Interfaith Panel – Graduate Conference on Religion and Ecology

– Hope you’re all well-nourished and ready for our panel. We’re grateful to start off the second half of our day with a panel of local faith leaders from a variety of spiritual and religious traditions. I’m gonna start off by offering a brief bio of each speaker,

Then I’ll invite each of them to take a turn speaking on our conference theme from their perspective of their particular faith tradition. Finally, we’ll open up to Q&A for all of you. So as speaking, if you have questions that start to bubble up,

Please feel free to save them and ask them at the end. So a couple of bios, Reverend Stephanie Johnson, furthest to my left, is an Episcopal priest and rector at St. Paul’s in Riverside, Connecticut. She offers workshops, clergy training and retreats on eco-theology, preaching on climate change

And grief in the face of the climate emergency and congregational greening. For 20 years, prior to her ordination in the Episcopal church, Stephanie worked as an environmental planner and educator. Following her ordination, Reverend Johnson worked for the Episcopal Bishops of New England, providing support in reducing congregational energy use in environmental ministries.

Reverend Steve Kanji Ruhl, a little bit over, two down from me, is an ordained Zen Buddhist minister through the Zen Peacemaker Order, and has served as a Buddhist advisor to the Yale Buddhist student community for the past 10 years. He received his master divinity degree from Harvard

And is a faculty member of the Shogaku Zen Institute. He also serves as the Buddhist spiritual life advisor at Deerfield Academy and teaches independently through his touch the earth cyber sang. I’m keeping these bios pretty brief so that you can hear from them rather than me. Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, three down,

Is the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale, and he works in the Slifka Center just down the hill. He comes from a background as diverse as Yale’s Jewish community, a childhood at Reform Temple Micah in DC, formative years studying at the Orthodox Yeshiva Maal, is that right? Pardon me.

In Northern Israel and rabbinic ordination at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary. From 2008 to 2018, Jason taught on the faculty of the Hadar Institute working to create classrooms, conversations, and communities that bring Torah to life by drawing on the fullness of students’ lives. Last but not least, AR Malik, right here,

Is an award-winning journalist, educator and cultural organizer. In June, 2019, he was appointed lecturer and associate research scholar at the Yale Divinity School. He also serves as a program coordinator at Yale University’s Council and Middle East Studies, and responsible for developing curricula and partnerships with public schools to promote better cultural language

And religious literacy about the Middle East to educators and students alike. AR also serves as director of the Muslim Leadership Lab and Innovative Student Leadership Program being incubated at the Dwight Hall Center of Social Justice at Yale. All of these people have biographies that extend way beyond what I’ve said,

But let’s leave it there for now. Now that you’ve gotten to know a little bit about them, let’s hear from you. I’m gonna give you five, you have five minutes to speak. I’m just gonna very impolitely make a purring sound into a microphone, and that’s a gentle way of saying enough is enough.

So Stephanie, would you like to start? – Thank you Chris. And yeah, I said for sure keep me to five minutes, cuz I could go on about this topic for a long period of time. I just wanna say that I would not be here without Mary Evelyn and John.

15 years when I walked into the doors of this school, I had no idea that my life would be transformed into a ministry of ecological faith and ministry and climate change response. And when I first met Mary Evelyn, I think God invited us into a conversation that I never knew was gonna happen.

And because of the two of you, my life has been changed and I hope that other folks have learned from me because of you. And Mary Evelyn said that, I hope this doesn’t count from my time, but I just really wanna do a public acknowledgement.

Chris, you’re gonna gimme an extra minute on this tribute because anyway, so Mary Evelyn said this morning that her students were her children and I felt that love every single time I walked into your classroom or into your office and sometimes in tears, because I felt like I was your child

And I am eternally grateful for what you have done, not only for me, but for so many other people. Thank you from the deepest part of my heart. So crocuses. Four weeks ago, the crocus came up in my town and I was walking to my church and I started to cry. I cry when they come out at the right time of year because I have the gratitude of the creation of the earth and the beauty of new life.

But I cried four weeks ago in deep despair, crocuses, I feel it in the deepest part of my heart. My body gets uncomfortable when the weather is wrong. I recently had someone come up to me in tears saying, the elm trees are blooming, my bees are going to die.

