That quotation from Thomas Berry really got to me!

I was stopped in my tracks by a quotation from Thomas Berry

These Cosmic dynamics have been active for billions of years and have enabled us to come this far.That, surely, is sufficient reason for us to believe that the guiding principle are still at work.

Having confidence in the future is one essential component, without doubt, if we are to tackle the problems. But we also need to develop new ways of working that make us an aware participant in evolution, …

ThomasBerry2014-FrontCover
Thomas Berry

Today I started on the 4th module of the Pachamama Programme, Game Changing Initiative, the primary focus of which is on Evolutionary Activism and how to engage collectively with the huge issues facing the world we live in. I was stopped in my tracks by a quotation from Thomas Berry [check <http://www.thomasberry.org/Books/>]. He reminds me a lot of a similar writer, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, [see: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin>%5D from the 1950s who sowed the seeds for a break from the traditional ideas about religion to engagement with an ongoing spiritual process encompassing evolution and the cosmos. Initially he was rejected by both Vatican and Jesuits alike. Incidentally I was given a present of his book, “The Phenomenon of Man” by the late Val Rice (former Chair of Education at Trinity College Dublin (1966-2005)) who was a student with me in University College, Cork. Val gave it to me as payment-in-kind when I gave him a grind in maths-physics to help catch up after he joined our class late in the term (1961)!

Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Rather than present the quote (which I will do below, for the record), let me try to put it in my own words and in the context of our exchanges on Facebook. Most of us today are familiar with images of the Universe captured and delivered to us by the Hubble Telescope. Irrespective of religious beliefs or none, we all marvel at the sight of our galaxy, dwarfed in the midst of so many other galaxies in the unfathomable depths of the Cosmos.

When we look at the small blue planet, our home, which is in turn dwarfed by the size of our galaxy, we struggle to comprehend the relationship between that speck of life and the infinite space around it. We seem, however, to be agreed, in some way we don’t yet fully understand, that the dynamics of that Cosmos, from the very beginning at the Big Bang, right up this moment of Now, shaped the course of development of the heavens that we see above us on a starry night, they lit up the Sun upon which we depend totally for all forms of life, and they formed our own planet Earth.

Pachamama - Mother Earth -Our Home
Pachamama – Mother Earth -Our Home

These Cosmic dynamics have been active for billions of years and have enabled us to come this far.That, surely, is sufficient reason for us to believe that the guiding principles are still at work.  Yet nowadays, Planet Earth is under severe stress, not only from climate change brought about largely by human activity, but also from the exhausting of irreplaceable animal and mineral resources. Even the survival of our own human species is under threat. At local levels, in every country, conflicts are emerging, governments are failing to provide a social and environmental setting in which people, all people, can live meaningful lives, work in jobs that have meaning and reward them, feel secure and not exploited. Every day, I see reports about problems filtering from colleagues around the globe, telling me about the conflict between the EU/Troika/IMF and an impoverished Greece. Within my own country of Ireland, there is mounting anger because of the way in which austerity policies continue to hit the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, established jobs have been wiped out, artificial employment as “trainees” and in “work experience programmes” are being offered to the unemployed whose skills have become redundant, while the richest individuals and corporations seem to be getting ever richer. From planetary destruction to the loss of jobs locally, what can we do? Just turn our faces to the wall and die miserable, neglected and alone? Or is there something we can do about it? There is! We can, therefore we must!

pollution and waste
Pollution and Waste

I believe that the framing of a question is critical to the answer we receive. Perhaps we should rephrase the question if we are serious about finding an answer to our current question. In reality, there is probably little that we can do from our own resources, at local, national, and some international levels, based upon the results of our previous efforts. The question that we face is: How can we work, together, at all levels in society, with the dynamics of the Cosmos, that have brought us this far, to adjust our lives to being part of the process of evolution rather than fighting against it, like some blind Titan, standing alone, upon a Hill in Hebron, cursing the Gods he does not know or understand?

