Tag Archives: Hazel Henderson

Year of activism #4

For those following along at home, you will know I have moved house. Moving is very disruptive and many a psychological survey put it in the top three stressful things alongside death and divorce. The buying, selling, moving weren’t that stressful, but the settling in has been tougher. Adaptation doesn’t come easily. It is a consequence of my privilege to be able to be unsettled. Not everyone can move when they want to and not everyone has the luxury of moving to somewhere safe, near family and the beauty of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Being unsettled for a while is a small price to pay at one level, but the existential challenge to ‘land’ is real, and it is taking time.

In this year of activism I am reflecting on this privilege. Those in islands, close to coastlines and living on deltas around the world are the first to be bearing the consequences of our common home having the sea levels rise. Those fleeing from war, famine and drought and looking for a safer place to raise a family don’t have the same number of choices open to me. Those with an Australian passport, or indeed any passport, still have a place to call on to give them refuge.

Unpacking what I have, finding the seeds of ideas and poems first sown in old note books, I am still throwing things away. I even managed to fill another bin yesterday as I begun to set up a space where I can work. I mused about what I was discarding and why. Not quite setting a criteria but saving blank pages in half filled note books took priority over the pages that had been scribbled on. One thing I did not throw away, and was really pleased to discover, was an original paper I had written in October 1992 (and then was reworked and published by Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace in 1993). I have mentioned this previously in a post last year, ironically on Mother’s Day. I presented it at an ecumenical Economics and Ethics workshop in North Adelaide when I had just turned 34. I was a mum of four children by then ranging in age from 12 to 5. I had completed a Masters degree in Peace Studies a few years earlier and was really keen to keep refining my thinking around economics and ethics from a Christian perspective, especially factoring in new thinking on environmental and feminist theologies that were emerging. I am a little surprised I didn’t keep going with this work and have no real idea why I started to dilute its place in my thinking … well apart from the dysfunction of the patriarchal church I found myself in, little kids and life!

In the paper I opted for an organic gardening book‘s analysis of the difference of what was and mostly still is, dominant paradigm of Newtonian physics, from quantum physics. Where an approach to change was from continuous to discontinuous and from uniform to quantum leaps; and the source of power from entropy to creative power; and problem solving being approached from either/or to both/ and. I backed my thinking by invoking economist and futurist Hazel Henderson and a few theologians like Sallie McFague, Tom Berry and eco-feminists like Carolyn Merchant and Charlene Spretnak. I built a framework from the effects of others and added in an ecumencial perspective, and that being the principle to do whatever we could together and only stand apart when it was impossible from a doctrinal point of view not to act together. My thesis being that the planet is our common home, gifted to all of us and that we should treat the earth as our mother and all the global commons as our sisters and brothers. The reason I was giving this workshop was to support the combined churches in my home town to discern a strategy and course of action to support our planet, respect our humanity and foster or even perhaps create, inclusive models of economic development. Finding this paper has shown me the depth of my roots and also caused me concern about how I have left so much of this to lie fallow, or at least not well attended to in the most recent years.

The pillars I promulgated were:

  • Shifting from Father Right to Nature Right
  • Working for justice, peace and the integrity of creation
  • Inclusion of the other
  • Remembering the future

And the questions to assist discernment to be:

  • Is our reflection coming from a breakdown or breakthrough analysis of the signs of the times?
  • Are we taking into account the integrated nature of social, economic, cultural and environmental variables?
  • Are we questioning Father Right and therefore including feminine, global and intergenerational variables?
  • What are the global commons, common wealth, common good and common security implications of the idea?

I think these have held up pretty well over these last nearly thirty years and is causing me to reflect on what I have done to keep these questions and practices alive and what it means to rediscover them in this move. The paper is a note to self from the past. It also feels that perhaps one of its purposes was to be a note to self for the future as well and that is it not an accident it has been called out of the recesses of boxes long closed and I am being prompted to learn and discern again as this year of activism unfolds. These were not new ideas at the time and they certainly aren’t now, however they are giving me comfort and helping me to land as I recalibrate and get settled.

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Sparks will fly #3 #taking

Riffing off a conversation during the week about the difference between giving and receiving and giving and taking has set some sparks flying.  I am pretty good at giving and I am getting better at receiving but the idea of taking that is foreign territory. What does it mean to take?  Literally to grab something with both hands, yank it into your life, pull it towards you feels a little violent and perhaps even greedy or entitled … but what if it was about showing up, leaving nothing to chance, proactively and decisively making a claim? I think I am out of practice at taking a trick. We played a lot of cards and board games when I was growing up but no so much in recent times.  I steered away from competitive activities and have somehow aligned taking with competition – if I have something then someone else doesn’t.  This is not true.  That is a scarcity mentality and that doesn’t line up with my usual approach to life around abundance.

Taking and giving are not mutually exclusive. I can take a photograph and enhance the beauty of what is there and see something new and give that to others. I can take a position and advocate to be more inclusive which opens up, not closes down possibilities. I can take what I imagine is potentially mine and that need not be taking from another or from someone else’s future. There is intentionality in taking that feels quite different to the humility of receiving.  This is sparking me up to consider what might I like to take from this time?  What might I want to manifest, grab with both hands … make happen, instead of passively let happen?  Alert: No children will be harmed in the making of taking.

With the death of Mary Oliver this week I have been reflecting on her legacy to future generations and how even a tiny spark of her talent has held me many times. She took from the natural world and shared her insights. She absorbed, at a cellular level the lessons of all things elemental. While we received, she did take, and knead and hold and filter and fuse. I am sure she would have seen her taking as necessary for her to give.  In fact her instruction is quiet clear in her famous One Summer Day poem meditating on the grasshopper – what is your plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  Embedded in that line is a confirmation and imprimatur, to be wild, accept your life as uniquely precious and irreplaceable, unable to be replicated as each day, each moment to be spent by only you and the way to you spend it. Making a plan includes giving, receiving and taking. Paying attention to falling down, kneeling, rolling in the grass, gazing around, floating away – these are all instructions from the school of life and living includes pushing through pain barriers in dark days, unfurling wings while they are still wet, moving the jaws up and down, ruminating, chewing through things hard to swallow, being nourished and fed in the process.  I don’t know what a prayer is either, but the spark to consider taking as well as receiving and not making anyone else the poorer, weaker or losing in the process that may also make be richer, stronger and a winner along the way is worth considering … and even a bit of planning.  Here’s to the summer day!

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

by Mary Oliver

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Photo by Chris Galbraith on Unsplash

ps To hear or read an interview with Mary Oliver and Krista Tippett from On Being click here.