It is 4,000 miles from where you are standing to the center of the Earth. Ninety nine and nine-tenths percent of that distance consists of a molten inferno of swirling elements. This 99.9 percent of our fiery orb exists in layers — inner core, outer core and mantle. Like the skin of an apple, the crust forms the outermost layer of Earth, protecting us from the blaze beneath our feet.
Surrounding the crust is another razor-thin layer. Our atmosphere is just 7 miles thick. After those 7 miles, it scatters into endless space. The extravagant abundance of every species exists in this thin strip of breathable space, between the heat below and the freeze above.
Until recently, astrophysicists believed that this thin strip of breathing space was the result of our planet being lucky. They believed we just happened to be located the right distance from the sun to enable an atmosphere like ours to coalesce, which in turn allowed life to emerge. But, recent science has taught us that it’s far more complex. It appears that the sun itself has gotten 25 percent hotter since life began here on Earth. Yet our atmosphere has been able to change and release certain elements at faster or slower rates in a way that allows life to continue.
This astounding internal “self-regulation” is just one example of the interconnected elegance of our world. It goes so deep that some scientists say it’s possible to call the planet alive. To many people with a modern, European-based worldview, it may seem uncomfortable or even heretical to imagine our planet as alive. Mainstream secular science and mainstream Western Christianity are both inclined to objectify virtually everything. These worldviews teach us to objectify mountains, rivers, plants, animals, other people’s bodies and even our own bodies. They are seen as objects to be used, discarded, fixed or improved. But there are other ways to view and experience the planet and ourselves, and even God. One alternative view is found in nature-based Christian mysticism. This type of spirituality has long been repressed because it does not serve the agendas of empires. In this worldview, God is not seen as a sky-based industrialist making a widget. The planet, the atmosphere, the plants and you … are not widgets. Facebook and Amazon and Google want to turn us and our stories into products, and the only way we will not allow ourselves to be swept up in this techno-capitalist future is if we truly believe that we are more than products. In terms of mystical theology, God is not just producer of products. God is wellspring of life and we are pools of water. God is mother, and we are offspring. The political and social evildoers and fear-mongers gain power from our belief in objectification.
If we truly want to tear their kingdoms down and live in a beloved community, let us wake up to the life and agency and holiness of salmon, cedar, rain, air and bodies of every kind.
Rev. John Helmiere is the convener of Valley & Mountain-Hillman City.
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