Laudato Si, Ecology and Beauty

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1868), by Albert Bierstadt, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Like many, I am still working my way through Laudato Si and mining it for insights and ephiphanies. As I do so, I want to share the following two paragraphs, which I think have relevance for Christian educators, especially art teachers but not only art teachers. 

214. Political institutions and various other social groups are also entrusted with helping to raise people’s awareness. So too is the Church. All Christian communities have an important role to play in ecological education. It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in responsible simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God’s world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment. Because the stakes are so high, we need institutions empowered to impose penalties for damage inflicted on the environment. But we also need the personal qualities of self-control and willingness to learn from one another.
 
215. In this regard, “the relationship between a good aesthetic education and the maintenance of a healthy environment cannot be overlooked”. By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject self-interested pragmatism. If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple. If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realize that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour. Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance, with the help of the media and the highly effective workings of the market.

I like Pope Francis' thoughts on the importance of beauty, on simply beholding something for the sake of itself and not for any pragmatic use. Cultivating this sensibility has special priority in art classes, but so too in theology, which teaches prayer and contemplation, and which prizes an attitude of grateful cherishing instead of a utilitarian consumerism.  

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J Cosgrove
2 years 11 months ago
Everyone should go to Yosemite which I consider the prettiest place on earth to see an example of the wonders of God's creation. However, one needs to use a fair amount of energy to get there though once there it is possible to use low energy means to get around. On another note: what we as humans do is try to increase the flow of serotonin and dopamine in our brains. So maybe we should find activities that do this that use less energy consumption. But what are they? One problem with the Pope's basic thesis is that humans are strivers. Not everyone but it is built into many and while many do not do so, a large percentage define who they are by what they accomplish. Are we all supposed to sit in sparse hovels and do nothing but admire our surroundings and engage in meaningful chit chat. We all cannot be Socrates or St. Francis. After all St.Francis depended on the strivers of his time for his life style.
Dennis Stone
2 years 11 months ago
One is surprised that Pope Francis or at least commentators to the encyclical have not cited the work of Father Thomas Berry. As a his Foundation website notes "Berry’s life work eloquently communicates the immanence of the Sacred in the world. He considered that our species is at a crucial evolutionary moment of transition. We need a new spiritual vision to carry us forward from the end of the Cenozoic geological era, for our future to be possible." The webstie is filled with essays, videos and other resources that bring great light to this topic.
J Cosgrove
2 years 11 months ago
He considered that our species is at a crucial evolutionary moment of transition.
Not sure the Pope agrees with this statement. From the encyclical
81. Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.
Notice how he treats the word "evolution." It may be a possibility for some things but for man, there is unique creation. So what transition has God in mind?

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