We live in a human-centered world. At least we think we do. Whether or not the perception of our species, that the world and the expansive universe to which it belongs revolves around us, is accurate or not (it isn’t), the behavior of our human family in light of this dispositional attitude has resulted in the destructive reality we find ourselves in today. Anthropocentrism is a systemic sin that far-too often goes unacknowledged because the victims of its reality rarely speak in a voice that we can — or wish — to recognize. Our fellow cosmic inhabiters, the non-human creatures of this world, cry out but not in the human verbal expression, the technological text message, or the shift in the stock market that would otherwise grab our attention. Their cries are muffled by the chatter of our own self-interest and occluded by the noise of our exploitative drive.
We have forgotten that God created all of us and did not, contrary to sometimes popular interpretations of scripture that render us sovereigns over the rest of creation, make us human beings free-reigning proprietors, but instead placed us within the garden from which we were molded and into which God’s own breath animated all of us. We are siblings of creation, bearing the elemental “DNA” of the most basic building blocks of life found in organic and inorganic created things alike. We share a deep interrelationship with the rest of the created order, but we have turned a blind eye toward our continued exercise of earthly domestic abuse.
Thomas Berry, in his essay in a recently published book titled, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, has a very striking paragraph that highlights our collective human forgetfulness when it comes to our relationship to the rest of the created order and what very real havoc that wreaks, especially in North America.
We have lost our connection to this other deeper reality of things. Consequently, we not find ourselves on a devastated continent where nothing is holy, nothing is sacred. We no longer have a world of inherent value, no world of wonder, no untouched, unspoiled, unused world. We have used everything. By “developing” the planet, we have been reducing Earth to a new type of barrenness. Scientists are telling us that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction period in Earth’s history. No such extinction of living forms has occurred since the extinction of the dinosaurs some sixty-five mission years ago.
In destroying other species, in ruining non-sentient elements of creation such as water tables and mountaintops, in harming the air and the environment of those who are poorest among the human family, we are committing fratricide — killing not only our human sisters and brothers, but the kin we call creation; the kin of God’s creating.
What does it take for us to hear the cry of the rest of creation? How can we restore our connection to the deeper reality of things that Berry names?