Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletDecember 15, 2017

Earth Concerns News

Earth Charter, First Principle by Sister Mary Lou Dolan, CSJ


Respect and Care for the Community of Life

 

Looking Forward ... Early this spring, I was asked to reflect on relating our act of chapter=s commitment to Deepening Communion with Creation to an element of the Earth Charter=s First Principle. The element that jumped out at me was ASecure Earth=s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.@ Ever since that time, I=ve been asking myself why this element has such appeal.

The Earth Charter>s First Principle is Respect and Care for the Community of Life. The following is the text of the element that struck me:

 

ASecure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

a. Recognize that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations.b. Transmit to future generations values, traditions and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth's human and ecological communities.@

 

The words that spoke to me in my chosen element were Abounty and beauty@ and Afuture generations.@ The appeal of Abounty and beauty@ is fairly clear to me. It was the draw of Afuture generations@ that has intrigued me. Why should I care about the future? Why should we care?

Recently I attended a family reunion for a period of days. There were three generations present, ages 60+ to six weeks, and the dynamics among parents, children and grandchildren were powerful and instructive. Most of us, however, have no children or grandchildren of our own and so have no direct experience of this mode of caring for future generations.

Some biologists speak about Aselfish genes,@ the drive to pass on our genes to our offspring. Whether the drive to pass on our genes is selfish or not, it is a strong drive. In terms of passing on genes, though, most of us are dead ends. However, there is more to influencing the future than genes, and it is in these realms that we make a difference.

I believe it is important to realize (make real) that everything that has occurred since the beginning of time is connected. Every Anow@ emerges from what has gone before. All of the hydrogen in our world and in our bodies was formed in the first three minutes of the Universe=s existence. Many of the cellular metabolic pathways that we and all living organisms use were developed about 1.5 billion years ago by bacteria. Our cultural patterns of farming and gathering in towns and cities have been around for some 5,000 years, and our congregational way of life is hundreds of years old. So we rise from a long history of embeddedness in what has gone before us.

Another way of expressing this idea is that the past gives rise to the present or that we participate in the AMystery of Transformation.@ Indeed, we are part of the current manifestation of transformative processes that have been happening since time began. It seems to me that as each present has emerged from all of the past, the future emerges from all presents. This, then, is where our act of chapter, Deepening Communion with Creation, connects to the Earth Charter=s directive about securing Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

What we do matters. It is about more than passing on genes. It is about A[recognizing] that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations@ and that our role is to Atransmit to future generations values, traditions and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth's human and ecological communities. We either reinforce patterns or we model new ones, and we do so for present and future generations.@

 

Each of us, I would suggest, does influence the long-term flourishing of AEarth=s human and ecological communities.@ There are many ways of deepening communion with creation and participating in the Mystery of Transformation. Find a small one that fits your situation, and model a new pattern that secures Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

In his Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Rilke says, AThe future enters into us in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.@ What are your ways of enfleshing his insight? What are our ways?

 

(July-August 2008)