“Sometimes I long for a convent cell, with the sublime wisdom of centuries set out on bookshelves all along the wall and a view across the cornfields–there must be cornfields and they must wave in the breeze–and there I would immerse myself in the wisdom of the ages and in myself. Then I might perhaps find peace and clarity. But that would be no great feat. It is right here, in this very place, in the here and the now, that I must find them.” ― Etty Hillesum,
“I believe that I know and share the many sorrows and sad circumstances that a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them, I do not prolong such moments of agony. They pass through me, like life itself, as a broad, eternal stream, they become part of that stream, and life continues. And as a result all my strength is preserved, does not become tagged onto futile sorrow or rebelliousness.” ― Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork
Etty Hillesum wrote in her diary: Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on earth, my eyes raised towards heaven, tears run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. Does this sound like a passage from a young girl’s summer camp diary? Well, the camp she speaks of is a Nazi death camp. What Etty Hillesum stands for is gratefulness against all the odds. This makes her shine as an example for all of us, a witness to sheer enthusiasm for life. — Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB
“Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.” ― Etty Hillesum,
How do we begin to acquire this sense of genuine belonging to our local environment? Well, by determining to love something about our place, wherever it might be. It’s more important than ever when we’re living in places we find difficult or challenging, because it can be all too easy to dissociate ourselves from those places, to pretend we’re not really in them, to hold ourselves back from engaging with them because they’re only temporary, and we’re hoping someday for something better. But the places where we live deserve more from us, because those places literally make our existence possible. And not to fully be in the place where you fully are – it’s a peculiar form of insanity, of which the human animal seems uniquely capable. So don’t hold yourself back from the hurt or broken places, the industrial wastelands, the places which have been wounded by us, or by natural acts such as wildfires and tornadoes. Always look for the small beauties beneath surface ugliness – the seedlings popping up in the hurricane-devastated forest, the butterflies around the landfill sites, the crows holding a colloquium in the middle of a busy, fume-filled traffic island.
And don’t just look for the beauty created by others – make it your life’s work to create some yourself, whether it’s planting seeds in your back garden, feeding the birds on your windowsill, or smiling at a stranger in your local shop. Because your neighbourhood is an extension of your home, and your home is the container for your life. The lanes or streets, the public and private buildings, the fields or the city parks – all of these form part of the ecosystem in which you are enmeshed. Accepting that you are a part of that ecosystem, and learning the ways in which you might be able to make yourself at home in it, are essential preconditions for knowing that you are fully alive in the world. Without which, disenchantment is inevitable.
Sometimes it’s easier to imagine ourselves as part of an ecosystem if we live in the country, or in a wild place. Here, we can more easily identify the non-human others who inhabit it along with us; more clearly see the soil and understand the impact of the geology; more easily piece together the rivers, hills, fields and forests which are the building blocks of a particular, unique landscape. But urban areas are ecosystems too, and although it might not always be quite so clear to us, everything in them is just as interconnected: the weather, the waterways, the soil, the animals, birds and trees. There is a tendency to imagine cities as alive only with the energy of humans, and to see city buildings as dead entities constructed from steel and concrete, possessing none of the ‘soul’ of vernacular architecture which is based on natural materials and local construction methods. And yet, and yet . . . Canadian literature professor Sean Kane, in his 1988 book Wisdom of the Mythtellers, quotes the following anecdote: ‘The Aboriginal teacher Bobby Macleod said to Robert Lawlor, while walking through downtown Sydney, “With your mentality, these tall buildings are the result of the dreams and plans of architects, engineers, and builders. But the Aborigine also sees that the stones and bricks themselves have an inner potential – a dreaming to become a structure.”‘
Whatever the environment from which it springs, local knowledge matters, because enchanted living begins with local living: genuinely understanding, and so living in harmony with the landscape you occupy Enchanted living embraces the wider world, and acknowledges the value of respect and interdependence between rightly different cultures – but it does so from the perspective of a deep grounding in its own locality, and in the unique bioregion which supports it. And this, of course, is more than just the acquisition of environmental knowledge, or awareness of local folk traditions and culture; it is about building communities which are rooted in, respect and take responsibility for the local earth they occupy, and which care about its health and integrity.
Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.
Big bangs aren’t boring. Dinosaurs aren’t boring. Elephants aren’t boring. Hummingbirds aren’t boring. And neither are little children. Evolution isn’t boring. Magnetism and electricity aren’t boring. E=MC2 might be hard to understand, but it certainly isn’t boring. And even glaciers aren’t boring, although their dramatic pace is at first quite hard for us to perceive. And God, whatever God is, must not be boring either, because God’s creation is so amazingly, wonderfully, surprisingly fascinating.
The first and greatest surprise – a miracle, really – is this: that anything exists at all, and that we get to be part of it. Ripe peach, crisp apple, tall mountain, bright leaves, sparkling water, flying flock, flickering flame, and you and me . . . here, now!
