“We’re all in this together.”
We are seeing it plastered all over our TV screens in news broadcasts and commercial advertisements day after day, hour after hour. It’s the new mantra of a divided, distressed and diseased nation in the throes of an unrelenting, pernicious plague. At its best it is a hopeful word of comfort and a rallying cry to foster cooperation and compassion for one another. At its worst it is a falsehood, a stealthy lie pandering to an illusion that we are all equally affected/infected and that we will all come together en masse as an altruistic band of brothers and sisters to support one another and vanquish our common foe.
But if we can think outside the viral Pandora’s Box in which we now find ourselves, we can discover a whole world in which we are truly all in this together. The ‘World Wide Web’ (www) has become a household term of the modern internet age. We know it as a tool enabling us to deliver and access information through integral (connected) communications lines across the world. However, we can also apply the term to planet Earth’s interconnected natural systems (ecosystems) that foster and nurture life within the planet’s biosphere (bubble of life).
When Pope Francis wrote about ‘integral ecology’ in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si- On Care for our Common Home, he was addressing the urgent need to preserve the world wide web of life where all things are inextricably woven together for the common good of our common home. He was acknowledging the biological, physical and divine reality that we are all caught up in this web of life together.
Fr. Thomas Reese, a writer for the National Catholic Reporter, concludes his 2015 article, Integral ecology: everything is connected, with this observation:
According to Pope Francis, the ethical and cultural decline which accompanies the deterioration of the environment forces us to ask fundamental questions about life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” Pope Francis calls for an integral ecology that sees the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, political, social, cultural, and ethical issues. Such an ecology requires the vision to think about comprehensive solutions to what is both an environmental and human crisis.
Fr. Reese’s article is the fourth in a series of columns on the chapters of Laudato Si’. As we approach the observance of the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, I encourage everyone to read not only this article, but also the others that give insight into each compelling chapter of the encyclical first released five years ago (links can be found at the end of Fr. Reese’s article).
In his encyclical written to the whole human family, Pope Francis envisions a common home integrally connected with the common good in a world wide web of life. It is an eco-justice epistle that presents humanity with a wholly holy picture of the abundant life that Jesus lived, died and rose again to leave as God’s legacy to all creation.
But this week, truth be said, it is difficult to imagine an abundance of life on Earth. Medical experts warn us that this week and perhaps the next will be the gravest of the pandemic. And in this long, dark, viral tunnel that envelopes this nation and others there is as of yet no sign of light. This blog post is written at the end of perhaps the ‘lentiest Lent’ that we have ever experienced. It has been a journey marked by deprivation, sacrifice, suffering and introspection unlike any other time we’ve known. This week in Christendom is Holy week, the remembrance of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and resurrection. This week in Judaism marks the beginning of Passover, a time filled with rituals, readings and conversations that recall stories of deep suffering and the ongoing, human longing for justice and freedom.
For Christians Easter/Resurrection Sunday will reveal the true Light at the end of the tunnel/tomb. Hope will spring eternal. There will be reason to hope that our lives, and all of its creature comforts and privileges, will return to normal. So, I ask that we all heed these words of insight, caution and challenge written by Jamie Manson:
“But resurrection isn’t about returning to normal, it is about transformation. How will we change after this immense suffering and death? What will we learn?… Will we grow in our awareness of and gratitude for the stability, security, abundance, health and home that we enjoy and often take for granted? Will we find new reverence for our Earth that sustains us with water, food and, yes, even toilet paper? Will we learn that hoarding doesn’t give us control, it only deprives others? Shelter-in-place orders around the world have significantly reduced carbon output. Will this inspire us to find ways to permanently change our habits to save our ailing planet?”
Or in other words, will we be transformed into a planet of people who understand that we are all in this together with the rest of the created order, a people who practice an integral ecology that preserves the world wide web of life?