This is the  quotation from Thomas Berry, I mentioned above:

“If the dynamics of the universe, from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth… there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened our present understanding of ourselves and our relationship to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture.”
[Thomas Berry
]

Rodin - The ThinkerHaving confidence in the future is one essential component, without doubt, if we are to tackle the problems. But we also need to develop new ways of working that make us an aware participant in evolution, rather than merely an outsider to a process which appears to conflict with the main ideologies in current favour. How can that be done. As part of the Pachamama Programme in which I am participating with others from around the globe, I am trying to explore ways in which I can contribute, no matter how small and insignificant the effort of an individual may be in comparison with the enormity of the challenge. At such times as this, I am often reminded of a folk song I heard and sang in the 1960s. It is the rallying call composed by Woody Guthrie in the Dustbowl of the US in the 1930s – “Two and two and fifty make a million”!

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

I shall be writing from time to time about my progress, or lack of it, as the case may be; of the ideas generated by my colleagues and other participants in the Programme; and I would love to hear from readers of this blog about their views and any work that they are doing in this area. Let;s not turn our faces to the wall, just yet ;-D. I hear two calling another two, and I can see another fifty becoming active! We will get there. As Samuel Beckett, a great Irish writer and Nobel Prize winner, once wrote: “I can’t go on, I must go on, I will go on”.

William Butler Yeats: 150th Anniversary of his birth on 13th June, 2015

Yeats’ writing addressed not only the Irish situation but, drawing upon the mythology of the world, his poetic scalpel dissected global issues.

Yeats in his time also saw Ireland as an accessible model of the world’s situation.

Horseman pass byToday is an important day. All this week we in Ireland have been celebrating, talking and thinking about his work, but today, Saturday 13th June, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. I make no pretensions to be a poet, and when the truth is told, I struggle to feel the unwritten power between the lines of any poet’s work. But for some reason I cannot explain, I have always been drawn to the work of Yeats. I have no difficulty even now, three score years after I sat in my secondary school desk, in remembering the poems of Yeats, and in moments of doubt and trepidation it is strange how easily his words slip quietly into my mind.

Yeat was an Irish poet, a Nobel Laureate and one of the four such Laureates about whom our small country, but great nation, boasts. Yeats’ writing addressed not only the Irish situation but, drawing upon the mythology of the world, his poetic scalpel dissected global issues. In particular, I sense that his comments upon the emerging Irish State in the early 1900s, are still fresh and true, not only about Ireland today, but they also give us a poet’s insight into the universality of the human condition.

Just as Pierre Turquet in the 1960s suggested that the situations then emerging in Ireland and in South Africa offered a laboratory of social change that the world could well benefit from, Yeats in his time also saw Ireland as an accessible model of the world’s situation. After the relentless viciousness of the Anglo-Irish war that followed the Rising in 1916 and eventually gave way to the Treaty of 1922 and ironically ended with the Civil War, Yeats wrote:

“We are closed in, and the key is turned

On our uncertainty; somewhere

A man is killed, or a house burned,

Yet no clear fact to be discerned.”

Surely, if the hearts and spirit of those who, in increasing numbers around the world, are fleeing persecution and manic ideology, were aware of those words of Yeats, they would resonate in sympathy. Yeats not only saw clearly into the heart of such a situation, he also showed some of his own despair with what was happening:

“We had fed the heart on fantasies,

The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;

More substance in our enmities

Than in our love … “

Having immersed myself in Irish politics in my younger days, devouring the works of Karl Marx and James Connolly, I spent most of my working life outside Ireland and had the good fortune to find work in different countries, with different cultures and different histories. Nevertheless, I became increasingly concerned with the story line that I saw emerging, a story line that said:

  • The world is a violent place that is evolving from violence and must live with violence
  • Ruling classes always use violence to enforce their will; those who are oppressed by them must needs overthrow them with violence
  • Sir James G. Frazer described Magic and Religion as a cultural story or a dream-world within which human beings live their lives. Again violence was a central warp thread in the story that he wove.

Yeats painted a picture of what he saw, and truly, we can see the same picture around the world today. A shared story is still ruling people’s lives and our lives are rounded with that dream:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all convictions, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

When I examine what I have learned so far in my life, I see the relevance of what Albert Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I think that Yeats’ despair at what he saw reflects the same thinking. Our only chance of getting out of the spiral dance of violence which is leading us to the destruction of our world, is not to fight our way with violence, but to open our hearts to the silence within, the silence of Spirit, and ultimately to wake from the dream that confines us. We have a chance to write a new story, a story with a happy ending. Then we might turn to those great minds that have led us there and salute them with the words of the Great Man whose birth we celebrate today:

“What they undertook to do

They brought to pass;

All things hang like a drop of dew

Upon a blade of grass.”

