A Message from Our Home

With apologies to the author of Job 38:4-30

When your species talks about history, your timeline is too short. Not unimportant but truncated. You’re too focused on yourselves. I need for you to change your timeline and how you see.

You and I come from the same Source. Some 14 billion years ago, time and space, matter and antimatter, and energies beyond your powers of imagination exploded and expanded. The “stuff” of you and me began then and there.

When some of the materials cooled into stars and planets, I was formed. Several billion years before you evolved, I was formed.

No, I did not generate my own life, but I was made to generate life; and I have done so repeatedly, abundantly, with tremendous diversity.

From me, and from all the beings that preceded you on sea and land, you were formed. I am your mother, the ground from which you draw food and water and air. I am your home from which you dig and cut and manufacture materials for your shelters.

I am also your grave. And, by means of decomposers that are as necessary to ongoing life as are clean air and pure water, I will compost you.

I have swallowed every past civilization into my ground, my jungles, my forests, my swamps, and my rivers, lakes, and oceans. And I will continue to do so.

Do you have any clue how many billions and billions of times life has come from me? I’ve not only survived five catastrophes, such as an asteroid strike, that caused up to 90 percent of surface and ocean life to die. I’ve come back to generate more and different. I am a master of adapting.

In your histories, you think of yourselves as all-important, the keystone species, as if everything on and in me was created for you. I need for you to think again.

You may damage me by choking every waterway with islands of plastic you’ve foolishly created and stupidly dumped everywhere. You may fracture layers and layers of my crust, draw out your non-human ancestors’ remains to power your lives—at a rate that degrades my best habitats for your species. You may detonate nuclear weapons and cause the end of your own habitat. But I will live on.

It may take hundreds of millions of years in the next cycle of life, but new life will succeed you. New species will be replace you. Remember, my timeline has mostly preceded you. It is likely also to succeed you.

You cannot conquer me. I am not here for that and neither are you.

Look at my history and see cycles rather than “progress.” What in my life moves in a straight line? I revolve. I circle a star. I tilt toward the sun and away. For me there are seasons, one succeeding another in cycles. My oceans rise and fall. Ice caps melt and grow. I have seen species come and go. I’ve seen your civilizations come and go.

You think building taller buildings and bigger cities is progress. Yes, they mean you’ve tapped into different resources, drawn from me, than the mound builders of the middle Americas or Mayans who built great structures without metal tools. Different resources but not necessarily better resources. And your ancient ancestors (ancient by your standards, not by mine) did not leave me worse off for subsequent generations, as you have. Progress is a matter of perspective.

Your ancestors were much smarter and more complex than you think. And they are gone, just as you will be some day.

I am yours to use and enjoy. I am not yours to own. I am not yours to conquer. I am not yours to do as you wish. I am not your garbage dump.

You are a part of me. Look at your brain cells, your blood vessels. Compare these with the veins of tree leaves, the patterns of a cluster of grapes, and the chains of microorganisms, roots, and fungi underground. Connections, connections, connection. One part reaching out to connect with another. We are all connected, built on the same patterns.

Have you looked into space to see what a rare jewel I am? There are others like me in the universe, but we are, in cosmic terms, scattered.

Please, change your timeline, see differently, alter your behavior, and don’t blow the extraordinary gift of life.

Gary Peluso-Verdend is president emeritus at Phillips Theological Seminary and is the executive director of the seminary’s Center for Religion in Public Life. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author. Learn more about the Center’s work here and about Gary here.

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