In these opening years of the twenty-first century, as the human community experiences a rather difficult situation in its relation with the natural world, we might reflect that a fourfold wisdom is available to guide us into the future: the wisdom of indigenous peoples, the wisdom of women, the wisdom of the classical traditions and the wisdom of science. We need to consider these wisdom traditions in terms of… their common support for the emerging age when humans will be a mutually enhancing presence on the Earth.
-- Thomas Berry
Last Sunday, a major event unfolded in our nation's capitol. The largest climate rally in US history took place in cold winter winds, in the shadow of the Washington Monument. An estimated forty to fifty thousand people gathered together to speak out against the Keystone XL pipeline, against fracking, and against business-as-usual energy policies that heat up Earth's atmosphere and continue to threaten the long-term viability of the planet.
In addition to the strong opposition to further extraction and use of fossil fuels, there was a conspicuous feeling of unity. Represented at the rally were a diversity of peoples and perspectives. From the stage, we heard the voices of a remarkable assembly of First Nations and Native American leaders, women, people of faith, people of color, scientists and activists. All of them are confronting on a daily basis the direct effects of serious climate change and dirty energy in their communities.
Though the tone of urgency was palpable, so too was the sense of hope that this event was part of an awakening of a deep common wisdom. Thomas Berry wrote that humanity would need to call upon a “four-fold wisdom” to develop a mutually-enhancing relationship with Earth. This four-fold wisdom — the wisdom of the feminine, of indigenous people, of classical religions, and of modern science — were on display in full and glorious force at the rally.
At this point in human history, we face urgent choices and complex problems. And everywhere, ordinary people are responding. Something is stirring that is unprecedented, and we are gathering as never before. Idle No More's defense of First Nations rights in Canada, or 350.Org's movement to divest college monies from fossil fuel corporations, or the many people who are blocking the path of the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline are but three examples just on this continent.
This rising of an uncommon wisdom is everywhere across the planet. As we work to reverse the drift toward global warming, we will draw from our deepest reserves of inner wisdom to inform our actions. As Berry wrote, “We need all of the traditions. Each has its…own special contribution toward an integral wisdom tradition that seems to be taking shape in the emerging twenty-first century.”
We might observe here that the Great Work of a people is the work of all the people. No one is exempt. Each of us has our individual life patterns and responsibilities. Yet beyond these concerns, each person in and through their personal work assists in the Great Work. The Great Work now… is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.
-- Thomas Berry
All quotes are taken from Berry's book The Great Work: Our Way into the Future