One of my favorite scriptures is in Matthew 6. In it, Christ exhorts the crowd to abandon their concern with worldly affairs, as their singleminded focus on their material problems was impeding their spiritual progress.
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or, What shall we drink, or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Mat 6: 28-34.
The more I consider this passage, the more I find applications for it in my life. I’ve spent years worrying myself sick over the future, the potential disasters that lay along my path and my imagined failure to meet those challenges. Eventually I woke up and realized that I was backing into my life. Once that hit me, I looked at this passage with fresh eyes, and saw something profound that I had been missing.
Thinking about “reality” is more than my day job, it’s my life. When I was a student, I was constantly plugged in, paying attention and monitoring the political world with every available bit of bandwidth. With modern technology, this is easier than it has ever been. We can plug into a stream of news 24/7, with no pause for reflection or consideration, merely moving onto crisis after crisis. This is how I existed for several years—always the best informed of my friends, ahead of the curve, beating the breaking news.
As I might have recognized if I’d taken some time to think, the above is a great method for losing one’s sense of self. I had lost the ability to decompress. Many people have spoken about the effects of our hyperconnected digital world, how it leads to the blurring of distinctions between home and work, public and private, until no one can quite know where they stand. That has been borne out in my experience.
When this collapsed, as it inevitably would, I thought back to Matthew and recognized what I had been missing before. I had focused so intently on worldly concerns that I had lost touch with my sense of the sacred, and looking at the world through these fresh eyes has shown me so much beauty that I was missing. I began thinking deeply, not flitting from story to story, event to event with no time for consideration. I feel that I’ve come out of a deep gulf and I’m getting a glimpse of a bright, beautiful world that I forgot existed.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t think about the world and its problems, or shy away from the hard work required to change the systems that have created those problems. Christianity is one of those systems, and right above this passage is a verse that could be interpreted as setting mankind above the other species that inhabit the globe. That kind of disconnected attitude is precisely what has led us into our ecological crisis and might potentially be the end of our species. Recognizing that we are only one part of a vast web of life would go a long way towards alleviating the willful blindness that characterizes our interactions with the environment. With hope that consciousness will spread as we are all confronted with the reality of our changing climate.
It is that consciousness, that I am connected to every other living thing, that every life form on this planet is based on the same elements as me, and that “me” is really a quirk of evolution riding on a bag of chemicals, it is that consciousness that I lost touch with. The Earth is our home, and if you look around, you can feel it. It will be very interesting to see how we navigate our relationship to that home as this century progresses. Will we be tempted to bury ourselves in human affairs and worldly concerns, ignoring the destruction we’ve wrought on the planet? Or will we re-connect and regain our relationship with life? I hope it’s the latter.