In Psalm 148 there is an increasing crescendo of praise to God. Starting with the heavens, angels, sun, moon and stars, there follows the earth, sea creatures, weather, wild beasts and tame, birds, human beings before a final focus on praise of God. It gives a sense of the whole of creation worshipping God, not just humanity. A sense that we are part of the whole world that praises God, rather than separate from it, dominating it. This is a sense that I wonder if we have lost. There is more focus nowadays on our environment, and issues around climate change. We are far more aware of the impact we are having on our planet. But I wonder how many of us see ourselves as part of creation, rather than detached from it; as one creature among many, rather than ‘on top’ of other creatures?
I don’t have an answer for this; I notice that, despite our awareness of environmental issues, we still seem to put our needs first – our needs for more roads, buildings etc. I’m aware that this is necessary – people do need homes, although how many of these need to be built on ‘green’ land is an issue I am not qualified to answer. Given the changes in our city centres, maybe more imaginative use of housing there could be created. I also know that many people are aware of our need for green spaces, that many groups will campaign against building (whatever) over green spaces, that there are now protected spaces for wildlife to flourish, that many of us are doing what we can to mitigate our impact on our climate. That, also, it can seem like an impossible challenge.
But how much is it our view that we live on this planet with other creatures and plants, that they have their own infrastructures and ways of communicating? Did you know that trees communicate? (I may have mentioned this before, but I find it quite exciting). Just google it. Yet how much has that communication network been disrupted by our unawareness of it, and an underlying assumption that trees are there for our benefit rather than us for theirs – or, rather, that it could be a mutual relationship.
I don’t have any answers for this. It may be that some people are more aware of these issues than others, that some cultures relate more equally to creation than others; there are probably no easy answers for how to manage our relationship with our environment in our current surroundings, especially given the need to manage some of this internationally, and in multiple institutions. That we must do what we can to limit the impact of climate change is probably obvious; but beyond that, do we try to live in harmony with nature or otherwise? Do we see ourselves deep down as part of our environment or as in control of it? It is not so much your views on climate change that I am exploring, but your deep down sense of how we relate to creation; to animals and plants; to the sea and our rivers; to the grass and even the air around us. Are they there for us, or are they part of a more mutual relationship? There is no right or wrong answer, just questions to think about. Or maybe meditate on. One popular ‘activity’ to suggest was an awareness walk; to go for a walk, aware of the sights, smells, sounds that we meet. Maybe this is one way we can pray our relationship with the world around us.