Retired, living in rural Ireland, the window is open and the sun is shining

Today was a day that was moving fast from the the word “Go”, out of bed this morning around 09.00h!

I mentioned a fortnight ago that I had signed up for an online training programme in “Evolutionary Activism” with the Pachamama Alliance. Well, we had our first Course Gathering last night, an online meeting of nearly 100 participants from around the globe, out of a total enrolment of around 300, with video and audio inputs. It was a really great and rewarding experience. I had already attended on online Small Group meeting on Monday evening when we had a good discussion about this week’s module, “The Power of Story”. In this module, we look at how being “game changers necessarily involves “changing the dream of the modern world. I shall tell you more about this in a coming blog. Last night the meeting started at 20.30h Pacific State Time, that is, 01.30h Irish time. I eventually got to bed about three hours later and thought I might sleep late this morning but no, something woke me. Today was a day that was moving fast from the the word “Go”, out of bed this morning around 09.00h! Before I had my breakfast, I was at the computer, revising my notes, sending messages to fellow participants from last Monday’s Small Group meeting, and checking my emails, monitoring incoming feeds.

© Noppasinw | Dreamstime.com - Suthat Temple - Bangkok - Thailand Photo
Suthat Temple – Bangkok – Thailand

Then, in quick succession three separate requests arrived from three different locations – China, India, and Dublin – each wanting documents translated into Irish. Great! Good start to the day. A buzz from the computer alerts me to a message from my compadre, Joe Lowry, who has been doing fantastic work, dashing around the globe with the energy of Superman but without the fancy costume, relocating displaced people from trouble spots, giving interviews to spread the news. This time he casually remarked that he had dinner last night with a colleague in Bangkok, who remarked to him about a comment I had added to one of his blogs several months ago ( check <joejoebloggs.blogspot.com/>) in which I had described a rather sad meeting I had in Moldova back in the 1990s. When I checked his colleague’s FaceBook page out of interest, I discovered an item there about a school in New Zealand that had found a new way to contain bullying behaviour in schools. I thought this interesting so I put that up on my own FB page and asked had anyone in Ireland tried this approach to bullying. I felt that, in some mysterious way, things were connecting.

© Mpaskvan | Dreamstime.com - Florida Coastline Photo
Florida Coastline

I changed focus again when I received a reply from one of the participants I had contacted earlier. She lives in Tampa, Florida, and helps out at the critical care manatee rehabilitation hospital in the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo. (What about synchronicity? Joe Lowry, Lowry Park? Not related, though!). She tells me that a threesome of artists from Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, are currently on a painting trip in Ireland and today (11 June, 2015) they are painting at The Copper Coast and Dunmore East, Co Waterford! She tells me that I will fall in love with them and their work! Wow! The pace of my life is quickening. (Be still, my beating heart!) One of the artists, Helen Tilston, is Irish and regularly comes to Ireland to paint. This trio of paint-toting ladies paint landscape tryptichs ‘en plein air’, with each artist painting one of the three panels.

© Thediver123 | Dreamstime.com - West India Manatee Injured By A Boater Photo
A manatee injured by a careless boatman

Check them out at http://pleinairecottageartists.blogspot.ie/. They are Helen Tilston, Mary Rose Holmes and Violetta Shtymeyzen-Chandler and they have been painting together for the past 16 years. All three represented the USA at the the invitational Florence Biennale in Firenze, Italy in 2007 – and have received a lifetime invitation to participate. The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation awarded the Artists in 2007 for their untiring efforts in preserving the history of Florida. So, if any of my readers are in Wexford, keep an eye open for these ladies.

It’s now coming up to 18.00h and I suddenly realise that I haven’t eaten yet today! I hadn’t noticed any feelings of hunger during the day so that was O.K. Now, however, I think it is time to shut up shop for the day and enjoy some of my own home cooking! Tomorrow I plan to spend out of doors, working in the garden and changing gear entirely. But for now, here I am, retired, living in a lovely rural setting in Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow, and when I raise my eyes, I look out through the leaded panes of an old cottage window, … and I see the world.