Ecological Conscience as Joie de Vivre
Joie de vivre is a joy of everything, a philosophy of spirit, an abundant enjoyment of life, an exultation of spirit. What if we connect the development of our conscience (which we often see as a solemn and un-fun activity) with this abundant joy of life and contentment? What would this look like? When you truly create a home, I hope, there is joy. Genesis is clear that God desired joy for our planetary home: God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
Joie de vivre might reveal itself in many ways in a home: a glass of wine and a good book; contagious laughter at the dinner table, a movie night with friends, a rousing game of dungeons and dragons, a phone call with a loved one, wrestling with a goofy French Mastiff (this is a common occurrence in my home.. Nala's joy below is almost palpable), table fellowship, enjoying a great soccer game.
Close your eyes ... Take a moment to breathe ... then let moments of abundant joy surface in your imagination. What did joie de vivre look like in your life? What did it feel like? Sound like? Taste like?
An abundant enjoyment of life is hard to pinpoint -- like trying to grasp a cloud -- but it is so real and when you experience it, it is simple, pure and incredible. For a Catholic imagination, the source of this joy is God who is Love eternally overflowing into our world and drawing us closer and closer. We get just a taste of the eternal, perfect joy awaiting us in God's loving embrace in experiences of joie de vivre.
God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16
On September 1st -- for the first day of the Season of Creation -- two Bishops within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB is a group of bishops who jointly guide and shepherd the Christian faithful of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands) issued a statement on the Holy Father’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. These Bishops lead two specific task forces within the USCCB -- the committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace.
The focus of their statement was developing an ecological conscience. Their message was profound and urgent: "the ecological crisis demands that each of us cultivate an ecological conscience, one that enables us to see clearly, judge rightly, and act ethically when it comes to the care of “our common home." They state that the ecological challenges we face are difficult to understand which makes cultivating a robust conscience difficult.
Woe to us if ... we were to separate “the cry of the poor” from “the cry of the earth." Pope Francis 2021
Yes -- we should pray "for all climate scientists, experts in technology and policy, and those on the frontlines of climate mitigation and adaptation." But what are ordinary (but wonderful) people in the pews to do?
But ... is it that complicated?
As we move into the first weekend of this Season of Creation, let us prayerfully meditate on a different path.
What if we start the cultivation of our ecological conscience with abundant, exuberant joie de vivre ... extended to all life?
Together let us spend some time developing our ecological conscience with joie de vivre in mind. What if we began our cultivation of an ecological conscience with abundant enjoyment of life -- joie de vivre for all rather than starting with the current crisis or our lack of expertise in climate science, policy writing, etc...
What would an ecological conscience informed and shaped by a joie de vivre from a planetary perspective look like? feel like? sound like?
Can a joie de vivre from a planetary perspective be manifest in a soccer stadium? What would that look like? Feel like?
My husband (in his blog The Free Range Viking) has been sharing some very innovative approaches people and companies have taken to care for our planet including The Forest Green Rovers, a English soccer club that plays in EFL League Two. Their plan is to build the world’s first modern football stadium almost entirely using timber by 2025. Why timber? Timber (properly sourced and cultivated) is environmentally friendly. How? Construction produces about 10% of global CO2 emissions, and this can be reduced by replacing steel and concrete with timber, which can actually store CO2. Very cool. And if you know anything about English soccer, abundant joy for one's home team is an understatement. Embracing a joie de vivre for life on our planet can spark innovation beyond our wildest dreams and move us closer to the world God envisions -- one of peace, joy and abundant life for all ... that includes soccer.
Take a moment to reflect on John 10:10 as you look at the joy manifest in the pictures below:
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10
Where is your ecological conscience growing?
Maybe an abundant enjoyment of life manifests during time spent with loved ones watching a movie on your couch. How could your exultation of spirit actualize from a planetary perspective?
Perhaps it is as easy as prayerful reflecting on what you decide to bring into your home to sit on ...
In 2018 Maker & Son was founded in the UK (now they are in the U.S.) and their mission to create sustainable, comfortable furniture — and they will come right to your door to sell it to you. The “Mobile Showroom” was their way to offer great customer service without having to invest in 'bricks and mortar' stores. All the natural materials for these sofas are sustainably harvested and their goal is to both care for the planet and produce the most comfortable pieces of furniture that you have ever sat on. Win-Win.
And they are not the only ecological conscious couch out there -- Love Sac Sactionals are designed for life -- a slogan that should take on new meaning in light of this blog topic! Since 2019, Love Sac has worked with Repreve to repurpose 40 million plastic bottles. How? The repurposed plastic becomes the yarn that makes up the upholstery fabric of all Sac and Sactionals inserts. And their sofas are in it for the long haul; for every sactional purchased you are saving 4 couches from landfill and you can update or fix sections of your couch by replacing pieces and not throwing away the entire couch.
Very smart. Less landfill waste; less plastic bottles; less driving to stores; more abundant joy for all life -- today and tomorrow. Do you feel your ecological conscience growing ... I do.
Ecological conscience as a joie de vivre for all on this beautiful blue marble can be beautiful, comfortable and easy -- and a great profession of faith in God who is Love.
Home is where the heart is. Cultivating an ecological conscience means letting our joie de vivre extend beyond our immediate (and sometimes short sighted) human joy to a joy in cultivating life for all who inhabit our planet. This will take so many forms and can change as we know better ... but do not be afraid of the dynamic nature of forming our conscience! Maya Angelou has it right:
Our ecological crisis is a prophetic opportunity to re-think how we live and love -- every facet of how we live in this world (from how we are born, to how we are buried, to how we enjoy soccer games, to what we sit on, etc...). Faith in a God who is love demands no less but I am excited for this life long adventure and there are so many resources -- especially during this Season of Creation.
But this process begins and ends with prayer
Then take time to let the wisdom of the Psalmist wash over you ... repeat this several times, each time opening yourself more to the message God has for you in this wisdom:
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11
Now draw back into your imagination your unique moments of abundant enjoyment of life ... how can you extend this joy to your human neighbors? to your animal neighbors? to the soil beneath your feet? to the birds of the air? to the waters of the sea?
What paths are being revealed? What is your heart longing for?
A reduction in your carbon footprint?
Change in the amount of plastics in your home?
Sustainably sources furniture?
Change in eating patterns?
Sit a moment to uncover this desire -- let the Spirit move in your mind and heart.
Then during your daily prayers this week, spend time looking at how to achieve these desires and live in gratitude as paths to change are uncovered.
Do you feel lost? Turn to the Catholic Climate Covenant, Greenfaith, Laudato Si' Movement, Catholic Climate Movement within Citizen Climate Lobby for practical things you can do. Also you do not have to walk this path alone. Seek fellow adventurers for this journey -- perhaps start or join a creation care team in your parish or diocese or region.
Don't know where to start? Try my website section Creation Care Teams and take your time scrolling through all the materials. There are live links embedded in the slides -- and short videos from other sojourners who will give you ideas and cheer you on. These are concrete steps to bring your ecological conscience to life.
This Season of Creation commit to begin habits of the heart that inform and are informed by a robust ecological conscience. Pray for the scales to fall from your eyes and live in great joy when you achieve a small or large change.
This is the gift of the Season of Creation -- discovery of a planetary joie de vivre that stems from overflowing Love, our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.