The greatest love story

Grace to you

The Bible is a love story. A love story about the Great Lover of the Universe who is in love with every particle of life. A love story about those who carry the potential to love just as the Great Lover of the Universe loves, yet who sadly settle for substitutes that promise nourishment but leave us more hungry. A love story about the radical interconnection of all that is alive, reminding us that if one part suffers, then all parts will eventually suffer. Sadly this love story has been interpreted by some throughout the ages in ways that lead to the diminishment, destruction and death of Life, rather than the Great Lover’s hope of this story guiding us all to an abundance of Life in all its fullness.

Instead of affirming the sacredness of all of life, the Bible has been interpreted by some to proclaim the superiority of some aspects of life over others. Think of how some have turned to the scriptures to support the supremacy of “their group” over another: White people superior to black people. Men superior to women. Colonial nations superior to invaded nations. Straight people superior to LGBTI people. Healthy people are superior to people who are ill. Christians superior to people of other religions or no religion. The list could go on! In each case scripture is used to validate discrimination and bless the lie that some are superior and others are inferior, normally for the sake of securing unjust privilege and power.

In each of these cases the struggle for justice and equality (which is how love is incarnated in a society) is made all the more difficult to attain because the perpetrators or beneficiaries of the discrimination believe they are being obedient to God and therefore acting righteously rather than sinfully. History has shown that eventually the Christian Church is called to humble itself in confession and declare: “we were wrong when we thought we were right”.

Another such interpretation of Scripture that may well be the most sinful (read: deathly) of all interpretations is that humanity is superior to all other creatures and life forms. This interpretation has served to validate humanities exploitation of all life on the planet. Calling what is selfish greed a divine blessing. It has promoted the lie that we are independent from the rest of life on the planet. This interpretation has also blinded humanity from the gruesome truth that we are the most destructive animal that has ever existed on the planet and that if we ceased to exist tomorrow, all of life would flourish as a result thereafter.

In this light I refer you to an article that hopefully will humble our opinion of ourselves as a species:

“The bees have been declared the most important living beings on this planet, the Earthwatch Institute concluded in the last meeting of the Royal Geographical Society of London. However, according to wildlife experts and scientists, the bees have joined the endangered species long list.

The recent studies show a dramatic decline of the bees’ number as almost 90 percent of the bee population has disappeared in the last few years. The uncontrolled use of pesticides, deforestation or lack of flowers are the main reasons for their extinction.

However, why would such a little being be named the most important creature on Earth? Well, the answer is actually more simple than you ever thought. Seventy percent of the world’s agriculture depends exclusively on bees. Needless to mention the pollination is the bees’ job, although the plants would not be able to reproduce, therefore the fauna would have been gone in a very short time. More than that, a study … concluded that the bees are the only living being who does not carry any type of pathogen.

After all, Albert Einstein’s say about bees has never been truer. “If the bees disappear, humans would have 4 years to live,” the famous physicist said.

Since the bees’ importance is crucial in our planet’s ecosystems and they’ve also been declared an endangered species, we really need to be as careful as possible on the matter. And we need to act quickly as we still have some solutions.”
The Science Times July 2019, by Chardynne Joy H. Concio

Grace,
Alan

 

What gardening has taught me…

My gardening and spiritual journeys are closely intertwined.

Starting out as a student of Horticulture at the then Natal Technikon, my training and approach to a garden was very traditional and Eurocentric. You made compost in a certain way, you propagated plants in a certain way and the approach to laying out a garden was seasonal, in that flower beds were planted out with annual colour in Spring and Autumn.

My approach to Church was similar in many ways. I made an effort to attend Church most Sundays and felt guilty if I did not. The reading of my Bible was done just before I went to bed and early Morning Prayer ensured that I faced the day armed with the knowledge that God was on my side.

My gardening and my spiritual lives were rule-based and rigid. I ignored and hid my own truths and instincts.

During my military training in the late 80’s, I read a book by the conservationist Ian Player. His writing opened my eyes to the beauty and importance of our indigenous plant material as well as the value of Zulu culture. Up and until that point the garden was a place within a boundary wall that was mine to own, to control and to show off, while the bush or veld was on the outside of that boundary fence.

I then became evangelical about our indigenous plant material, to the point that everything local was good and that all exotic plant material needed to be removed and replaced with indigenous trees and shrubs. At the same time I stopped going to Church as I started to struggle with my own personal truths. On a spiritual level I felt as if I was moving away from God, who in my head remained very much part of the physical church structure. 

It was a period of starting to come to terms with my truths, both as a gardener on the Southern tip of Africa, as well as who I was as a man. I also learned that once you start embracing your truths, new doors open and new challenges are sent your way.

I then discovered the joy of food gardening, and that the organic approach of not using any synthetically produced chemicals or fertilisers, was the right way to garden.

When you start to grow food, you start to share it. You share seeds and young plants and learn about different and alternate ways of doing things. Working with other gardeners from different faiths, cultures and parts of the world, helped me to start seeing that they were no different from me. This also meant that I visited Mosques, Shuls and Hindu shrines (who have the best gardens); and I recognised the incredible simplicity and beauty of the gatherings of the Zion Church worshippers, on a beach in Durban or in the open veld around Johannesburg.

It taught me the importance and divinity of diversity, both in the garden and in my spiritual life.

Gardening for me now is less about the outcome or show, but rather about the act of actually gardening and sometimes just observing the simple truths that Mother Nature presents to me. The wildness has leapt over the boundary fence and invaded my garden and the way I garden.

So too with my spiritual life and my journey with God. I am more at ease with my own individuality and the individuality of others and the truths that they represent.

Gardening taught me that.

Sincerely,
Athol