A hidden rage

August 1, 2016 (Kampala):

August: this will be a highly significant month for us, one way or another. Either we’ll make it back to Tallahassee after a whirlwind of frenetic activity, or we will be stuck here scratching our proverbial heads.

I’m ringing in the New Month with my first Thomas Berry book, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future. Reading Berry has been a long time coming. So far I’m finding his thoughts intriguing, but his writing lacks liveliness.

Let me jot down some of the more memorable points:

“Our educational institutions need to see their purpose not as training personnel for exploiting the Earth but as guiding students toward an intimate relationship with the Earth.”

“The Great Work, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”

“We have human rights. We have rights to the nourishment and shelter we need. We have rights to habitat. But we have no rights to deprive other species of their proper habitat. We have no rights to interfere with their migration patterns. We have no rights to disturb the basic functioning of the biosystems of the planet. We cannot own the Earth or any part of the Earth in any absolute manner. We own property in accord with the well-being of the property and for the benefit of the larger community as well as ourselves.”

“[Indigenous people] live in a universe, in a cosmological order, whereas we, the industrial world, no longer live in a universe. We live…in a political world, a nation, a business world, an economic order, cultural tradition, a Disney dreamland…We read books written with a strangely contrived human alphabet. We no longer read the Book of Nature.”

“There is a spiritual capacity in carbon as there is a carbon component functioning in our highest spiritual experience.”

“To appreciate the numinous aspect of the universe as this is communicated in this story [of evolutionary cosmology], we need to understand that we ourselves activate one of the deepest dimensions of the universe. We can recognize in ourselves our special intellectual, emotional, and imaginative capacities. That these capacities have existed as dimensions of the universe from its beginning is clear since the universe is ever integral with itself in all its manifestations throughout its vast extension in space and throughout the sequence of its transformations in time. The human is neither an addendum nor an intrusion into the universe. We are quintessentially integral with [it].”

“We will recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred only if we appreciate the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience of that numinous presence whence all things come into being.”

“Few indeed…are those whose vision of the stars, the ocean, the song and flight of birds, the exquisite form and activities of the various animal species, or the awesome views of the mountains and rivers and valleys does not evoke some sense of an inner spontaneity, a guiding principle, a consciousness, a transmaterial presence manifested through the material embodiment, an ordering principle observed in any living being that enables the complexity of the DNA in the genetic process to function in some coherent form.”

“We might consider…that the wild and the disciplined are the two constituent forces of the universe, the expansive force and the containing force bound into a single universe and expressed in every being….”

“Behind the long disruption of the Earth process is the refusal of Western industrial society to accept needed restraints upon its quest for release, not simply from the normal ills to which we are subject, but release from the human condition itself. There exists in our tradition a hidden rage against those inner as well as outer forces that create limits on our activities. Some ancient force in the Western psyche seems to perceive limitation as a demonic obstacle to be eliminated, rather than as a strengthening discipline.”

August 13:

I just finished my first (and last?) Thomas Berry book: The Great Work. I didn’t find Berry to be a kindred spirit, like, say, De Chardin. He is rather stodgy and and almost grumpy, and his writing lacks grace and originality. Plus, he repeated himself over and over again. Still, I’m recording some noteworthy quotes:

“Earth is the manifestation of a vast amount of energy caught up in a diversity of designs for which there is no account in terms of human understanding or imagination. In a sequence of mutations great stores of energy were deposited within the Earth, not only as fossil fuels but also as life forces within the very structure of matter.”

“By definition we are that reality in whom the entire Earth comes to a special mode of reflexive consciousness. We are ourselves a mystical quality of the Earth, a unifying principle, an integration of the various polarities of the material and the spiritual, the physical and the psychic, the natural and the artistic, the intuitive and the scientific. We are the unity in which all these inhere and achieve a special mode of functioning. In this way the human acts as a pervading Logos. If the human is a microcosmos, the cosmos is macroanthropos.”

“Without the soaring birds, the great forests, the sounds and coloration of the insects, the free-flowing streams, the flowering fields, the sight of the clouds by day and the stars by night, we become impoverished in all that makes us human.”

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