Earth Day 2020: In Gratitude

Today, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and in a time of COVID-19, I am giving thanks for the body of the earth with a new sense of gratitude and deep appreciation.

As I have said before, I am finding this new world of social distancing, self-isolation, and face masks very alien and challenging to my understanding of what it means to be human.

We are, I believe, only human insofar as we are all human together. I stand with all those theologians who argue that being created in the image of God first and foremost means being created to live in relationship. And right now, we are basically engaging with others with a disposition of suspicion, as potential sources of disease and illness, rather than as friends, neighbors and fellow members of the beautiful, diverse, beloved human family.

[And, before anyone jumps all over me, I want to be clear: I do support these practices, and I understand that they are necessary. I’m not one of those who believes that we should all throw caution to the wind and resume our pre-Covid lives regardless of the consequences. But it doesn’t mean I have to like them.]

So, at this time when I am feeling deeply alienated from my brothers and sisters, I am also feeling deeply grateful that, because of where I live, I do not have to self-isolate from the beautiful, diverse, beloved body of the earth. And, thanks to Niels Gregersen and his principal of deep incarnation, when I am hiking, running, or walking, and I hear the birds, see the little fox behind our house, the deer, the groundhogs and the bunnies; when I smell the blossoming trees and the flowers, and feel the wind and the sun and even the rain on my face, I am reminded of my deep physical connections not only to this planet, but also to all the people in my life that I can no longer see and touch. We are still all physically connected through our physical world, our shared home. I take great comfort in that.

This is an Earth Day like no other, and this year, many people are celebrating the respite that the earth is experiencing from human travel, human consumption, and other forms of detrimental human engagement.  Even though I know there is some controversy around that idea, I agree that there are some environmental positives in all this–at least in the short term.

But for me, more than anything else this year, I am celebrating what I try to celebrate every day–but honestly sometimes take for granted–and that is my connection to this physical world, the creatures of this earth, and all aspects of the physical universe. Somehow, being outside with all my senses engaged reminds me that I am not alone in a way that no message on a screen could ever convey. And, right now, I am grateful beyond words that my physical connection with the earth abides–even in a pandemic–and that that connection stretches out and links me to the human bodies I am so missing these days.

My humanity is not only intimately and intricately linked to other humans, but to the whole earth as well and all its creatures. Being outside in creation affirms our shared humanity. Today, especially, that is worth celebrating.

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