Saturday, September 3, 2011

Educating to celebrate life and the Earth

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Given the widespread crisis in which we now live, all education must include the care of all that exists and lives. Without care, we will not guarantee sustainability that allows the planet to maintain its vitality, its ecosystems, its balance, and our civilization, its future. We are taught critical and creative thinking, to have a profession and a good standard of living, but we forget to teach responsibility and caring for the common future of the Earth and Humanity. An education that does not include caring shows itself to be alienated and irresponsible. The most serious analysts of the ecological footprint of the Earth warn that, if we don't take care, we will know disasters worse than those experienced this year 2011 in Brazil and Japan. To maintain itself, the Earth may perhaps have to reduce its biosphere, eliminating species and millions of human beings.

Among the many skills proper to the concept of care, I want to emphasize two of interest to the new education: the integration of the globe in our everyday imagination and enchantment with the mystery of existence. When we look at planet Earth from outer space, a feeling of awe arises in us to see our only Common Home. We are inseparable from the Earth, forming a whole with it. We feel that we should love and care for her so that she can provide everything we need to stay alive.

The second skill of caring as an ethical attitude and form of love is the enchantment that arises in us by the most spectacular and beautiful apparition that has ever existed in the world, that is, the miracle of the existence of each individual human person. The systems, institutions, science, technology and schools do not have what every human being has: consciousness, love, caring, creativity, solidarity, compassion and a sense of belonging to a greater whole that sustains and encourages us, realities that form our depth.

Surely we are not the center of the universe. But we are beings of awareness and intelligence, through which the universe is thought out, becomes aware and sees itself in its splendid complexity and beauty. We are the universe and the Earth that has come to feel, think, love and worship. This is our dignity which must be internalized and should imbue each person in the new global era.

We must feel proud to be able to carry out this mission for the Earth and the whole universe. We only fulfill this mission if we take care of ourselves, of others and of every living being here.

Perhaps few have expressed these noble feelings better than the eminent musician and poet Pablo Casals. In a speech at the UN in the 80s, he was addressing the General Assembly, thinking of the children as the future of the new humanity. His message also applies to us adults. He said:

The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him. Each child is unique, from the beginning to the end of time. So the child assumes a responsibility when he admits: It's true that I'm a miracle. I'm a miracle like the tree is a miracle. And being a miracle, could I do wrong? No, because I'm a miracle. I can say God or Nature, or God-nature. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I'm a miracle wrought by God and made by nature. Could I kill someone? No. I can't. And could another human being, who is also a miracle like I am, kill me? I think that what I'm saying to the children, could help make another way of thinking about the world and life rise up. The world today is evil; yes, it's a bad world. The world is bad because we don't talk to children as I'm talking to them now and the way they need us to talk to them. Then the world would no longer have any reason to be bad.

Here is revealed great realism: every reality, especially the human one, is unique and precious, but at the same time we live in a troubled, contradictory world, with frightening aspects. Nevertheless, we must trust in the strength of the seed. It is full of life. Every child born is a seed of a world that can be better. So it pays to have hope. A patient in a psychiatric hospital I visited, burned onto a tablet that he later gave me: "Whenever a child is born, it's a sign that God still believes in the human being." It's needless to say more, because these words contain the full sense of our hope in face of the evils and tragedies of this world.

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