I took a road trip last week, that’s why there hasn’t been a post for a while. I don’t get the opportunity to visit my family as much I’d like to. My parents are getting older, my sisters have kids, and now some of my nieces even have children of their own.
The trip from New Mexico to Wyoming is around 900 miles each way and it gave me time to think about things, you know, put them in perspective. It is a healthy exercise from time to time. Too often we get so caught up in the little things in our lives (our own egos) and forget the bigger picture.
The motto of the Knights of Columbus, to which I belong, is Tempus fugit. Memento mori. “Time flies. Remember death.” Most of us don’t want to be reminded of this. We are all of us here on earth for only a short time, pilgrims on a journey. Yet, almost by instinct, we attach ourselves to earthly things, things that, like us, are here and gone.
Most everyone is familiar with something like, “Leave the trail better than you found it,” when backpacking. The Seventh Generation Principle can be attributed to Iroquois philosophy. It’s as straightforward as Tempus fugit. Memento mori. The decisions we make today should take into account the welfare of the people who come seven generations down the road. In other words, it means being stewards, not conquerors, of the earth during our stay. Pilgrims are a lot like backpackers this way.
So which is it? Stewards or conquerers? There’s been some debate over the translation of Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (RSVCE).
In my view, this does not mean conquering nature as if it is an enemy. Conquering nature and filling the earth with humans does not seem like the advice God would give. Too many humans and not enough natural resources don’t seem like a divinely inspired command. It sounds like suicide.
Other translations have it this way:
And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that [a]moveth upon the earth (ASV).
The key difference is in the phrase “replenish the earth” rather than ”filling” it with, presumably, humans. Translation is always tricky, especially if you aren’t familiar with the original language.
The Ancient Hebrew Research Center suggests it’s all in the context and, when read in context, the passage reads, “that man is to rule over the animals as his subjects, not as a dictator, but a benevolent leader. Man is also to walk among and have a relationship with his subjects so that they can provide for man and that man can ‘learn’ from them.” That is in line with The Seventh Generation Principle.
What’s this all got to do with a family visit? In short, though time may fly for me and thee, the earth abides. Seeing my nieces’ kids (they are little still but a couple of years older since I last saw them), made me think about their future.
The Western tradition is often maligned nowadays for being somehow antithetical to nature. The quote from Genesis is often used to launch this attack. I call bull. The Greek Cynic Diogenes, for example, sought to live in accordance with nature. The Judeo-Christian tradition sees nature as God’s creation and as something inherently good but fallen, on account of the Fall of man, who also happens to be God’s creation.
I could go on with St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, right on up to Thoreau. But I won’t. My point is that all the blather about “The Green New Deal” these days is no more than a marketing scheme to sell everything from electric cars to shampoo. Adherent taut their own virtue by degrading the patriarchy and most anything to do with Western tradition. Don’t buy it. It’s a trick.
Humans have always had a notion of turning away from God, from the Garden of Eden forward. The trend took a turn for the worst during the Enlightenment. It was there the notion that the reason of man was paramount picked up steam. During the Industrial Revolution, it went viral.
In striving to save the environment from ourselves, we must draw upon the wisdom of the past. There’s no way around it. But the Western tradition isn’t static. It’s dynamic. The Seventh Generation Principle, for example, enriches it rather than rejects it. It’s time to stop with all the political smoke and mirrors. It’s not helping. The earth is sick and tired from it.
Besides, time flies. What about my nieces’ and nephews’ great-great-great-great grandchildren? What about my own grandson? Will there be anything left for them?