Today’s View: rainy autumn, art and ecology 

It’s a chilly, rainy autumn day here in Melbourne, Australia. My coffee machine is off for repairs but after a difficult week struggling with my caffeine addiction, The Husband’s timely purchase of a coffee plunger will ensure that I don’t go on some caffeine-withdrawal rampage through the suburbs. Having said that, so many Melbournians are addicted to coffee that if I *did* go on a coffee withdrawal rampage, most people could sympathise. (I have no idea what form such a rampage would take. Just generally strolling around with headaches and the jitters, I guess.) The coffee machine guy said most machines take about 10-14 days to assess, order parts and then repair; most of his customers only get a few days in before they’re on the phone begging him to hurry up. … And yes, as much as we laughed at this, within a few days we had called up asking about the repair status of our machine.

I’m enjoying a quiet Monday at home, with the cats and my art gear. My one-year-old champagne ginger cat Odin briefly attempted to eat a paint brush but, having accepted that art is inedible, he stormed out of the room for a nap. This morning I listened to some Fr Thomas Keating videos on contemplation and unity between people and religions while tidying up. I then used a fantastic summary of St Ignatius’s examen prayer by Fr Timothy Gallagher to guide my daily prayer. After a year of spiritual desolation, if I can call it that, it’s like rain on a parched desert to find some very practical ways of communing with God and nature.

I have watched and listened to a lot of interesting faith, spirituality and Christianity videos in the last couple of months. I took a wonderful break from most forms of social media, only (reluctantly and somewhat begrudgingly) returning after peer pressure affected me enough to give in and deactivate my Facebook. Peer pressure can apparently still be a problem in one’s 30s unless it’s actively resisted. It’s nice to be missed (on social media, and, funnily enough, from the people who I actually saw in real life most frequently – that’s real friendship!).

However, upon my return, I had to admit that while it was nice to be back in touch with the outside world, I did not really miss the continual newsfeed of belligerent, offended and variously outraged people offering angry opinions on everything from rude customer service at a rural sandwich shop to outrage at the disgusting infiltration of overtly sexualised clothing for young children, anger at the unemployed followed by posts of anger at those with no sympathy for the poor (from different people!), rage at other Christians and other religions for being the real problem with the world, virulent anger from both sides of the vaccination debate, the vegans versus paleo crowds, not to mention the spectacularly polarised views regarding the current Australian government.  I wholeheartedly agree that these are concerning problems that ought to be discussed, and in all of those cases I even have strong personal opinions; but it’s quite confronting after months away to land back in the middle of the huge emotional leaps from one kind of anger to the next. I sort of wonder when facebook, et al, are often characterised or stereotyped as being sites of self promotion, perfectionism and a place to curate one’s own positive public image; whoever theorised that needs to look at my feed.

I find myself craving some good news, but the best available seems to be those reshared captioned photographs that have what seems, at first glance, to be a motivational or inspirational statement, but often hints at shades of significant dysfunction or codependency. I found that discussing these things in person, face-to-face, in a spirit of shared dialogue, was far more positive than any dualistic, dichotomised social media debate. I was able to arrange follow-up chats with people, over coffee (of course!) and even shift my own views in response to the greater understanding offered by my friends. “Iron sharpens iron,” as one friend regularly reminds me!

So, on the theme of sharing positive things online, I will try to compile some of the spiritual videos that most moved me and share them on this blog. A lot of them circle around themes of contemplative prayer, peace, Christian mysticism, Celtic influenced spirituality, and ecology. I love it when spiritual people can draw together principles of God’s love, peace and the significance of environmental justice and animal welfare. I recall that while the church of my childhood was generally quite open to ecological concerns, it has been some time since I heard Christian leaders concerned about climate change. It’s very easy to ignore the environment when you’re convinced that Jesus is coming back any moment now. (My own theological perspective on this is nowhere near as strong and assured as that of my Pentecostal friends!) Yet, if I liken that belief to my relationship with my landlords, when I know they’re coming over to see the house I work very hard to present it well-tended and clean. How much more would the God of all creation expect Earth, his world – not to mention our home and sustainer of our physical wellbeing – to be in a good state when he visits? Though I admit the analogy is imperfect because I don’t think Jesus is likely to fix the broken window latch anytime soon. And I don’t know where I stand on eschatology.

My education in Environmental Sociology meant that I had to study the science and politics surrounding climate change to a significant depth. Yet, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, climate change skepticism was alive and flourishing in our church (still is, I think – I try to avoid the topic because I don’t enjoy the oddly emotionally heightened conversations that arose, as if our faith rides on whether or not humans have altered the health of the atmosphere). I would have well-meaning individuals tell me that while it was all well and good for me to pursue a secular education in environmentalism, “of course you don’t actually believe in climate change.” To which I’d have to respond with a “well, actually…” It always sounds so pretentious to start a sentence with “Well, actually.” I try to not use that phrase! It is a genuine joy and relief for me to be reminded that many sincere Christians are motivated by their love for God’s green Earth to work towards the healing of the environment as a form of peace, nonviolence and social justice.

Edit: some typographical errors were corrected and paragraph divisions reinserted. I clarified the meaning of some sentences. Perhaps the moral of this story is not just to proofread, but to type this on a computer. I wrote the original on my phone. Let’s blame the phone. 

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