Ecological grief is what we’re living with and we feel it or I feel it in the deepest part of my soul and my being. It’s a physical reaction to the changing times in the climate emergency. 15 years ago when I started here at Jim Antala, UCC minister said,

If every fourth sermon is not about climate, every sermon in the future will be about grief. 15 years ago, and I lived with that statement and we are living with that reality now. It’s hard to imagine the depth of our despair, but it’s also wonderful to live into the hope

Of the possibilities of the future. And so I live in a place of hope and I know some of the questions are gonna be about how do we find hope and resiliency? So I’m not gonna go into it too far, but I just wanna sort of acknowledge

That I have always lived in hope. It’s my Christian faith that leads me to hope and new creation and new possibilities, after the crucifixion into the resurrection. I also live in a place of anticipatory grief. I’m really good at anticipating grief in the future.

And part of the sadness of that is I live in anticipatory grief for those who come after me. My son is here, and if he has children, his children will live into the climate emergency in ways we can’t imagine it. And I grieve that today on behalf of them.

And so I anticipate their grief and I anticipate the future of grief. So what am I doing about it? I’m learning from you. I’m preying on it, I’m acting on it. And I have been working on a project in my heart for 15 years about how rituals and prayers

And music and gatherings can help us survive and dare I say, thrive, in the midst of the grief and give us hope. And so it’s a 15 year project. It started when I walked in the doors here and it will continue in the years ahead, and I’m happy to talk more about that.

But I just wanted to frame that as anticipatory grief and the possibility of community giving us the hope, but also letting us sit in the sadness of today and for future generations. – [Moderator] No purring. Thank you. Thanks very much. Jason, would you like to go next? – I hope I’ll get double purrs since we missed out the first time. Thank you. That was so beautiful. I want to thank Chris and everyone who put so much into gathering us today.

And also I want to thank the source of all life who graces us with wisdom for the opportunity to live and to reflect and to grieve, which is part of living. There is a story in four parts that I’m gonna try to tell you in five minutes.

That is how one kind of enters into the waters of grief, Jewishly around the climate, and then how one allows those eddies to pull and push and hopefully cleanse us. And each part kind of builds on and also unsays the part before it. The first place we start is that

The structure of our standard, kind of climate crisis predictions and calls to action is exactly parallel to the structure of the biblical prophecy of doom, right? If you take the biblical case of idolatry and replace it with carbon emissions, right? Watch the following unfold. You’re all doing this thing.

You think it’s actually part of sustaining your life. In fact, it’s destroying your life. You think it’s okay, it’s not, and you think it’s not okay, but it’s actually really not, and you have to find a way to stop. Other people are telling you it’s okay,

You heed their advice at your own peril. And if you don’t, the combination of the accumulated sins of previous generations added to yours will initiate a crisis which will begin as ecological and then become a full-blown economic and political one, and end with your inability to live on the land.

Then things get interesting because scene two is that the rabbis call BS on the prophetic tradition in two senses. The first is especially with Purim coming up on Sunday night, they say that when Ahash Veras took off his ring and gave it to Hamman, he accomplished what 48 prophets and 24 prophetess couldn’t,

Which is to get the Jews to fast and pray right? Already in Jeremiah, God is lamenting that no one listens to the prophets and the rabbis actually thought the prophecy was completely ineffective as a moral and rhetorical tool. And that’s why every page of the Talmud reads differently and the prophets consoled, right?

Isaiah said, after the destruction of the first temple, the source of life, this was just a moment of anger, I will gather you to me in comfort everlasting. I promise as I promised for the floodwaters of Noah that I will never do this again.

And then God did it again and the temple was sacked. And the rabbis imagine God not consoling in this moment, but asking a heartbreaking dialogue to the angels, how do human beings grieve? Angels say they take off their their shoes and God says, I will do that.

