A Time To See With Different Eyes

by Fr. Chris Hardman

I have told you many stories about my childhood friend, Snuffy, and how we used to roam the wooded hills behind my house. Those hills were a part of what is known as Crowley's Ridge, a series of hills that run along the west side of the Mississippi River starting in southeastern Missouri and ending in my hometown, Helena, Arkansas. Crowley's Ridge is a unique ecological occurrence created by windblown dust called loess, blown there shortly after the last Ice Age. Snuffy and I spent most of our time in those hills-playing, discovering, and wondering.

When I left Helena for seminary in 1983, I left those hills behind. That is, until my wife, Libby, and I stayed in the midst of them when we gathered for a family reunion some 20 years later. We stayed in a cabin at Crowley's Ridge State Park outside of Forrest City, Arkansas, my wife's hometown.

We spent some time with Libby's family, of course, but we also spent some time in those hills. It was a mystical experience. It was like being taken back in time, back to the time Snuffy and I roamed those hills. At one point I felt myself merging with the environment, feeling myself as a part of it, not separate at all. Most people call that a "unitive" experience. Theologian Sallie McFague would call that seeing with a "loving eye" rather than an "arrogant eye." We seem to so naturally look with the arrogant eye, putting ourselves in the center and seeing everything around us as "things" created to serve us. We, of course, do that to each other, but we don't even seem to give a second thought about doing that to the natural world.

I would venture to say that most of us don't think the natural world has value except in its ability to serve us. Nature consists of all these separate "things" put here for our benefit. The new physics reveals something very different from that. The new physics reveals that everything is connected. Everything is made out of the same stuff! When we look with an arrogant eye we see difference and become anxious, which leads us to use and abuse the world around us. When we look with a loving eye we see that underlying connectedness. We see worth,purpose, integrity, and dignity which leads us to want to care and preserve.

How do we give up that arrogant eye and gain that loving eye? The Christian church is one of the best places I know.

Richard Rohr says, "If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side." God loves us and calls us to love each other and the world around us.

Please, join us on April 21st for a special Earth Day Celebration! It will be a time to hear some wonderful music, to feel holy oil on our foreheads (if we wish), to taste the very love of God in the bread and wine, and, thus, a time to see with different eyes.