The most exciting sports events occur when the teams are evenly matched and the score goes back and forth, back and forth. The tension builds. The clock is coming down to the final minute; which player can hold a focus and play well amidst fatigue and tension; which chess player will make a definitive move as the game concludes or will it end in a draw. The political and cultural world we inhabit seems a lot like this type of game these days. Surprising moves forward; disappointing moves backward. The tension and anxiety builds. Which team has the capacity to maintain advantage? And we realize that something beyond the team players themselves have actually taken over. Our playing or coaching seems to have less and less effect. The game has a life of its own, and we humans don’t necessarily control it.
Unlike a sports event, however, today’s world seems to have disregarded the old rule book; there are no trusted referees, no set time limits (not even elections!), no clear winners or losers, no anticipated trophy at the end. And maybe that’s good! But when we realize that the game can’t be sustained like this it is truly upsetting. Do we just keep playing assuming we will be able to adapt acceptable rules as we go along like we did as children? Do we just try to enjoy the game as an ever evolving challenge, even though we have lost our sense of a goal? Do we try to rewrite the whole premise of the game altogether: instead of winning let’s just see how well we can co-operate and work together, for example. Maybe we especially need to figure out creative (nonviolent, yes!?) to get the “dirty” players off the field. Or maybe we need to designate the wisest of the players and coaches to leave the game for a while, to go off and establish rules and goals that make the game sustainable and sensible; to train and sanction trusted referees; to establish tolerable time limits; to educate all of us toward a profound reverence for the privilege of playing the game at all; and to teach us how to do it more respectfully, responsibly, and, yes, joyfully. (Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we in fact could ever just stop the world and start anew!)
Now all this metaphorical fantasy doesn’t really satisfy, does it? The reality is that the “game” is much more serious than all this. We need assurances, but no guarantees are provided. More and more we must rely on imagination, and love, and community, and truth to provide us what hope we have, what Friend Kate Davies calls intrinsic hope - hope based on living our lives out of love within a given sense of rightness and action that we need to follow even though we are not likely to see the results. Or, to return to the game metaphor, “Playing on, despite assurances about winning or loosing, out of the love, reverence, and joy of the game in and of itself."
Earth and Ocean month is an opportune time to remember how much we truly reverence the Life and the Mystery that surround us. And yet we also need to remember that just as we have misused, abused, exploited and horribly mistreated the poor people of the earth with our greed, neglect and indifference to their plight, the earth has shared this same fate. The fate of the poor and mother earth, and all of us, are joined in what Pope Francis calls “integral ecology.” We have the opportunity to transform into an ethic that acknowledges the intense inter-connectiveness and inter-dependency of Life. Any time we harm Life we harm ourselves. This is especially true of war, but in all respects "we are all one body, one earth" as the song goes. The game of Life on this planet, after all, is even more exciting that a sporting even, even more full of surprises (todays news, for example: “felons get restored voting rights in Virginia” and "175 nations sign historic deal on climate change.”) And even more important, I truly believe God/Gaia/Mother Earth will have the final say, and I also truly believe, the ultimate ethic that will have the final say is based on Love.