22 December 2008

The indifferent children of the earth

For those who no longer sign up to the official Christian faith this time of year can be rather tiresome. The desperation of prelates has reached such a pitch that they will resort to almost anything to fill their churches. A few years ago I went to a service where the vicar was performing a conjuring trick on the high altar with a children's ball and three plastic buckets.

But there is something at the heart of the myth of Christmas that can speak to green economics. This is the myth of God made flesh. It seems to me that this is an attempt to explore the tension that we feel between our spiritual and corporeal being. Something that sets green economics apart from other variants is its willingness to encompass the spiritual. The ecofeminists suggest that re-embedding ourselves in our bodies and in our environment is the first step on a journey that leads to living in harmony.

It is a commonplace of green critiques that the dualism between mind and matter that is usually attributed to Descartes is one of the sources of our current predicament. We call instead for holism--for the reuniting of man and woman, of spirit and flesh, or people and planet. Our spirit is not a ghost in the machine of our body; neither are we born of the stars and destined to return there. If we could learn to celebrate our fleshly inheritance and our earthly destiny we might make a better fist of our short span on earth.

Obscene over-consumption is no more acceptable than hair-shirt asceticism: what we should seek instead is balance and integration. The sort of integration we need is not the sort we learned in maths classes but the bringing together of all aspects of ourselves. There's a challenge for 2009!


  1. Well said.

    We have lost our connection with the world and with ourselves. Until we awake to life we will remain fearful, greedy and blinkered.

  2. Just seen you get a mention on the Carnival of Green over at Ruscombe Green - have been browsing your site - like it - which posts would you recommend for starters on the credit crunch?

  3. Y'know I really should be voting green but when I read stuff like "re-embedding oursleves in our bodies" and "green economics embracing the spiritual", my bullshit detector immediately goes off. And as for that guff from Mr Jeffrey above... well thanks Stu, you've just solved all our problems

    As a disillusioned 'left-winger' I had hoped for something from the greens but it seems to be full of rather posh, certainly spoilt, pseudo-intellectual types who've had it very easy in life and for whom the whole 'activist' experience fills a gap in their lives. Not exactly champagne socialists but you get my drift. "Nice" people but with an inflated sense of their own importance and intelligence.

    Bet you loved hearing that... happy new year.

  4. Anonymous: ...thanks, none taken.

    The problem with old fashioned socialism is that it misses the point that we are part of nature and dependent on nature for our survival. Many old-style socialist are as fixed on growth and greed as their capitalist counterparts, they just seem want more for everyone.

    We need equality and social justice, but we also need to deliver this without destroying and pillaging nature and natural resources. I believe that understanding the natural world and understanding our place within it helps to understand how we can live within the limits that nature imposes.

    Getting this understanding can be a spiritual journey.