Leading Us through the Desert: Finding Meaning and Importance in Natural Order

Article excerpt

Teachers of meditation sometimes counsel beginners to empty their minds by letting their thoughts rise up and float by like clouds in the sky. In the beginning of such a meditation, the many and disparate clouds seem unrelated. However, as the mind unwinds, the clouds of thoughts and the emptiness in which they float all become part of a great whole. This is what it is like ti, read Douglas E. Christie's The Blue sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology.

Christie is an academic with a background in theology and early Christian monasticism. and this book is a meandering travelogue that describes his geographic and intellectual wanderings. The work has few boundaries of time, space or topic. Like a guided meditation, this collection of memories, quotes from artists and writers, and anecdotes about historical personages moves us fluidly toward a vision of cosmic wholeness.

He argues for the establishment of a "contemplative ecology" what he describes as "an understanding of spiritual practice that places the well-being of the natural world at the center of its concerns, and an approach to ecology that understands the work of cultivating contemplative awareness as critical and necessary to its full meaning." Christie promotes an ecology that goes beyond biology economics and politics. He envisions an ecology that includes spirituality and aesthetics, one that overcomes what he calls "the corrosive dichotomies that have prevented us from seeing the world as whole." This is ecology in the grandest sense of the word, a discipline that encompasses the intricate web of physical and spiritual life on Earth in all its myriad forms and intersections.

He asserts that contemplative spirituality is important in our efforts to find meaning and importance in the natural order and to formulate a coherent response to its degradation. Perhaps this is best described in a quote he offers from noted writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry: "There are no unsacred places: there are only sacred places and desecrated places."

Who better to lead us to an attention to those sacred and desecrated places than those poets, artists, writers and ascetics endowed with a passion for seeing the beauty and brokenness of the material world? Thus, there is a particular focus on the work of those who fled into the wilderness to seek God. …