Disaster & Interconnectivity, Action & Contemplation

What a week. First the mass-deadly Myanmar cyclone and their government’s bizarre response; now this: tens of thousands are feared dead in a China 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

I don’t know what to make of all this. Of course, nearly 150,000 people on this planet make the Great Transition daily; this in itself is nothing extraordinary. But suffering is different than ‘mere death;’ it is more, and it is right that it elicits a different – pained – response in us.

I don’t know what to make of all this. But I do know – no, sense is more accurate – a few things:

We are all interconnected – matter, energy, spirit & biosphere. Not one organism or object on this planet or in this galaxy can claim independence from everything else. Christians believe that in Christ–the risen, ascended, cosmic Christ-all things coinhere. God in Christ is the All in all. This idea – God’s integral permeation of all reality – is normally one of great beauty. But from one vantage point at least, it offers cold comfort when contemplating life’s shadow side – rape, murder, enslavement, torture, ecological degradation, ‘natural’ disaster.

Theodicy, or ‘the problem of evil,’ is difficult no matter what faith, creed, or theology one subscribes to, and it haunts those who claim none of the above as well. I don’t intend to make this a “Where is God in ___” post or some kind of apologia for my hunch about this aspect of the universe, so let me move along.

In addition to sensing the love-based reliance of everything upon everything else, I sense how we are the answer to our own prayers. We have responsibility – or, if that seems too weighty, response-ability; the ability to respond to God’s clarion call to a fulfilled dream for life and creation. I’m not talking about some kind of Utopian fantasy; I am talking about increased awareness, compassion, and shalom on earth – here and now. We’re the answer to the universe’s prayer.

There will, in the face of these twin disasters, be much occasion for commentating, and voices to commentate. But for now, let’s join in some action and contemplation, shall we?

For action: Andrew Jones solicited these sources for aid-giving; do any of you know about any other groups strategically positioned to give? What about to China? I am going to be donating money to something soon, as well as remaining open to other ways of giving.

For contemplation:

Recently I have renewed my centering prayer practice, a way of entering into awareness of God’s love, a path to apprenticeship unto Jesus with the end being the transformation of consciousness – mine and the universe’s.

It goes something like this:

1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. [I use El-Shaddai, God the Nourisher]

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.

4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

Now, what does this have to do with global disaster and upheaval? Everything. While I’m not willing to say, with the 20th-century Evangelical, “It’s all about the individual – change one heart and change the world,” I will affirm that my internal peace is a piece of global peace. And Jesus came to shed love abroad in our hearts, to impart Abba’s peace that transcends even understanding. So for me, accessing and dwelling in Spirit’s abundantly-offered peace is (or ought to be) the guiding orientation of my life.

But it isn’t just for me. Each choice that each of us make – each thought that we think – affects the harmony and balance of families, communities, cultures and ecosystems. And the thoughts we think as collectives are even more powerful. Thought is a type of energy – it reverberates in space itself. I’m not going all name-it claim-it or The Secret on you – just Proverbs 18 and 23. So why not set my heart by divine rhythms?

I believe that we are, by God’s grace, the leaves of Life’s Tree that are for the healing of nations. For me, this is a season of becoming ever-more rooted in the soil of New Earth, of being ever-more watered by Life’s River. I have come to see that literally everything depends on this. If we are not avatars of agape walking this God-blessed creation, why live? In the words of Meister Eckhart: “Jesus might have said, ‘I became man for you. If you do not become God for me, you wrong me.’ ”

Let’s wake up together, and smell our truest identities.

11 Responses to “Disaster & Interconnectivity, Action & Contemplation”

  1. 1 Benjamin Williams May 13, 2008 at 3:11 am

    Dr Wayne Dryer once said that there are several hundred “gurus” alive on Earth that have such “goodwill” for others that it offsets all the negativity the rest give off. He said that if we would increase our goodwill that it would offset even more negativity in the world. Either many people are not having goodwill or one of the “gurus” died and we are in pain because of it.

