October 27, 2014