2012-09-15

Sacrifice

Material things don’t make us happy. Within six months, at the longest, after even the most exciting material acquisition, a person's overall happiness is back to its baseline level. While we know that material things don't make us happy, it's also true that forcing ourselves to give them up before it feels right to do so won’t make us happy either. Mohandas Gandhi reminds us:
"No sacrifice is worth the name unless it is a joy. Sacrifice and a long face go ill together."
Many religious traditions recognize sacrifice as a spiritual practice. Our early ancestors noticed thousands of years ago that, while there is a certain satisfaction in acquiring things, it also, sometimes, feels good to give some of them up. Other times, the prospect of sacrificing doesn't feel so good -- in which case, as Gandhi cautions us, sacrifice isn't much good as a spiritual practice:
"Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you."
Environmentalism runs into the question of sacrifice: what to give up, and how. This is a practical question (What will it take for human life on Earth to be sustainable?) as well as a spiritual one. Approaching it as spiritual may help us find and live with the practical answers.

Ecospirituality

Ecospirituality is the deliberate attention to those connections between the well-being of Morther Earth and our spiritual joy. It attunes us to hear the call to joy in our own path, however small our steps, toward better protecting this planet home of ours. It
“means that our experience of the divine comes through the natural world” (Jeanne Mackey).
Those who have been exploring this religion of nature, and have been developing a growing literature articulating it, are finding that the religion of nature is indeed the religion that is natural to us.
“The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communion” (Thomas Berry).
We can now discern a common basic wiring: a capacity for a certain kind of experience that we recognize as spiritual experience regardless of whatever cultural form it appears in, and for that experience to involve connection with nature. We’re also finding that a sense of contact with nature, with diversity of life forms, is an essential part of our health, whatever our religion.

Ecospirituality has pre-scientific and the post-scientific forms. At one level, ecospirituality doesn’t need science. It’s a transcultural imperative for any human and any time – before or after the scientific revolution. At another level, certain contents of our ecospirituality are available to us only recently, incorporating what modern science tells us about ecology, and the universe.

Humans have always looked to the natural universe. Only now do we have science’s sort of understanding of why we do so – and what it is we’re seeing when we look.

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This is part 2 of 6 of "Soteriology: Biophilia"
Next: Part 3: "Out from Under Over and Above"
Previous: Part 1: "Drawing the Line"