Mary Eveyln Tucker Speaks on Religion and Ecology, NY
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Mary Eveyln Tucker Speaks on Religion and Ecology, NY


So this “Journey of the Universe” project
began quite a few years ago really with Thomas Berry, our teacher, who in 1978 published
a small little pamphlet called “The New Story.” And the idea was that we all are moved by
story and that we act out of stories, whether from our family stories, our genealogy stories,
sometimes our national stories, our ethnic stories, our biblical stories, our Koranic stories. But he said we have at the present moment
two different stories that are confronting us as people and as a nation for sure. And that is we have stories from the world’s
religions. Many of us come out of a western religion
therefore Genesis influences Judaism, Christianity and Islam and the Genesis story of creation
affects people coming from that view but he was also saying that we also have a scientific
story. We have the story of the unfolding and emergence
of universe, earth and humans. In the great sweep of time and in a hundred
and fifty years this story of the universe as he would put it has changed our consciousness,
has changed our understanding of who we are and where we are. And these are the questions that do transform
people. The story of “Where we come from? ” “Why
are we here? ” “Where are we going? ” We all think about this, some of us morning,
noon and night. But these are the transforming questions. And so he would say we are now living in the
midst of a beautiful, all inspiring, wonder inducing story that we are getting a picture
of galaxies and stars and the emergence of planets and we know that there are a trillion
of galaxies. In this film that we just did with Brian Swimme,
who is a great scientist and story teller, there is this one scene where he said, you
know, even fifty years ago scientists didn’t realize, they thought there was only one galaxy
in the universe and now know we know that there are trillions of galaxies. So it expands our ideas of the great mystery
of whatever you might call it. The Buddhists wouldn’t name it in any particular
way, but it is to say its bring together reverence and awe for the complexity that science has
invited us into, reverence for the mystery of life and it’s trying to fuse this in
a way that says we also have a very important moment on our planet in terms of the environment,
in terms of social problems, in terms of our critical moment. What I’m saying is we live in one of the
most creative and destructive moments in human history. We see it all around us, we see and we take
in the sad, bad news of the destruction of environment, of social collapse, of economic
struggle, of families being torn apart all of the difficulties that we are facing, the
immense inequities in our society, the poverty, the struggles, the rich the poor and so on. And yet in the midst of this creativity, I would suggest that, with this next generation especially, we have a moment, if we can partner
with this next generation into a sense of not just a sustainable future but a flourishing
future, the flourishing of the earth’s community of life systems. Now I want to come back to this word cosmology,
and that sounds like a big word and it is. But what Thomas Berry was trying to say there
is that cosmology is the largest scale story that we can tell and he was trying to say
that we need a functional cosmology. What does that mean? It means that it’s not an abstract story
out there or telling of the sciences out there, but it functions because it motivates us,
it gets us up in the morning, it gets us to our coffee and our work and so on, but it
gives us a deeper meaning, as I’ve said already, of our place and of our purpose. You know, I said this, to me, to get up in
the morning without a sense of purpose whether it is your children, your deep love in your
life, your person or something you’re striving for, you’re playing an instrument or whatever
it might be, but we all need a larger purpose so this is by way of saying this activates
purpose, so that sense that we are driven to a great work. It might be a simple work but it’s your
great work and that connects you to a deep satisfaction and peace in your life. Thomas Berry was trying to say we need an
inspiring vision, we need engaging values and we need we need imbedded action. I want to just say that a change of consciousness
on this scale does mean we have a change of conscience. We have a sense of living within ever enlargening
circles of concern, of compassion, of relationality. We affect and are affected by the transforming
and nourishing powers of heaven and earth. All of nature we are affected by and affect
in our action the transforming and nourishing powers of heaven and earth. If you can understand that in a life time,
isn’t that amazing. The point here then is that we are part of
a unity of life. We are a part of a unity of life that amid
this chaos and complexity says that our extension, our care, our compassion can make a difference in this world. What you will do will make a difference, absolutely
for sure. And at this moment of history what we do collectively
will matter perhaps more than almost any other moment in history because of what we are facing. I want to say to each of you that in this
great work that Thomas Berry suggested was part of our time, part of our moment, that
the contributions that we can make will transform the face of the earth. And that means that the talents, the possibilities,
the energies, the commitments, the sense of loss, the anguish, the suffering, all of that
is pouring into this particular moment on planet earth, actually pouring into this moment. And I think, more than anything, we need a
vision of hope, we need a vision of possibility. We do not need despair, overwhelming sadness,
a feeling we cannot make it into a future. We need a sense that a common future is a
shared future and we have the energy, the capacity, the creativity to do this if we
hold up hope for the human community, for each one of us. So hope is the final word
tonight. Hope will triumph. My question is, what do you think about how
the industrialized nations have the one-thirds world, has had its opportunity to develop
and become great industrial powers and in the process has done more than its fair of
share of polluting. And now the developing nations as they’re
trying to move ahead, what is your opinion, how do we solve this problem, how do we have
equity in terms of their opportunity to develop? Your question is so critical, and I don’t
have a full answer to it for sure, but that’s this notion of sustainable development of
course which a lot of people feel has been green washed and so on and so forth. But I think underneath it all we’ve got
to establish a sense of trust, concern, not paternalism, but some deep trust to say we’re
in this together. This is a huge moment, so I wish I had the
answer because this is the center question, absolutely center question, but “What is
equity?” really matters here, “What is equity?” Are we going to be able to say, “We are
going to change our life style?” That’s not politically salable right? We can’t even tax carbon. But I think we have in this country, and I’m
still impressed that the people from the EU still come here, because the EU is so far
ahead of us on all the sustainability issues, so far ahead of us. I still say, “Why do you keep coming here?”
