Saturday, 17 May 2008

Cradle to cradle

One modern usage I find more annoying than most is "Tell me about it". Which of course means, "Don't tell me about it: I already know". But most of our insights come from being willing to rearrange what we already know; and two talks I have been privileged to hear in the past week or so illustrate this for me.

On Friday night, Caroline and I joined the serried mass of commuters driving home to Bristol from Cheltenham/Gloucester along the M5: thank God I don't have that journey every day! Bristol was the venue for a local RSA meeting at which German chemist Michael Braungart - co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things - was the main speaker. And very inspiring his 'beyond sustainability' message was.

It's one that we all know makes fundamental sense, but that we easily lose sight of. Man can live with nature instead of off nature. Nature and commerce can coexist. It's not a question of growth or no growth, but what do we want to grow? And how do we eliminate the concept of waste? YouTube has part of an earlier address by Michael, and one by his American co-author, William McDonough: I recommend them both.

A week ago, at the Clifton Diocese Justice & Peace Commission's Day of Reflection at Woodchester, Frank Regan gave us this familiar text as what he called a Gospel echo: "I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full" (St John, chapter 10, verse 10). Faith is not so much "belief in God", but "knowing him through his energies, and knowing ourselves to be loved by God". And we need to share that love with others, this love underpinning our mission to be stewards of the planet; our quest for peace, our concerns for the poor and our struggles on behalf of those lacking basic human rights. (Frank, born and raised in the Bronx, speaks from a background of 22 years as a chaplain with the Young Christian Workers helping form trade union organisations in Peru.) At this crucial juncture, he asks, which path will we choose? We do not need a church which has the answers. We need a church which raises the questions for a full humanity that we are still constructing.

And the photograph? Taken a year ago at Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex: not on the way out, but looking in and towards the future!

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