What is Earth asking of the Order? When, and how, will we reach the tipping point?

By Margaret Galiardi, OP (Amityville)

If you are a regular reader of DomLife, you are well aware that since September a series of articles, entitled “What is Earth asking of the Order,” has been appearing in each issue. They have been written by a cross section of people. Each article has been better than the last. As I write these words, I wonder what is left to be said.

Shall I report on the most recent United Nations climate talks held in Poland, which according to the New York Times achieved “modest steps toward a global climate accord in 2015?” Or perhaps I should direct you to Billmoyers.com to view a recent, rare, and moving television interview as Bill talks to visionary, author, and farmer Wendell Berry to discuss a sensible, but no-compromise plan to save the Earth. Then again, a summary of the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Climate Change, accompanied by a review of statements by the world’s religious leaders encouraging action to mitigate global climate change, might prove helpful.

As I ponder the above, it seems that, perhaps very much like previous authors, I am looking for that combination of information, insights, action, and in Wendell Berry’s case, poetry, that will create a tipping point for you the reader. It is widely known that a tipping point is simply an addition or increment that in itself might not seem extraordinary, but that unexpectedly, is just the amount of additional change that will lead to a big effect. In the butterfly effect of chaos theory, for example, it is the small flap of the butterfly’s wings that in time leads to unexpected and unpredictable results that could be considered a tipping point.

What if the tipping point, however, were no longer to be found merely in information, insights, action and even poetry? We do know after all, that global climate change has been called by many the most serious moral issue of our day. We do understand that though scientists are slow to link any particular storm to climate change, the typhoon which visited the Philippine Islands is part of a pattern of more severe storms, draught, and flooding associated with climate change. As we ponder the overall plight of the planet, we do hear Wendell Berry’s poetic verse ringing in our ears:

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

None of the above, however, seems to have led to that big effect which would have us—as a global community, to say nothing of an Order—totally transformed in responding to what it is Earth is asking of all of us. The tipping point seems to be no longer found merely in information, insights, action and even poetry.

What if the tipping point is to be found also in silence? What if Earth is asking us—as its consciousness—to take all that has been written in these columns and so many other places, all that we know from additional sources, and be in silence with it all? What if Earth is asking us—as its consciousness—to, first of all, hold its suffering in silence? What if Earth is asking us—as its consciousness—to then transform in silence, the greed, ignorance and violence which has caused such wanton destruction of our Earth Mother with the love which has been planted in our hearts by Christ Jesus? What if something of the tipping point is to be found in this silence? What if Earth is asking the Order—as its collective consciousness—to allow the Word to be once again birthed from silence?

“When all things were wrapt in a profound silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, Your almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from your Throne in Heaven.” (Christmas Liturgy).

At a recent conference in Cleveland entitled “Envisioning the Future with a Contemplative Heart,” Episcopal priest and hermit Cynthia Bourgeault conjectured that it was in just such silence that Jesus fashioned his response to the money changers in the temple. What if Earth is asking the Order—as its collective consciousness—to fashion regional, national and even international collective responses to global climate spinning out of control fashioned from/in the above silence?

Far from being an escape from, or an evasion of action, the silence would be the matrix from which we, grounded in the Divine energy embraced in the silence, might respond boldly and creatively to the cries of people and planet with a timing, precision and energy which would be impeccable, if not always victorious. What if this is what Earth is asking of the Order? What if this is what “Contemplate Aliis Tradere” looks like in the second decade of the 21st century?