  2. 2 Tyler May 13, 2008 at 4:31 am

    awesome post. thanks man.

  3. 3 zoecarnate May 13, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Thanks for the props, both of you! Benjamin, I’d love to hear more on your perspective. I agree that we all give off energy, call it what you will. And I suppose that some people seem to give off more ‘energy’ than others, positive or negative. I’d have to hear more about these gurus though–I guess from where I’m coming from we’re all lovingly made in God’s image, and we all matter–plus I’d say that if a few hundred of these folks were ‘offsetting’ the imbalances that beset us as a people, they’re doing a pretty lousy job!

    Not to rankle the gurus. We can all use more peace in the world-and true, inspirational teachers with real authority are so hard to find. So please…share more.

  4. 4 Benjamin Williams May 13, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Source: Dyer, Dr. Wayne W. “The Power of Intention”. Hay House, Inc. 20th Printing Jan 2007. ISBN 978-1-4019-0216-2 Pg 104 – 108

    Dyer uses work from Dr. David Hawkins’ “Power vs. Force” (which is on my reading list) to build a case that 1) Humans give off energy either positive or negative 2) positive energy is more powerful than negative energy 3) some people (avatars, sages, or gurus) give off so much positive energy that they can “cover” the negative energy of millions of others.

    He states “One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of grace, pure spirit beyond the body, in a world of non-duality or complete oneness, will counterbalance the negativity of 70 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 10 such sages are alive today).”

    Dyer says that 13 percent of humanity has enough positive energy to counterbalance or cover the negativity of the rest (87 percent). I was saying that if one of these “higher level” gurus were to die, then the balance would be broken, and the “worldwide scale” would tilt toward negativity. Another quote; “By raising your own frequency of vibration only slightly to a place where you regularly practice kindness, love, and receptivity, and where you beauty and the endless potential of good in others as well as yourself, you counterbalance 90,000 people somewhere on this planet who are living in the low-energy levels of shame, anger, hatred, guilt, despair, depression, and so on.”

    Yes, we are all made in God’s Image, however what sets some humans apart from others is the Spirit. While we all have the ability, not everyone is ready to embrace that gift. Sin works against God. When we use the power of the Spirit, like Jesus did, why shouldn’t we be able to heal, to raise the dead, to see into Heaven? Why couldn’t we stop earthquakes, floods, and the like; is that really any “harder” for the Spirit to do?

  5. 5 Carl McColman May 13, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I have difficulty with the idea that God (or the Lords of Karma, or whomever) is measuring all the “positive” and “negative” energy emitted by human consciousness and then sending us natural disasters (or natural blessings) as a result of where the needle registers on the cosmic meter. It’s a subtle type of neo-Pelagianism that reduces God to the level of a cosmic bean-counter. Part of the great mystery of the cosmos we live in is that we are not in control. Although I think the Dyer/Hawkins thesis is charming to the extent that it calls all of us to do what we can to increase our “positive energy,” I also think that it is predicated on the idea that human beings are in control, and I think that’s simply at best unprovable, at worst a flawed premise because it subverts the Christian belief in Divine Sovereignty.

    I think the reality is that “cosmic evil” (earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, etc.) have always been with us, and go through rhythms of their own. Thanks to both the increasing of human population and the immediacy of the media, both our knowledge of these disasters and the scope of their suffering appear to be increasing exponentially. But just because something appears to be so, don’t make it so.

    Meanwhile, I would submit that we need to do all we can to increase our holiness and sanctification, not because doing so will lessen the cosmic forces of evil at work in our world (that’s Michael’s or Christ’s job, not ours) but simply because we are commanded to do so.

  6. 6 Benjamin Williams May 13, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Our sin “broke” the World; but can we continue to break it, or can we do something to lessen the breakage? I’m not saying “fix it” that is what Christ did. I didn’t want to emply that God is doing the sending or counting, but that it might a “natural process”, like quantum entanglement.