On this, the first pages of the Bible and the best thinking of today’s scientists are in full agreement: it all began in the beginning, when space and time, energy and matter, gravity and light, burst or bloomed or banged into being. In light of the Genesis story, we would say that the possibility of this universe overflowed into actuality as God, the Creative Spirit, uttered the original joyful invitation: Let it be! And in response, what happened? Light. Time. Space. Matter. Motion. Sea. Stone. Fish. Sparrow. You. Me. Enjoying the unspeakable gift and privilege of being here, being alive.
Imagine how uncountable nucleii and electrons and sister particles danced and whirled. Imagine how space dust coalesced into clouds, and how clouds coalesced into galaxies, and how galaxies began to spin, sail and dance through space. Imagine how in galaxy after galaxy, suns blazed, solar systems twirled and worlds formed. Around some of those worlds, moons spun, and upon some of those worlds, storms swirled, seas formed and waves rolled. And somewhere in between the smallest particles and the largest cosmic structures, here we are, in this galaxy, in this solar system, on this planet, in this story, around this table, at this moment – with this chance for us to breathe, think, dream, speak and be alive together.
The Creator brought it all into being and now, some 14 billion years later, here we find ourselves dancers in this beautiful, mysterious choreography that expands and evolves and includes us all.
Excerpt from We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation by Brian D. McLaren
Becoming self-aware, especially of one’s inner life, is a spiritual practice. We can only achieve personal growth, and heal from past trauma, if we understand our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and face up to our personal histories (warts and all) and how they have affected us. Once we learn to observe and understand our own thoughts and emotions, we become more aware of why we behave in the ways that we do, and we become more understanding of others.
Adverse life events have a huge impact on our confidence. We have to keep building and rebuilding our confidence in who we are by practising self-forgiveness, self-compassion and self-care. As well as healing from past wounds, we need to test our characters in community. It is only when we live in community that we can put our best intentions into practice, and demonstrate – to…
“What does it mean, to live in a way which acknowledges our embeddedness in the world, and our relationship with everything which participates in it along with us? It begins with remembering that, when you are in a relationship with someone or something, communication goes in both directions. Try approaching the world like this: don’t just identify that bird as a robin, and listen to his complex and beautiful song – talk to the robin in return. Let him listen to and come to know your song, just as he would come to know the caw of a crow or the husky night bark of a fox. Don’t just see that this is an ash tree, and listen to the sound that is made when the wind passes through its leaves. Let the tree listen to the sound that is made when air passes over your vocal cords. Open your mouth and let the sound out. Let the tree hear your voice. Read it a poem – maybe a beautiful poem in praise of trees. Why not praise the tree? Maybe this is what that song thrush is doing, singing way up there in its heights.” – ‘The Enchanted Life’ by SharonBlackie
“Ultimately, to live an enchanted life is to pick up the pieces of our bruised and battered psyches, and to offer them the nourishment they long for. It is to be challenged, to be awakened, to be gripped and shaken to the core by the extraordinary which lies at the heart of the ordinary. Above all, to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again. This is an active choice, a leap of faith which is necessary not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of the wide, wild Earth in whose being and becoming we are so profoundly and beautifully entangled.” – The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie
Albert Einstein – (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicistwho developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science.
Einstein never claimed to be an atheist. “I am not an atheist… the problem [of God] is too vast for our limited minds”. Einstein preferred to be called agnostic, because he humbly felt his imperfect human mind could not conclusively know there is no grand designer. In an interview published in _Glimpses of the Greats_, Einstein said that “our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations”. Ultimately, Einstein rejected all dogmatic belief systems as well as dogmatic atheism.
Einstein’s religious skepticism was in line with many of his scientific contemporaries. Still, Einstein was able to find spiritual wonder in the beauty of the natural world. Perhaps Einstein’s beliefs can be summed up in this single quote: “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”
In an interview with a reporter, Einstein said, “You may say that you have never heard of or seen God before. Under those premises, how could you believe that God exists? It’s true, you have five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. However, there is a limit to your senses. For instance, humans can only hear sounds in the range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, while other animals have a wider range.”
“It also holds true with sight,” he continued. “Humans can only see objects emitting light wavelengths that are observable to the human eye. However, the light that the naked eye can see is only a limited spectrum of the many wavelengths that are included in the electromagnetic waves.”
In another interview, Einstein said: “Some people think that religion is not compatible with science. As a scientific researcher, I understand that today’s science is limited in determining whether something exists or not.”
The scientist continued by giving another example, saying, “Thousands of years ago, we could not prove the existence of the nucleus of an atom. If we had just recklessly concluded that the atomic nucleus does not exist, and then proceeded to discover it today, wouldn’t we have made a big mistake by denying its existence in the first place?”
“Therefore, science today cannot prove the existence of God, because science is not yet developed enough,” he added. “It is not because God does not exist.”
Einstein identified himself as a follower of Baruch Spinoza – a 17th-century Dutch-Jewish pantheist philosopher who saw God in every aspect of existence as well as extending beyond what we can perceive in the world. He used logic to deduce his fundamental principles, and he believed that God is indifferent to individuals.
Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind. – Albert Einstein
The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. – Albert Einstein
Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. – Albert Einstein
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science. – Albert Einstein
Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. – Albert Einstein