|Concept: Ian Ridell, Art: Kimberly Debus|
Seventh Principle of Unitarian Universalism
|Art by Mare Cromwell|
What did you do today that connected you to the earth?
What did you do today that you can point to and say: “That was the seventh principle at work in me”?
When I think of my relationship with the earth I think of Gaia. Gaia is the Greek word for the goddess who is the earth, but what I’m talking about is Gaia as the idea, put forth in the 70’s, that the entire ecosystem of earth is one being. A being that is made up of rock and plant and animal. A being that breathes and lives. And we humans are a part of that being.
Process theology tells us that everything is made up of many other things. And that all of these things aren’t even things, they are processes. The planet is a collection of many processes, just as each person is a collection of many processes. And there is really not much distinction between the process that is one of my cells and the process that is the earth or even the solar system. We are all containers of many other things. The chalice of the earth contains us, just as we contain myriad forms of life. The earth is a green growing container, a chalice, if you will. And so are each one of us.
Have you seen the video going around the internet that is narrated by Julia Roberts? The visual is fly-bys of these spectacular places on our planet: orange and brown desert canyon; frothy white jungle waterfall framed in deep green; stark pale blue arctic ice floe in endless sea… In it Julia is the voice of Gaia, and Gaia is reminding us that she has existed before us, and will exist after us. She doesn’t much care if humans make ourselves extinct. She doesn’t need us. She is so much bigger, so much more, than an earth lifeboat for humans. We need her.
This can come as a bit of a shock. Or it can help us to feel our dependence, and our connection, with the natural world. Indeed, our oneness with the natural world and all that makes up the earth.
A cornerstone of Hildegard's spirituality was Viriditas, or greening power, her revelation of the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality. To her, the divine was manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Just as a ray of sunlight is the sun, Hildegard believed that a flower or a stone was God, though not the whole of God. Hildegard celebrated the sacred in nature, something highly relevant for us in this age of climate change and the destruction of natural habitats. - The definition of viriditas or "greenness" is an earthly expression of the heavenly in an integrity that unites dualisms.
Nor did Hildegard enjoy a quiet retirement. She took in and nursed a man who had run away from fighting in the crusades, and when he died she buried him in the churchyard. It is hard for us UUs to imagine, but giving this Christian burial to someone who rejected the command to fight in the crusades didn’t sit well with the powers-that-be and she and her nuns were collectively excommunicated. The excommunication was only lifted a few months before Hildegard's death in 1179.
Acting on Your Spiritual Direction
Hildegard speaks for God, saying: "I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon and stars ... I awaken everything to life." -- Hildegard von Bingen, Liber Divinorum (Book of Divine Works)