Person sits in silence and God says, I will do that. Angels say and human beings weep and God says and I will do that. So there’s a resistance to the sense of agency that we can change it. Rabbis think they can’t rebuild the temple, and they’re right, they live under Roman empire

And there’s a resistance of the easiness of consolation. There’s a centering of grief what William James would’ve called the twice born, did call the twice born soul, sorry for quoting a Harvard scholar here in these halls, but not in a kind of existential, a historical way, but historically post certain human events,

A destruction environment or the destruction of the temple, we live in a world of grief. That’s scene two. Scene three is that grief is a teleological process with a goal which is allow us to live a flourishing life and love again without someone or something who is completely indispensable to us.

And so if we take the frame of grieving the earth’s fecundity and biodiversity seriously, it means that our end goal, just taking imminent to the frame of grief would be a human life that is flourishing and full of joy without the biodiversity of the earth and all the senses of treason and betrayal

That come with successful grieving. Is it a betrayal to get married again, to start a second family, to love again? Those questions should haunt us if we’re doing it right. And here the rabbinic tradition, I’ll share is haunting and fascinating, it says, if someone is reciting their learning,

Which they maintain as an oral tradition, they stop to say what a beautiful tree. They’ve done something terrible. Or the word brio, which derives from the Hebrew root (foreign language), which is a verb for creation reserved to God. In rabbinic Hebrew doesn’t mean creatures, it means human beings.

There’s a radical disinterestedness in the natural world, which might actually be a spiritual resource for us going forward. And then scene four is that in Jewish grieving, it’s unseemly and it’s forbidden to prepare for someone’s death in eulogy while they’re still alive. We shouldn’t be, we can’t be anticipating what we would say.

We have to be horrified at this prospect and also know that we can and will flourish through and after it. – Thank you. And Chris, thank you. Thanks to the conference organizers. I’m glad to be here. I originally was going to share 10 minutes of notes that I jotted down with you,

So I’m cutting that in half and I hope it won’t be too disconnected. I’m happy to do that. No problem. So as Chris said, I’m a Zen Buddhist practitioner and also I’m someone who approaches the topic from several different angles. I was involved in the very first Earth Day in 1970

And I vividly recall seeing a film at a conference that day on something that was very concerning called the Greenhouse Gas Problem. That was 53 years ago. And since then nothing has been done. And as we all know, the problem has worsened considerably, very terribly. Now I also took an Earth Systems course

As an undergraduate in college. And so I know what abido means, I know how feedback loops work, I know what the runaway greenhouse effect is. So I bring some basic scientific understanding to what we call Green Buddhism, which is the application of Buddhist practices and principles such as interconnectedness and caring

For all beings to the current environmental crisis. And I’ve also participated in socially engaged Buddhism, among other actions. In 2014 I marched with 400 other folks in the People’s Climate March in New York City. And I’ve also made life decisions that allow me to live very simply in accord with Buddhist economics,

Very lightly on Mother Earth. And yet through all these decades in my growing alarm about the environmental apocalypse that is now unfolding, I’ve moved through a deeply embodied grief and hopelessness, disgust and despair. And because of my spiritual practice, I’ve reached what I feel to be a place of strength and clarity.

Now, what Buddhism calls the three poisons of craving, anger and delusion, feed both the secular materialism and the pietistic dogmatic religiosity that contribute to the environmental crisis and the realm of secular materialism. The poison of craving feeds consumerism and worship of profit. The poison of anger feeds the toxic politics

That impede progress on environmental issues. The poison of delusion feeds the mistaken notion that humans are separate from nature and that the earth can be endlessly exploited. In the realm of pietistic dogmatic religious institutions, the poison of craving feeds lust for power. We see this in the Christian Nationalist Movement

Among many other places. The poison of anger feeds an embittered self-righteous holier than thou attitude. And the poison of delusion feeds institutions of hierarchy, sham holiness and superstition that also deny the present danger of the environmental crisis. Both secular materialism and dogmatic religion desacralize the world.