    I will agree that the “amount” or “percentage” of evil probably hasn’t changed much, we are just hearing about it faster, and there are more of us, but it did increase in the lifetime of Noah, so I could be wrong.

  7. 7 astatum May 15, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Great post, Mike. As we’ve discussed before, I’m always a little wary of anything that might fall into the catch all category of “mysticism” but mysticism, when linked to prayer – communion with God through Christ – is something I can buy into. I know that such experiential realities such as centering prayer, lectio divina, etc. are not meant to make us “comfortable” but, often, to be disquieting, to unsettle our realities and engender divine sensibilities in our lives. I think that’s what you’ve hit on here – not only that, but you’ve done so with sobriety and with great care regarding the real pain and suffering experienced by others. I found myself wondering the other day if things like these have always happened or if we are more aware of it with the advent of global media and fast-acting communication. At any rate and despite the inherent negativities of a globalized culture (mass exploitation, agribusiness, etc), I think one positive aspect of the postmodern culture in which we live is that technology helps (maybe even forces) us to at least encounter suffering in the world instead of presuming that we (those who are comfortable and – at least in our limited perspective – the world by proxy) face no real suffering are always at peace. Such events as these are disturbing and I think you’ve understood rightly that prayer is a response (although by no means the only one) that can lead to action. But the question remains, what do we do? What place do we – Americans, Westerners, the wealthy, the open-eyed, compassionate attention payers – have in “fixing” this? You know as well as I do that the “Sovereignty of God” is no comfort to those experiencing real grief and suffering. Giving money seems like a common response but somehow it seems woefully inadequate. Giving time seems like an impossibility. Giving our lives scares us to death. There is real pain in the world accompanied by real compassion – but can compassion heal the nations? Maybe Bart Ehrman has a point? I don’t know. Good, care-full post nonetheless.

  8. 8 Peter May 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I hesitate (but not for long!) to add my 2c worth here, precisely because it seems so small. But, here goes, for what it’s worth…

    In pursuing my ‘individual’ brand of centering prayer the other day, I made a startling discovery, a true first-hand revelation: I learned something about the cosmos that I had not known before. (I even wrote a poem about it afterwards.)

    My experience went like this: I went down into the dark place of Nothingness, of the Void, down through my greatest weaknesses and losses and fears, down through the vast abyss, the great empty black hole at the center of everything, and guess what I found?

    The universe is NOT EMPTY! It is FULL, filled with all the fullness of God!

    At first I observed a tiny “point” of light (as in Julian), appearing in the center of the center, and then filling all the empty space and rushing to fill all dark corners and hollows, racing to create and fill yet more new spaces…

    I suppose this ought not to have surprised me, coming from a Christian worldview; it challenges the “world is full of nothingness/emptiness” view of physics, and the “emptiness emptying into particulars” view of Hindu/Buddhist metaphysics–but more immediately significant for me, it releases me from a host of my own inner existential and ontological fears, giving me experiential evidence that I can relax and trust–even if this is just a “single witness” that will need further confirmation. But I suspect that I will be able to return there again, and find the fullness, and rest in it, and contribute (as Mike is hoping) to the net peace of the universe (and world) I am living in….

    Peace, love, blessing, and fullness to all,

  9. 9 Peter May 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    For anyone who wants to read my poem, it is here:


  10. 10 Magi Speelpenning December 11, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    the picture is amazing. I am a trauma resolution specialist and I was just invited to China by a group who with earthquake survivors. The picture captures that intense anguish that my work helps people to overcome. May I have your permission to use the picture on my website? Please let me know at your earliest convenience. thank you Magi

  1. 1 In the Aftermath of a Tragedy: Biscuet reports on the Chinese Sichuan Earthquake from the Frontlines « Compassion in Politics Trackback on May 20, 2008 at 9:18 pm

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