The first time I leaned over the Grand Canyon some 54 years ago, it was like plunging into the sheer immensity of time, laid out for my wonder and giddiness. After the first upheaval of the senses in front of this unfathomable depth, my gaze began to run through the multilayered rock face, each stratum a manifestation of the vast, adventurous, and creative story of our planet Earth. Each epoch engraved as petrified footprint on the canyon: the multifaceted adventure of life displayed in front of me! I could go back to the roots of this immense journey, the tree of life on earth. I could go back to our ancestors; the stars, from where everything comes forth. I could relate the branches of this tree to contemporary cyberspace, that immaterial mesh of flowing information and tech-devices that surround, contaminate, connect and expand us.
All of this reflection led me to ponder the fig tree, mentioned in Luke’s gospel. A gardener takes care of this plant and puts manure on its base to strengthen it and encourage growth and productivity. We might think of the manure as the evil of these times; but also, as the fertilizer, waste material, or compost blended with our involvement in that which is good, and our commitment to the preservation and growth of justice, peace, and equality. Throughout creation the divine and boundless Presence has continued to take care of the growing of cosmological, biological, and spiritual life; digging, nurturing, and renewing the journey of the Universe, including the lives and history of all humans.
As Daniel Berrigan points out in “Some,” it is a hard and challenging journey, a process marked by trials and errors, meanderings, accelerations and breakdowns, covenants, blossoming and collapse that define the unfurling of life. Indeed, the same failures, barrenness, adversity and pains, like decomposing manure, have created the possibility of newness, the breakthrough of evolutionary leaps: some of the greatest catastrophes in our planet’s life history have spawned the greatest creativity.
While imprisoned after his 1967 Baltimore 4 action, Dan Berrigan’s brother Philip, in his Prison Journal of a Priest Revolutionary, wrote: “When a people arbitrarily decides that this planet and its riches are to be divided unequally among equals, and that the only criterion for the division is the amount of naked power at its disposal, diplomacy tends to be essentially military, truth tends to be fiction, and the world tends to become a zoo without the benefit of cages. And war tends to be the ultimate rationality, because reason has been bankrupted of human alternatives.”
The impulse of divine action is to take care of creation that it may continue to thrive and to blossom, like a daffodil in the soil. However, the creator Spirit needs a willing gardener to challenge stasis, conventions, or status quo; to continue the journey of self-discovery; someone who can draw hope from loss and beauty from ugliness and greed.
Generation after generation the Spirit needs someone to reimagine the world, someone who hears the cry of the distressed, who transcends the wall of the already known, who crosses the Red Sea of captivity toward further spaces of freedom. For the flowing rhythm in Nature is the natural pulse in poetry, and art, the creative life. By embracing these we come to know the story of our body as Nature that is Divine Nature, the story of our Earth as the living manifestation of God’s creation.
One wonderful story told by Brian Swimme is of the power of Intuition to pull wisdom from that Matrix of the Universe. It is the story of Einstein. ‘He discerned the fundamental theory of cosmology, and thus gave birth to what are called field equations. He wrote down the equations that tell us how the universe organizes itself. And yet, he had no data about the large scale universe! That came later, after him. People asked, how did you get this information? Well, imagination, intuition, through profound reflection at the bodily level. Einstein even used the word musculature. So, in a sense, he was the universe writing its own signature through the power of intuition. ‘His act and life are exemplars of how muscle work can be the source of fertilization of the imagination/intuition, leading to an understanding of Creation, and perhaps of the Creator and the plan for the universe.’
The creator, the God of each one of us, who agrees to be the fertilizer for creation, is the burning bush of the cross, the Divine who became humble and vulnerable, that power of Love that is able to raise life from death… the one who rolls away the stone of violent inherited instincts from our hearts and the one who baptizes us in the infinite life of Christ.
Do we believe that we too are the manure/fertilizer of the good and the nurturer in the garden of God? …the Divine Kingdom? Do we believe that the greed, the political messiness and the tribal ugliness of the world are the fields in which we are the cultivators of the Creator’s divine plan? And to misquote Pope Francis: if we are truly working in these fields fostering growth, we should smell a bit like the manure.