Can we truly love the world?

earthquaker Issue 92

“If you truly love nature, you will see beauty everywhere”. These are reputedly the words of Vincent van Gogh. The poet Kathleen Raine takes us further with “violet, raindrop, long wet grass, a young bird looks at me. Their being is lovely, is love.” The sentiments expressed are far older than these quotes. There are echoes of them in every wisdom tradition I am familiar with, and doubtless also in those I do not know. “There is nothing new under the sun”, as it says in Ecclesiastes. I find the modern restatements useful, since they help me hear the wisdom more clearly. My own experience is that noticing the beauty motivates a “sitting with”, which helps me experience the love and reinforces a sense of connection. For others perhaps the love comes first. No matter. Whichever path we take to expanding our awareness of connection with, and dependence on, the natural world will also be a path to noticing promptings of love and truth that ask us to care and protect. This is expressed well in advice 42 – “show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world”. The Canterbury commitment to be a “sustainable community” is simply an extended discernment of what this means for us now.

At the Living Witness gathering in Bamford in early October a dozen Quakers spent time together reflecting on how Living Witness might support the Quaker community. The aspect of the discussion that most inspired me was the idea of helping others experience the love the world is expressing for us. It seems to me that this addresses directly the feelings of low self worth, which are often at the root of our destructive behaviours (certainly mine). How many of us can experience love, and not realise our own love for the source of the love we experience?

Once we have felt our love, we will be led to act. My experience is that action that arises from my own inner promptings is more helpful, and more life affirming, than action that is “required” by others. It is important to support one another and allow all the flowers to bloom.

I think it is also helpful to recognise that we are not alone. Every faith community in this country is working towards a richer understanding of the riches we have been given in the world and a more balanced relationship with them. Rather than work alone and risk feeling overwhelmed, we can find and work together with people from other traditions who share our leadings. This notion led some of us to agree to organise a short conference next year, the provisional title is “Interdenominational and Interfaith approaches to environmental action”. Perhaps those of you who know of an action in your own local community, which others might learn from, can help us by getting in touch and giving us details of a suitable contact.

Ian Marshall – North and Central Lancashire