When I say that as a Zen Buddhist minister, I’m focusing on healing the planet by promoting the transformation of human consciousness, what I mean is that I’m working to restore our sense of the sacred. That sense of the sacred, which is the authentic mystical source of all the world’s beautiful religious traditions,

Including those represented here today. I’m focusing on helping people awaken to the sacred interconnectedness of life on earth. People who experience the earth as sacred will not destroy it. People who experience the earth as sacred will not destroy it. Now if that sounds naive, let me say that along with the terrible destruction

That’s occurring now, the mass extinctions, the melting ice caps, the rising seas, the sizzling temperatures, the droughts and wildfires, all of that, along with that, the transformation of human consciousness and the reclaiming of the sacred also is occurring. We may not see it often because the establishment media tends to ignore it,

But it is happening. And in fact, this conference is part of it. We’re witnessing the frenzy collapse of the old order, a society built on militarism, class oppression, systemic racism, sexism, ageism, a decentralized society falling apart through its own rotten corruption. And it’s being challenged. The Buddhist teacher and systems analyst Joanna Macy

Calls this the great unraveling and it’s unleashing a tremendous amount of death energy. I’m not talking about death itself, which is a natural process. I’m talking about death energy, apocalyptic, violence, cynical, suicidal, but simultaneously a new vision is emerging of how we can live on this earth in a sacred way.

It’s a new vision that involves a transformation of mind, of heart, of spirit, of consciousness, and it counters the death energy that’s now rampant and running amok. And Buddhist teacher and systems analyst Joanna Macy calls this The Great Turning. And that’s exciting. Am I being purred at? Okay, I’ll wrap it up.

Thanks, thanks Chris. So just very quickly, I’m purring out here. The question is, can The Great Turning happen quickly enough? I just wanted to say in terms of hope, Buddhism has a problem with hope because hope distracts us from the present moment and projects us into an imaginary future that doesn’t exist.

And not only that, but hope is conditional. Hope says if such and such happens, I want this desired outcome. So I reject hope. I reject hope, I embrace faith. Faith is unconditional. And faith says, I believe this will happen. My faith is in the life force. I’m gonna leave it at that.

Thank you very much. – Thank you. You won’t be able to purr if I use that. All right, alright. Thank you to to the organizers and to my fellow panelists. The topic that was offered to us today is I think particularly just prescient, but I think it touched a certain nerve for me. I lost my mom last year in May and so this year has really been a year of contending with grief. And my mother wasn’t the first person close to me

Who passed away, certainly not during the pandemic, but I think it brought together all the elements of what does grieving mean and what does grieving mean as a spiritual practice? And I think my beloved colleagues have spoken about that. And then I think when we multiply that grief

At this moment of social, political and economic fracture, climate emergency where literally the ground is disappearing from under our feet, I think this idea of grief takes on a greater resonance and theme. So I begin from that very personal place and using that wanna offer two or three perspectives

From within the Islamic tradition. In the second chapter of the Quran, we are told this kind of dramatic story that God and God’s wisdom announces to the angelic realm that there will be a new creation and this will be the human being. And the angels immediately respond, will you create a new creation

That will undoubtedly bring facade and bloodshed? Facade meaning corruption, it’s a fascinating word in the Arabic language that will bring corruption and bloodshed to the earth. At that point God could disagree with this, said no, I’m creating the human being with a particular aspiration or with a particular perfect outcome.

But God doesn’t actually disagree with the angels. God merely says, I know that which you do not know. And so this idea that in our insertion into creation itself was already noted very early on by the angelic realm as being something that would cause imbalance, corruption, fitna and facade in Arabic and bloodshed,

I think sort of indicates the challenge that the human being faces. The Quran tells us that we were created with a divine perfection and we become through our actions the lowest of the low. And that we can only recover by reestablishing some sort of balance. And that the earth and creation itself offer a witness to the creator about us. On the last day, when we’re called before the majesty of God, the earth will speak about what we did upon it, it will testify, it will weep,

It will tell us all of the things that we did to harm it and to hurt it. The Quran reminds us that there, that around us are communities like yourselves with complexity. And we know this now to be more than true. So the communities of animals and creation itself

And perhaps cells and plant life and the trees that speak to each other will all rally around and say, this is what was done to us. That imbalance was brought in. So I think we are living through a moment, the climate catastrophe. If it’s nothing else,

Then it is a bearing witness to the imbalance that we collectively as human beings have caused upon the earth. And I think for me that kind of relationship is really important because there’s a saying of the prophet Muhammad which we often will repeat in times of great trial and tribulation.

