Gaia’s Revenge?

Gaia watches from a vale of sorrow,
her life abundant used to serve and feed
visions seeded with a bright tomorrow,
but dreamt by a voracious, fertile breed.
Weakened by a population growing,
polluted by exhausted seas and land,
hostage to consumption overflowing
she struggles to survive excess demand.
Few heed the warnings of her urgent sighs,
seduced by prospects of a better life,
tho’ Eden soon may wake to plaintive cries
interweaved with apocalyptic strife.
Bushfires and pandemics scourge the nation:
Gaia’s revenge, or human creation?

James Lovelock conceived the Gaia hypothesis, named after the Greek goddess of Earth, in 1965. Through it, Lovelock popularised the idea of the whole earth as one giant self-regulating ecosystem, describing his scientific journey as a quest in search of evidence for the idea that the earth is alive. The Gaia hypothesis attracted the attention of eminent theologians such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, and seemed to cohere with New Age spirituality.

In exploring this concept I was influenced by Judith Wright’s poem ‘Australia 1970’, where the final verse reads:

I praise the scoring drought, the flying dust,
the drying creek, the furious animal,
that they oppose us still;
that we are ruined by the thing we kill.

This casts Land as a protagonist where we might be wary of, in Ruether’s words, ‘”Mother Earth” rising up like a chthonic Jehovah to topple human empires and return earth to pre-civilised simplicity … a justified revenge of “nature” against “civilisation”’.

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Chris Dalton is a retired public affairs analyst, with a passion for public theology, particularly with regard to the environment. Author of Reimagining Land in Australia: From Terra Nullius to Beloved Companion, he finds poetry a rewarding way to explore ‘wicked’ problems. He lives on Bunurong/Boonwurrung and Yuin Lands.

Sophia’s Lament

Sophia. The true unity in the true trinity, from Scivias by Hildegard von Bingen according to the Ruppertsberger Codex (around 1180) - 2
Hildegard von Bingen, Three Persons (detail), c. 1152. Published in Sara Salvadori, Hildegard von Bingen: A Journey into the Images (Milano: Skira, 2019), 26.

Are you so blind
as not to see
the outcomes of
a reckless, grasping
lust for more?

Are you so deaf
as not to hear
the cries of woe
from nature’s victims
of relentless greed?

Are you so dumb
as not to speak
the prescient words
that bigger barns
will fail to satisfy?

Yet once you ate
Wisdom’s fruit
to help discern
how you should live
in Eden’s paradise.

Gaia now waits,
brooding her revenge,
mourning barren lands,
exhausted mines
sucked dry by you.

Release your soul
and question why
you toil in pain,
addicted to gorging
nature’s bounteous crop.

Hide not from God,
come to me …
see gifts of love
gracefully clothe
the body of Shalom.

Hovering above chaos
with creative light,
fuelled by goodness,
overcome by none,
I’m dancing my lament.

Inspired by Genesis 1.1–5, Genesis 3, Luke 12.13–21, John 1.1–5, and Romans 8:22.

The wisdom proverb See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil tells of those who, like the three monkeys, turn aside when confronted by evil.

What St John says about ‘the Word of God’ was said about Sophia in the Jewish tradition.  Like the Word, Lady Wisdom was present with God before Creation. Just as the Word was with God and was God, so Sophia was. And when John writes that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus, he could just as well have said that Sophia became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus, the Wisdom of God incarnate. Sophia now hovers over the chaos of bushfires and pandemics.

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Chris Dalton is a retired public affairs analyst, with a passion for public theology, particularly with regard to the environment. Author of Reimagining Land in Australia: From Terra Nullius to Beloved Companion, he finds poetry a rewarding way to explore ‘wicked’ problems. He lives on Bunurong/Boonwurrung and Yuin Lands.

Out of Good Friday, Easter

Threat of fire looming,
adrenalin flowing,
fear rising,
towering clouds of smoke enveloping,
fight or flight decisions.

Picture1

Then, late one night,
roaring in the darkness,
fire hit, walls of flame descending,
people fearful for their very lives,
red tongues devouring flora, fauna, property.

Picture2

Locals, soon to be heroes,
fighting rearguard actions
in extreme conditions.

03 P2281852 'Thank You', W Tree, Feb 28, '20.JPG

Then, dwelling in the aftermath,
immersed in devastation, destruction, death,
homes, memories, livelihoods shattered:

04 P1250743 Family Home Destroyed.JPG

smoke choking, colour gone,
blackness,
ashes on the ground,
falling from the skies,
washed up on beaches,
eerie silence enveloping.
Adrenalin, still coursing through,
energising, exhausting bodies.

05 P1150513 Smoky Landscape, Sarsfield, Jan 15, '20.JPG

As people meet,
‘It’s so good to see you!’
passionate, heartfelt embracing of one another …

06 PC052003 Embrace.JPG

Wondering,
living with, fighting,
a myriad of feelings.
Questions arise.
Difficult questions.
Demanding questions.
Unanswerable questions.

07 Sun through Smoke Apr 21, '09 010.jpg

How do I go on living?
How do we recover?
When there seems no road ahead,
which way to turn?
Where is God in this?

There is a thin line between fear and faith,
between anxiety and trust.

People come,
people speak,
handshakes offered,
not always reciprocated.
Promises made.
Will they be fulfilled?
Will there be listening?
Will ways forward be found?
Recovery, healing?

09 P2261691 Death & Life, Gelantipy, Feb 26, '20.JPG

Activity all round,
sites cleared,
destruction cleared,
roads cleared,
hearts racing,
minds cluttered, chaotic.

