Christmas and Chanuka are both about birthing light in a dark time of the year.
The aboriginal people of Australia, probably the most ancient tribe on the planet, tell us that “our Dreamtime teaches us the rules for living in the environment.” Yes, our moral decisions ought to be based on what we know and believe about the cosmos.
(Insert photo) Australian Aboriginal rock art in the wandjina style, located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Wandjina are cloud and rain spirits who created the landscape and its inhabitants, and remain a potent force. Photo by Claire Taylor on Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday we discussed values learned from today’s cosmology. Further values from our cosmos follow.
- Beauty. Ernesto Cardenal says that we can argue about the reason for the universe and we can argue about the meaning of the universe but we cannot argue about the beauty of the universe. We all share beauty. Annie Dillard comments that ‘unless all ages and races have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous.”
- Community. Things live and thrive in communities. Ecosystems are communities. Chloroplasts and mitochondria produce oxygen for all living things and theirs is a cooperative relationship. Biologist Lewis Thomas observes “there is something intrinsically good-natured about all symbiotic relations necessarily, but this one, which is probably the most ancient and most firmly established of all, seem especially equable.” Things try to “get along, whenever possible,” he says. “This is the way of the world.” “A mother will sacrifice her life for her child’s, accepts all the burdens of the world to make her kids happy, accepts the hunger to feed her kids, a mother (sic) wish is to see her child’s smiles in life.”
- Sacrifice is also a reality in the real world. “All life lives off other life” observes scientist Erich Jantsch. Parents know the value and reality of sacrifice for their children whether getting up in the middle of the night to respond to a baby crying or staying with their kids when they are sick or simply making a living to pay for things. It is meaningful that the word “sacrifice” comes from two Latin words, “to make sacred.” Sacrifice under patriarchy has often meant, “you sacrifice for me.” While we have to redeem the word sacrifice from patriarchy’s distortion we ought not to throw the concept out.
Indeed, the cosmic habit of “sacrifice” in the Christian awareness might be called the “Eucharistic Law of the Universe”—a law that teaches that transformation and sacrifice, eating and being eaten, applies to divinity itself.
We eat the divine every time we eat bread or anything else; we drink the divine every time we drink wine or anything else.
The word eucharist is the Greek word for ‘Thank you.’ Sacrifice can be a response of gratitude. A gift. I say “thank you” for the orange that died for me this morning when I drank a glass of orange juice, by promising to be as succulent and round and radiant as an orange throughout the day. And this might take sacrifice also.
See Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 48-51.