And that is that the prophet advised that if you intend to plant a tree or you have a seed, which we you want to put into the earth and the trumpet sounds to indicate the beginning of the judgment hour, plant the tree anyways. Plant the seed anyways.

I might suggest that the trumpet’s been blown. I might suggest that the hour or an hour has come. If I think if we don’t see what is happening around us as not just a witness, but a judgment on our place on the earth, then I think we’re sort of missing the point.

And yet, and I understand reverend when you talk about hope, I think in the Islamic conception, the hope is not in our desire of what will happen, but an abiding hope that the divine plan is unfolding in the way that the divine wishes.

And that it is our role and duty to do what we can in the present moment to try to achieve mercy, justice and compassion, knowing that the outcome is not in our hands and never has been. And yet we are empowered to do in the now and in the moment

Because there is in our tradition, and I’ll close on this, a sense of radical personal responsibility. We are made into communities, nations and tribes as the Quran said so that we may know one another and yet on the last day we stand before the creator alone with ourselves, our deeds, our actions,

What we wanted to do, what we could do. And I think that kind of call to radical personal responsibility in the amelioration of the condition that we’re in, but it seems so large, so what do we do? Systemic change is needed, we understand that. But at an individual and personal level,

There has to be kind of a personal commitment and a deeply radical individual commitment to dealing with this moment when the judgment at least of the planet and of the biosphere is upon us. And I think that is tied to grief because I think that is a huge responsibility.

And the horse has bolted and the hours late and yet, not but, and yet we are here, we have life sentience, freedom, apparently, to act and to do. And I think there’s a call from the divine to do. – Thanks to all four of you. I have some questions prepared,

But I’d be much more interested in hearing yours. So I think everybody would, so if anyone has any questions, please raise your hand and we’ll have Noah walk around with a microphone. Yeah, great. – [Participant] Thank you so much for this presentation. And my question is based off of Reverend Steve

And Professor Malik, I guess both of what you were speaking, but this notion of hope and bearing witness. So how is like the condition of hope or the notion of hope, how can you be a weapon to blindness or our responsibility to bear witness? – We can share these two mics.

– I mean I appreciate the question, but I would love to hear, I would love to hear Stephanie and Jason on this question of hope and responsibility because I would love to hear how your tradition sort of deal with that dilemma. – Right. I mean I think one of the questions that Chris

Had presented was sort of greenwashing, the idea that religion can be greenwashing as much as corporations can be greenwashing right? And so I do think hope can be used as a crutch not to move forward, to be paralyzed or to say, well something else will happen

Or there are people who have hope that the world will end, right? There’s a Christian theology in some places that the end times are what we aspire to. And so the world destruction is actually God’s plan and Jesus will come back, right? So there’s the type of hope that is not,

Is contrary to my theology. So I think that there’s this broad sense of what hope can be within all traditions. I mean, I don’t wanna, Christianity is not a monolith, right? From my perspective, I have a friend who often says, I am not an optimist, but I am hopeful in Jesus.

And so I’m not optimistic that climate change will stop. I’m not optimistic that the world’s climate emergency will necessarily end. I’ve often come to the conclusion in my own reflections that humanity may disappear from the earth, but the hope I have is that the hope in God is and the belief in God

Is that the world will still continue even if humanity’s no longer here. And so that’s a theology that I’ve sort of worked through for a very long time. So the hope is that is not a greenwashing, but just a deep sense that God is with us in whatever it is that transpires,

That God has never left us. And in my theology, it’s the idea that even in the darkest of the crucifixion, Jesus was in conversation and calling out and there was the hope at the end. And so I think there’s that transformative moment of hope. So, yeah,

So I just reflecting on my very personal theology, again there’s so many different views of hope in Christian tradition. – I think I want to take what Reverend Steve did and go maybe a step further. Instead of an alternative to hope, I wanna speak in favor of hopelessness and fantasy.

And what I mean by that is, I think part of the structure of hope is the idea that if I were to confront the fact that things either will or might always be this way, that would be unbearable. And Judaism basically thinks things are always gonna be this way, right?

