All God's Creatures

TWO SELECTIONS FROM THIS CHAPTER.

Purpose in the City

In the noisy, crowded and always busy cities of modern living, is there any time and space for the quiet reflection and meditation that sustains human spirituality? Has the ever expanding knowledge of science, and the ever expanding power and pervasiveness of technology, squeezed religion into an almost irrelevant side show of life? In this world where our viewpoint on life is so infused with scientific knowledge, our society run by highly complex technologies and our lifestyle so focused on material consumption, what is meant by a belief in God? Who are we, and what is the purpose of this life of accumulation: of goods and services, of technological advances, of knowledge? Who are God’s creatures – a chosen few, or the whole web of living creatures on Earth?

Our daily life may be concentrated on economic activities of production and consumption, but there must be a wider view of life, with socially defined attitudes about what is acceptable and values that guide behaviour and decision making. How, then, are the basic beliefs that underpin all our thoughts and actions personally and socially maintained? Whatever form they may take, we must have fundamental beliefs about the world, how it operates and for what purpose. We can not discover the proper way of viewing reality and gain a true understanding of life from some simple perception or automatic apprehension. Neither can we think and act without an orientating conceptual framework that at its very essence must be belief based. All human knowledge is conventional; it relies on and reflects culturally determined conventions.

The daily life of social and economic activity takes place within a cultural setting, and there must be fundamental tenets about life that underpin the social values and cultural practices of a people or nation. There must then be religious beliefs, at least in terms of the basic assumptions made about the nature of reality and the context of human life, and these beliefs must be continually reinforced to maintain any human culture.

At present, an extraordinary explosion of human production and consumption is taking place throughout the world. People all over the world, with very different cultural beliefs and orientation, are jumping on the band wagon of economic development, or at least trying to claw their way on. Whether by choice or imposition, material advancement seems to be the one and only order of the day. In the head long rush of economic growth, there is little apparent thought or consideration given to the personal or social costs that arise from the break down of local communities, the constant reorganisation of an ever changing economy and the cultural clashes of different world views.

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A Vision of Compassion

We need a vision to guide us on our journeys. One vision could be of a more participatory world, where we see ourselves as integral parts of greater and more encompassing systems, and in complex interrelationships with our human brethren, our fellow creatures and our supporting environment. Life would then be seen as inherently interactive, where all viewpoints are partial and dependent. There would be no absolutes, but a meaningfulness based on mutually supportive relationships.

The ethos would be cooperative - where individual expression arose from the support and stimulation of communities; an understanding of diverse roles and an attitude of partnership infused social relations; access to services and income was fairly distributed; and conflicts were resolved through mediation that fostered listening and acknowledged differences and where the aim was to determine equitable sharing. There would be a competitiveness and the stimulation of diversity, but within a larger context of cooperation and a willingness to work together.

In a more participatory society religious beliefs would be derived from a more complex view of human spirituality. Reality would be seen in terms of diverse and differentiated patterns of interaction, where actions and events interweave in self reinforcing and mutually supporting ways. An internally perceived spirituality would be seen as flowing into and being interrelated with the social heritage and guidance of commonly held explanatory stories and celebratory practices.

Individual creativity would be derived from and enhanced by social interaction and the energies of place and environment. And it would be expressed in a way that enhanced communal well being and developed a sense of care and compassion for all creatures. Social roles and duties would be accepted by people, not as impositions and a stricture on individual action and expression, but as the means by which individual potential can be fulfilled.

There would, above all else, be a feeling of compassion - between people and for all of life. A sense of responsibility would arise from a fundamental awareness of interdependence, of oneness. We would be each others keepers, we would all be stewards, because we are all one with each other – while being apart, we are a part of everyone else and everything else around us.

Our spirituality would recognise our essential oneness and our distinctive expressions. We would be fundamentally interconnected, while travelling diverse and often counterpoising paths. As in a flowing body of water (or any other fluid) there are spirals within spirals, and in each eddy in one direction there are always reverse flows. Common purpose does not mean everyone going in the same direction. The flow of water provides a (process) symbol of this view of life.

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