Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Papal Cynicism

On October 20, Pope Benedict XVI approved a plan wherein the Pope will issue an apostolic constitution, a form of papal decree, that will lead to the creation of "personal ordinariates" for Anglicans who convert to Rome.

John Hooper of the UK Guardian reports:
More than half a million Anglicans are set to join the Roman Catholic church following an announcement from the Vatican today that Pope Benedict XVI had approved a decree setting up a new worldwide institution to receive them.
Gledhill and Owen in the Australian note the obvious in mentioning the simmering accusation against Rome for "poaching":
Anglicans privately accused Rome of poaching and attacked Dr Williams for capitulating to the Vatican. Some called for his resignation. Although there was little he could have done to forestall the move, many were dismayed at his joint statement with the Archbishop of Westminster in which they spoke of Anglicans "willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church".
A fine and necessary read on the matter comes from Oliver Lough deriving his analysis and commentary from a gaze at history's best known Anglican to Catholic convert, the great churchman and theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Lough opens his reflections pointedly:
The depth of cynicism behind the Vatican's invitation last month to right-wing Episcopalians "to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony" is best understood through one of Rome's most high-profile converts, a certain John Henry Newman.
And goes on to bring back before the modern reader many of the qualities that make Newman an exciting and enduring figure in Western history:
It would be easy enough to assume that the smells, bells, and reassuringly rigid doctrine of the Catholic Church eventually provided too much of a temptation for the intellectually fraught Newman to resist.

As it happened, the spark of his conversion came from a quite different direction. Poring over an obscure 5th century religious text in 1839, he came to the conclusion, despite himself, that the Episcopalian faith was founded on a series of misconceptions that precluded its ever being a "true" church.

What followed was described by Newman as a "great revolution of mind, which led me to leave my own home, to which I was bound by so many strong and tender ties."

His final conversion was some six years in the making, and came at a time when even the merest hint of "popishness" was still anathema in Britain. As one historian puts it, "to enter the Roman Church was literally to exile oneself from English life."

Newman's slow and painful transformation was an act of spiritual and intellectual bravery so profound that it eventually helped kick-start the gradual rehabilitation of Catholicism into conventional society. It involved not just abandoning much of what he had stood for, but immersing himself in a new and alien creed.

Read the entire commentary here

It may well be that such matters arouse in most the feeling of a dusty and complicated past. I recommend though that no social evolution should bring us to the point when major world leaders should be allowed to act without account, and when courage, integrity, and rigorous devotion of mind become a matter of disinterest.
This paper was created by commission to be presented at the:
The Fifth Global Forum on Human Settlements
Water and Human Settlements in the 21st Century
November 8 – 9, 2009,
Wuxi, China

Unseen Causes in Danger to Water, Untapped Resources for the Protection of Water
November, 2009

Many may think, “Ah Wuxi, a perfect place for such a conference, because China is a place with severe water resource shortage, and the Chinese government attaches such high attention to the water environmental improvement, that it has made sustainable development a basic state policy.”

But Wuxi is perfect for a different reason.

It is perfect because China is the homeland of “the Old Boy,” the revered and beloved world saint Lao Tzu. Here are his observations:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle...
Fluid as melting ice...
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

From among all saints and seers, perhaps Lao Tzu above all others most fully intuited the eternal and the divine in water.

Importantly in the wisdom of Lao Tzu is that in his few and fleeting words he captures both sides of the truth of water, the nature of the water without, and its mirror in the water within. The great German, Romantic philosopher Novalis said, “Our bodies are molded rivers.”

Al Gore in Earth in the Balance said the same thing (but please do not tell Mr. Gore that Lao Tzu already knew it 2700 years ago, Mr. Gore thinks he discovered it), He said:

Human beings are made up mostly of water, in roughly the same percentage as water is to the surface of the earth. Our tissues and membranes, our brains and hearts, our sweat and tears--all reflect the same recipe for life, in which efficient use is made of those ingredients available on the surface of the earth.

What I would like us to do in the few moments I have to present my thoughts is open ourselves and seek for starting points in the magic and the divine in our quest for a healthy and happy world, and a cure for the global water crisis.

I believe the frame of mind and the way of being that can guide our path toward good outcomes and the rescue of our planet lies in the secret voice in water itself. Loren Eiseley, the great natural science writer and recipient of 36 honorary degrees said, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” (Loran Eisley, The Immense Journey, 1957)

But perhaps the one voice that captures most perfectly what I want for us today is that of D.H. Lawrence, from his 1929 poetry collection Pansies (a play on the French word Pensees). He says, “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water, and nobody knows what that is.” (D.H. Lawrence, Pansies, 1929)

It is vital that we ponder, remember, and honor that third thing, for if we do, and when we do, we lose our indifference, we could no more hurt water than a loved one, and we could no more ignore the thirst, the deaths, and the suffering of the billion, and the little ones, than we could ignore falling into the grip of thirst ourselves.

Certainly the water crisis is a problem for science. And yes it is a problem for policy makers, city planners, and valiant warriors for the rights of the oppressed. But it's deepest face of horror lies within each one of us, it lies in whatever allows me to walk peacefully through life while 3 million water related deaths each year take the lives children under 14.

It is this frightening indifference in us that must be addressed if we have any hope to effectively engage the current and growing global water crisis conversation.

Wherein lies my blindness, my dullness? What is missing in my life, that allows my sense to be so dull? What am I not seeing, not feeling? For each of us is just a single step different from the factory polluting CEO. I lie to myself if I think otherwise.

If we find that we are aware, alert, and invested in rescuing our planet, our brothers and sisters, and the little ones, we can only be thankful for the unknown and unseen that allows us to be awake with a passion and devotion to the grand and pressing a cause.

The secret to saving water is contained in water itself. It cries out to us – water to water. The dew drop and the rapids try with beauty and power to speak to its own self within us. It knows already the path to its rescue. Chuang Tzu (c.360 BC - c. 275 BC) says, “The sound of water says what I think.”

It is us. We are it. It lives, we live. It dies, we die. The holy Qu'ran says, “By means of water, we give life to everything.” (Qu'ran, 21:30).

Water itself contains the secrets, and reveals to us the way to its own rescue. The first of these secrets was recognized by by Lao Tzu when he points out:
The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.
It is humility, and the contentedness with low places, together with the interior nature to live for the benefit of others that is required at this time to reverse the horrible trends that threaten our fragile environment. The spread of these virtues bode the rescue of water.

Environmental science is vital, it is needed, but the best of it cannot contend with a disordered race whose inner nature wars with our very aqua vita within. It is not the lack of environmental science that has defiled earth's magic, it is an avarice against which Lao Tzu quietly and gently warned, a lack of contentedness with the “low places,” the lack of a natural impulse to live for the benefit of others and not contend with them.

The second secret (also already mentioned) comes from the great thinker and poet D.H. Lawrence, “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water, and nobody knows what that is.” When I read these words of Lawrence and pause to release the voice of water in me, I think of a couple in love, I think of my own wife and me. A marriage is H2O one part me, and one part the woman I love, but there is a third thing that made us a couple, and nobody knows what that is.

The mystery, beauty, and life giving power of water is the secret of love. Of how two become one to become an ever giving and ever sustaing source of new life.

Humility, contentedness with the low places animated by living for the benefit of all, and the bond of love, care, and respect for the other are the secrets of water that can awaken us to turn back from our careless, violent, and polluting era.

I am 71% water, and so are you. Maybe we have a chance.