The most influential mainstream position about the redeemed world after the Messiah comes is the only change is the restoration of the Jewish people’s political sovereignty. There’s still gonna be intimate violent partner violence, there’s still gonna be oppression, there will still be judges on the take in corporate corruption and environmental injustice and everything.

Like that’s never gonna end. And don’t try to tell yourself that we can only take this for one lifetime or one generation or one century. Like part of being a grownup human is like confronting this is as good as it gets. And you know there’s an amazing statement (indiscernible) says to his wife,

When someone comes to ask for bread at our door, give it to him quickly so that when our children go to his children’s door and our children are begging for bread, his children will give it quickly to ours. And she says you’re cursing our children.

And he says, no, there’s a wheel of fortune that turns in the world and it’s a play on a biblical versus about. There’s not a sense of progress. Like we’re gonna reduce, you’re gonna give that’s gonna end poverty or even reduce it. There’s gonna be poverty and the only effect

Is the world might be a slightly kinder place, but again, it’s not a hope, it’s a kind of prediction in a sense. And I also wanna hold out the sense of fantasy, like the core, it’s amazing thing about it in the bible the core ritual is sacrifice, right? Like literally it’s the center,

It’s Leviticus and it’s in all the stories, Abraham sacrifices, Moses sacrifices, Noah sacrifices, Canaan sacrifices, the biblical sacrifices is actually like, it’s not about the rules, it’s like a very simple idea, right? Bartlett Giamattii had this idea that games, which sacrifice is right. It’s a magic circle with special rules, games encode myths.

And the myth of sacrifice is to carve out a tiny corner of the world where only the right creatures die at the right times and in the right ways and for the right reasons. And that flies in the face of everything we know about the world and probably everything

We can even imagine about the world. But there’s this idea that by occasionally, maybe at once a year, maybe a few times a life, the world for word for pilgrimage in biblical Hebrew is the cognitive hodge. You enter into a place where that’s reality and it allows, it’s like a crowbar

That lets you hold your soul open, that you can keep that childish dream alive without necessarily believing it’ll come to transpire in the world at whole with no hope. But the very, very live fantasy that gives you a different plane to exist on and actually like live in and grieve the very stable,

Very obdurate reality of this world. – I love listening to Rabbi Jason cuz it always, it pushes me and it helps sort of, it’s like stretch testing the things that I hold to be true. Yeah, this question of witness I think is really important. And I think certainly it’s important

Within the Islamic tradition writ large, there is this idea that we are all (foreign language) we are all witnessing, and yet the word (foreign language) also means martyrs. And for me that has always been a really powerful connection between the idea of witnessing and the idea of martyrdom. Because the martyr witnesses

By engaging their whole being in the act of bringing mercy, compassion, justice to the world and dies in that process, bearing the ultimate witness to what? Their success or lack of success, not important. But in the doing of. On Monday we’ll be celebrating and marking and honoring the 58th anniversary of the martyrdom

Of Hajj Shaba Malcolm X, the series of programs. Martyrdoms been on my mind a lot these last few weeks. And I think about folks like Malcolm and their struggle, and that he died at the age of 39 at a critical moment in his work and in the movement for not just black liberation,

But what he became to believe was human liberation centered in black liberation. And yet that has not been achieved. And yet we see him as a witness to that. And I do think the time is coming with there will be witnesses and there will be martyrs in this moment.

Will they move the needle? Don’t know. But does that kind of, is that kind of sacrifice needed when the injustice is so great. And what are we witnessing in what way? What are we reading in the world? And this is another thing, Rabbi Jason, you had shared with me that beautiful anecdote

About reciting the Torah and that if you are distracted by nature, it’s something sinful, that really struck me. I’ve been thinking about that all week actually since I saw you at Slifka last week because it reminded me that one of the words that describes the verses of the Quran is (foreign language) signs.