because so many creative ideas are here. I feel it right here in this room, so many
creative ideas are here. So we can’t drown ourselves in guilt, we’ve
got to put forward in creativity, possibility, energy and immense trust. We’ve got to create this sense that our
nation cares about the rest of the world. Dr. Tucker, thank you so much for your amazing
lecture. I study conflict resolution in Columbia University. You talked about the fact that to awaken our
consciousness, our conscience needs to be awakened first. And I think that religion and philosophy have
the primary role to play in awaking our conscience, yet I find in my course work or everything
I read around me that the role of religion is really understated in this day and age. I was wondering what your thoughts are on
how religion needs to be mainstreamed so that our conscious can be awakened. Great question. You know that’s a really tough one in a
lot of ways. Part of what we’re trying to do in universe
story is of course present a spiritual vision but that’s not announced with particular
tradition that’s an all-inclusive, spiritually energizing, powerful vision for the work that
needs to be done. And as I mentioned and as Paula was kind enough
to say, we’ve been working for fifteen years with the world’s religions in a project
that started at Harvard. By the way here’s the secret, I feel very
privileged to be at Yale and have done some of this work at Harvard . . . We’re trying
to take these great institutions and take your concerns into the heart of academia and
say, “Yes, religion matters.” You know when we started these conferences
in 1995 and we said, you know, “There’s a billion Muslims, there’s a billion Hindu’s,
there’s a billion Confusions, and there’s a billion Catholics, are we going to ignore
their beliefs and practices, texts, traditions of thousand year-old religions and say that
they have nothing to do with the environment the healing practices, why we care about trees
or water or fish and so on.” These traditions aren’t new. The Buddhists in South East Asia have ordained
trees to preserve forests, the Hindu replanting of trees and some tanumaru and some of the
temples. There are practices around the world that
are awesome, I mean I could tell you, it is amazing, really exciting stuff, it puts us
to shame. It’s so cool. So, we said, we gathered together these scholars
and I got on the phone and said “Okay, you’re studying Hinduism and you’re doing Shankara,
and you’re doing Ramanuja . . . ” you know, these great thinkers of Hinduism, what
do they have to say for our time? Or “you’re doing Moses Maimonides . . .” in
the Jewish tradition and so on, let’s bring these traditions, let’s bring these thinkers
forward. So these academics were like, shift gear,
out of the library, into the world. But there was an amazing outpouring of energy
because those scholars had spent years and years studying these traditions, living in
the countries, learning the languages. I can say, I almost lost my sanity studying
Japanese . . . It’s again this point, people want to make a difference. So they came to Harvard, we paid not one cent,
we published ten volumes, no one was paid anything to do this work. But the point is, we have to take seriously
in the heart of academia, that these traditions matters, they’re not just traditions, be
it Buddhist practice, be it Hindu, be it Muslim, Christian. We’ve got to respect difference and we’ve
got to respect the spiritual journey. That’s why we use this word “the Journey”
of the human community that struggles with anguish, and suffering almost every day. How many days are free of that? That was a long answer to your question. But I will just say, we’ve also got to have
a language that is not rhetorical or preachy, but brings forward the power of these traditions
not in conflict but in a common cause, for a common future. You have been one of the most remarkable audiences
that I have spoken to in a long time. I really want you to know that, definitely. I have felt such energy and support tonight.
I have felt such love and compassion. And I felt a tremendous sense of hope in this
room and I will take this as March 7th, the birthing of this film, as a great gift. Thank you.

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