The message of the past was that the future would be better. Things would change and for the common good … things can only get better. In terms of the environment – creation, the sadness is that so much destruction has taken place and in such recent times, when in fact we could and did know better.
One of the problems has been our Western, rational, reductive approach to creation where creation seems to just be the solution to a puzzle about where the world and most importantly we came from. This puts it at the level of efficient causality; and in church teaching discussion points to God as the cause.
However, as we are beginning to understand, and as both Buddhist and Christian contemplation appreciates, creation is rather a process of interconnection and participation in absolute Being. We really are all in it together. Along with all other parts of creation we are connected to the inexhaustible Source and with this awareness – this existential awareness – there is insight into what it means to be and at the same time a realisation that one’s being does not derive from oneself.
Thomas Merton saw creation not as a completed act of the primordial past but an ongoing, ever present reality, since there is never a moment when contingent beings are not being called into life and filled with life by their divine Source and Goal.
So that every part of creation and that includes the plants, insects, the animals, the birds and the entire created world that we see around us – every part of creation is a direct participation in the being of God. Sometimes this view is criticised in religion as pantheism but rather it is panentheism which is the awareness that nothing is and nothing can be unless it is grounded in that which alone is Being in the true sense. Then creation is an epiphany of the divine wisdom, as Merton put it, ‘playing before God the Creator in his universe… The beauty of all creation is a reflection of Sophia living and hidden in creation.’
So what are we doing in our destruction; what have we become with our desires and greed?
For example take the relentless deforestation by multinationals for palm oil despite huge protests. I like the quote by Lone Droscher-Nielsen the extraordinary woman who set up an orangutan sanctuary in Borneo http://savetheorangutan.org.
She said about our anthropocenic attitude to everything…
‘I think Darwin had it all backwards. There is no way that something as beautiful and innocent as an orangutan, could ever have evolved into man.’