And the Quran often reminds us that look to the signs, the ayas and that creation itself becomes a text. And so I was trying to filter that in my own tradition and saying that what if I was, if someone was reading Revelation and then looked up and saw that creation,

And I feel like one of the things, particularly in the Islamic mystical tradition is that there is a connection between the revelatory text and the text of creation itself. And so the idea of witnessing and the idea of becoming a witness is that by immersing ourselves in witnessing creation

Itself it’s an act of devotion. And in that active devotion there should develop a call to some kind of higher good work or service. And that in a way the Quranic text flows in to the text of creation itself. But I think it is fascinating for me that connection between witness and sacrifice,

I think those two things are really connected. And that can be a disturbing thing too. That is a kind of a challenging idea for me because it involves a lot from us who are claiming to be witnesses on behalf of creation or as part of creation. – Thank you.

I appreciate the question too. Thank you. And I appreciate all these responses. I’ll be brief because I’m sure people have other questions as well, but I just wanna share that in our Zen Buddhist tradition, our vow is beings zar numberless, I vow to save them. That’s hopeless. It’s absolutely hopeless.

There’s no possible way that we can save all infinite beings throughout the universe, but we stake our faith on that and then we move forward with love and compassion. And we also have three tenants. The first tenant is not knowing, not knowing isn’t ignorance, not knowing is approaching each situation

That arises freshly and without preconceptions. And in this environmental apocalypse that we’re now confronting, it indicates a certain amount of freedom in not holding to hope for particular outcomes, but being flexible and being able to be responsive in that mind of not knowing. The second tenant is bearing witness.

A phrase that we’ve heard several times in the past few minutes. So bearing witness in a way that involves not separating ourselves. And finally, the third tenant is loving action. It’s necessary to take responsibility and to take action. In our tradition it’s said that we’re responsible for the whole catastrophe.

So we take action in whatever way we feel that we’re called to do. And we simply hope for the best. And as I say, we move forward with love and with compassion in order to do that. – [Participant 2] Hi, thank you all for those beautiful answers.

I’ve been really stuck on the story that Professor Malik shared about planting seeds, even if the trumpets are gonna be going. And so I just wanted to ask a question about, for many of our ancestors, right, whether you’re thinking about a particular cultural group or religious group,

We’ve experienced things that felt like the end of the world and in many ways were. We felt the trumpets or heard the trumpet singing, whether it was persecution or enslavement or some sort of displacement or something else that forced us to adapt to grotesque violence situations

Or new climates or X, Y and Z. And so I’m wondering what do you all, what are some of the lessons that you all see as learning from your ancestor’s ability or other groups if it doesn’t apply, their ability to keep planting seeds

Even as the trumpets of the end of the world we’re going? I’m sorry for that question. – Oh, thanks. The silence here is a testament to the quality of the question. It’s depth, it’s silence gotten us all things. So I’ll share. I think the fundamental Jewish stance,

And this is really the rabbinic tradition, which is the Judaism that we live today, is an ambivalence. And what I mean by that, my therapist is sick of me using that word, but it’s warranted here. On the one hand, right, we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem,

Every year and actually in some ways every day. On the architecture of Jewish homes, you’re supposed to leave a segment of the wall unpainted, like bare plaster or drywall. You’re supposed to leave something off, even your most festive meals menus supposed to kind of never quite be adorned

In your full finery because we’re still grieving Jerusalem. And the Tallah records an encounter between (indiscernible) and people who were full on grieving Jerusalem, including some members of the rabbinic movement, and now without God’s presence in the world, life isn’t worth living. We won’t eat meat because there was meat

Offered at the sacrificial table. We won’t drink wine because libations of wine were offered, we won’t have children anymore because their world isn’t a place worth inhabiting. This is very resonant. Read surveys of people thinking about whether to have children nowadays, like something like five, six of them

Report concerns about the climate is a reason, a weighty reason not to have children. And yet, if you’re Jewish and you’re alive today, your ancestors, biological or spiritual, are the people who didn’t take that route, who chose only to adorn a corner of their house barronly and not to cease living.

And there’s a sense to both grieve and to say, you know what, we don’t really need that. Rabbinic Judaism is born out of the decision not to keep fighting for Jerusalem, but to surrender it to the Romans in exchange for a small coastal town called Yavnet where an academy could be built

And a new type of religious life could be set up. And so the second side of the ambivalence is a sense that actually no catastrophe is final. The world really did end with the destruction of the temple and with the holocaust and with pogroms in many towns over the millennia.