10 P2171382 Clearing Princes Highway.JPG

A barbeque is held
people gather.
Sausages cooked, devoured;
and a glass or two
amid much conversation,
the sharing of stories.
Community re-formed, strengthened.
(There will be countless sausage sizzles
in the weeks and months ahead.)

11 BBQ Labertouche Apr 9, '09 017.jpg

At the Relief Centre,
tears are shed,
relief etched on faces
as there is listening
to stories told:
as compassion is shared.
Are such interactions
meetings on holy ground?

12 Meeting on Holy Ground Apr 9, '09 024.jpg

One man,
overwhelmed by his holocaust of fire,
the devastation, and enormity of recovery,
is immobilised.
‘There is too much to do.
I don’t know where to start’.
Another, after listening with intent, suggested
‘Choose one thing,
Focus on it …
When that is done,
Choose one more’.

Some time later,
they met again,
on site.
The One
expressed his gratitude,
‘The small steps approach is working’.
The Another
could see it in the work achieved
and in the countenance before him:
transformed.
Was the God in One
meeting the God in Another?
Was the God in Another
meeting the God in One?

After the fires, rain came,
rain fell, over 100 mils of it,
saturating the soil.
Days later,
the earth gave forth its produce,
as shoots of grass emerged.

13 P1240589 Life returns after rain, Sarsfield, Jan 24, '20 large.JPG

Green grass …
To blackened environments,
the colour, returning,
transfigured the land
as well as many singed hearts and minds.
Spirits lifted.
Was this resurrection?

14 P2171301 Is this resurrection.JPG

In one rural area,
as two people spoke,
a woman, suddenly distracted,
averted her eyes
as she looked beyond her companion,
crying tears of joy and relief:
‘Eric! He’s alive!
He’s come back!
We thought he was dead’.

There,
scampering across the paddock,
was Eric, the echidna.
‘We thought he was dead’.

15 P1220525 Eric, Windsor Drive Echidna.JPG

‘My dams have been empty for three years.
Look now!
They’re overflowing!
What a sight for sore eyes!’

16 P1230570 130ml rain fills the dam, Sarsfield, Jan 23, '20.JPG

After days of deathly silence,
birds returning:
kookaburra, magpie,
black cockatoo, rainbow lorikeet,
their songs ringing through the air:
a joy-filled cachophany of sound.
What a chorus!
What colour!
What life!

17 P2130940 Rainbow Lorikeet.JPG

And, out of the desolation,
the beginnings of new life,
greens, reds, blues, browns,
many colours,
the exuberance of nature’s recovery,
– what naturalists call epicormic growth –
breaking through blackness:
emerging from the trunks of trees.
Easter rising from Creation’s Good Friday.

Could it be that, like nature,
out of our struggles and traumas,
new life emerges in we humans?
Could it be that God’s presence
is in literally every thing and every one?
… the Divine Presence in us and in all creation?
… the source of our hope?
Could it be …?

20 P2271805 Regrowth, Buchan Ridge, Feb 27, '20.JPG

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Alan Mathews is a retired Uniting Church minister with a passion for photography and discovering life in everyday moments. In these days of social isolation, he enjoys playing with words and images; and with the ‘doors’ they open. He lives, works, and plays on Boonwurrung land.

Collects in a Time of Virus – V

God of the harried,
Help us in the tension of these days,
for we are crushed by too many tasks,
nervous of new skills and tools in the too-much of this moment.
May we give heed without collapse,
restore our trust in longer spans of time – beyond the urgency of now.

 

Collect by Julie Perrin, published with permission.

Photograph by Ian Ferguson, published with permission.

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JULIE PERRIN IS A MELBOURNE WRITER, ORAL STORYTELLER, AND ASSOCIATE TEACHER AT PILGRIM THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF DIVINITY. SHE KEEPS A WEBSITE, AND HER MOST RECENT BOOK IS TENDER. SHE LIVES AND WORKS ON WURUNDJERI LAND.
IAN FERGUSON IS MINISTER OF THE WORD AT BRUNSWICK UNITING CHURCH. HE TOO LIVES AND WORKS ON WURUNDJERI LAND.

Collects in a Time of Virus – IV

Holy One who fears no fracture,
Lend your clarity to us for we are full of fear.
Already the abyss appears
Cracks in the earth, shifts in the ground we took for granted,
Now there is rupture
We do not trust our capacity to live.
That which is holy, divine, beyond us
frightens and allures us.
Call us to the mystery of the holy.

God of the despondent,
Who sees our tiredness at futile effort
Who knows that fear breeds phantoms,
help us we pray.
We are weary, and everywhere we turn
another impediment rises.
Our shoulders sag, the breath goes out of us.
In this stripped-back bareness, give us breath,
May we delight in our humanity, meet holiness anew.

Collects by Julie Perrin, published with permission.

Photographs by Ian Ferguson, published with permission.

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JULIE PERRIN IS A MELBOURNE WRITER, ORAL STORYTELLER, AND ASSOCIATE TEACHER AT PILGRIM THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF DIVINITY. SHE KEEPS A WEBSITE, AND HER MOST RECENT BOOK IS TENDER. SHE LIVES AND WORKS ON WURUNDJERI LAND.
IAN FERGUSON IS MINISTER OF THE WORD AT BRUNSWICK UNITING CHURCH. HE TOO LIVES AND WORKS ON WURUNDJERI LAND.