‘Nature is not “sending us a message”, nor punishing us.’

Thought for the week: Daniel Clarke Flynn needs guidance

'Where do I turn for guidance?' | Photo: nito100 / iStock.com.

The global reach of the Covid-19 pandemic, unlike anything in my eighty-one years, is asking me to re-examine everything – to discern what is important and what is not. Where do I turn for guidance? Quaker faith & practice is a good place to start: ‘Our planet is seriously ill and we can feel the pain. We have been reminded of the many ways in which the future health of the earth is under threat as a result of our selfishness, ignorance and greed. Our earth needs attention, respect, love, care and prayer… In comfortable Britain we are largely insulated from the effects of the environmental crisis. It is the poor of the world who suffer first…’ (25.02).

And then: ‘And now at this critical point in time, when our outdated worldview no longer satisfies, comes this breakthrough: science and mysticism speaking with one voice, the rediscovery of our own (Christian) creation-centred and mystical tradition, and the recognition of the spiritual wisdoms of the native traditions. All uniting and all challenging in a profound way our narrowly drawn boundaries… If we can move from our “human-sized” viewpoint and look instead from the cosmic viewpoint, there is a sudden and dramatic widening of the lens through which we look. Redemption is seen to be for all creation, and our human story, far from being diminished, is incorporated in the whole drama of an emerging universe’ (29.18).

In In the Name of Identity: Violence and the need to belong Amin Maalouf, a Christian Arab born in Lebanon, wrote of the need to rise above our individual beginnings and recognise our collective humanity. And the nineteenth-century French philosopher Henri Bergson (as well as spiritual pathfinders before him such as Jesus, Hadewijch and Rumi) suggested we must go through a ‘dark night of the soul’ before discovering the Light from whence we came and to where we are called.

Aged twenty-three, George Fox wrote: ‘I cried to the Lord, saying, “Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?” And the Lord answered that it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions; and in this I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God; and I had great openings.’

It is we humans who have choice, not nature. Nature is not ‘sending us a message’ nor punishing us. It follows inexorable laws. It is us making choices without spiritual grounding that is damaging. We are, after all, four-part creatures: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We need to nurture all four in our daily practice.

Viktor Frankl would have agreed. ‘Everything can be taken’ from someone, he said, except the freedom ‘to choose one’s attitude’. May we reach beyond our beginnings and learn from others to find what matters.

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