And it also continued. And to think about, you know, most probably most Jews of the Roman Empire couldn’t and didn’t want to have felt unfaithful to have moved on from the temple and believe that Judaism was over. And for them it was. And so to be the inheritor of a faith that knows

That excessive grief will consume you in its flames and the way that grief needs to be moderated is a central part of what I and my community carry today. – Sure, I’ll be really short. So I often think about Lazarus because he died and he came back. Jesus called him out. And so in the dying, he wasn’t present, but then unbind him, come out into the world. And what was Lazarus life like after he came out of the tomb?

And did he have a new life in Jesus because he saw Jesus when he came out? So for me that’s an image I think about a lot about when things are dying, what what can we unbind from ourselves and what do we see? And my understanding,

It’s the light of Jesus that gives us the hope, even in the death. So there’s that story about Lazarus that resonates with climate change and death and resurrection and new life in the human form. So I could talk a lot more about that, but Chris says just a minute, he’s purring down there.

– This question about ancestors is so powerful. I’ve recently been rereading the testimony of Omar Saed, who was brought to Charleston in the Carolinas on a slave ship. And he was someone who was versed in Islamic scholarship and knew the Quran by heart. And after having run away from the first place

Into which he was enslaved and sold, he found himself on a farm in the rural south in a prison. And he started to write the verses of the Quran that he remembered on the walls of this prison cell. And later on he was taken into a household and apparently converted to Christianity

And asked to write in Arabic a defense of Christianity, and he decided to write his life story interspersed with narration from the Quran. They didn’t know what he was writing. And I think about that story a lot. It’s recently been made into a remarkable opera penned by Rhiannon Giddens,

Who many of you will know, and it’s gonna be playing in Boston the first week of May, and then coming to New York in 2024. It’s called Omar and it’s absolutely marvelous. But that story for me is not just a story of resilience. I think we talk about resilience a lot,

But is also about resistance. And it is also knowing that one couldn’t return home. That it wasn’t about the hope of returning home, but it was the hope of carrying a sense of what was home into your life at this moment. And for this particular personality on (indiscernible),

It was those sacred texts which you could write in this new land and it would be sensible to him and to some around him and that was the place that he drew strength from. And I think there is a kind of an estrangement we have, I think migration, enslavement, the refugee crisis,

Leaves us estranged and strange. And yet my tradition says to me, this tradition came as something strange, it’ll leave us something strange. Be like someone who is traveling who stops under the shade of a tree for a few moments, the prophet said and then moves on.

So this is our moment under the tree. Maybe we can hear what the tree is saying. We have a moment in this time to create, but knowing that our home is with the divine, actually gives us a sense of emergency I think that this time is limited, it’s short.

How many breaths do we have? How many days are ahead of us? That recent book that talked about 4,000 weeks, we started breaking our lives down in that way. So how do we capture from our ancestors how they dealt with that sense of urgency?

I think that for me maybe holds some of the secret. – Thanks. These are such beautiful, beautiful answers. I will just say quickly that in the Chan and Zen Buddhist tradition, the ancestors are very, very much alive with us. Every time I sit down on the meditation cushion,

I’m very aware that the ancestors are sitting with me. And it’s a unbroken lineage of over 1,500 years from teacher to student, all these men and women passing the heart tradition down to us. And within that lineage of ancestors, there’s a very, very strong tradition of communion with nature.

It comes out of Daoism in China, but it’s a very strong tradition of mountains and rivers. And we also have a strong tradition of the teachings of Buddha nature are expressed through all beings, including those that are generally considered to be in sentient, including the stones, including the rivers,

Which in fact are not in sentient at all. Everything is sentient, everything is full of Buddha nature. So the ancestors and the sentient beings are all with us at all times. And I think that really informs a Buddhist approach to this environmental crisis. – So one thing I’m learning today

Is that this panel could have been three hours long. I’m sorry to be the referee here and cut us off, but this is the closing of the panel. So can we have a round of applause.

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