Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Virtually every room in our house has a bookshelf groaning under the weight of books. Having been brought up before the digital age I love the feel of a book; somehow a downloaded eBook is not quite the same. Once I would spend hours browsing in the local library, before taking home an armful of books, on loan for a fortnight. All those wonderful adventure stories set in wild exotic places capturing my youthful imagination. (As I grew up my tastes matured you will be pleased to know!) Even today I find it difficult to pass a second-hand bookshop, whilst the online retailers are just too tempting. What annoys me, though, is to see a book defaced by a previous reader’s annotations, comments or underlining. Often a second-hand book will be covered in other people’s scribbles! Perhaps defaced is too strong a word and maybe I am being pedantic, but I do think that for all the time and effort the author puts into his creation – that’s what it is after all - his work deserves to be treated with respect.
In the same way God took a lot of time and trouble in creating the Universe which, rather like the lending library, he has loaned to us to look after temporarily. Yet do we treat that loaned gift with respect or do we scribble all over it? Sadly, over the years we have defaced Planet Earth in so many ways. The Amazon forest has been, and is being torn down at an alarming rate whilst we all jump into our cars powered by fossil fuel thus adding to the pollution of the atmosphere. Recently we hear that the people of Cape Town in South Africa have to draw water from standpipes because the reservoir supplying the city has dried up. All this is as a result of global warming. There is an argument, of course that says: “I need to dig coal to provide for my family. Someone else can worry about global warming.” And, in the same way, I can still read my scribbled on book. But is this the right approach? In his encyclical Laudato Si Pope Francis calls on each of us to take ‘swift and decisive global action’. It is no coincidence that every country in the world, except one, has signed up to an agreement to limit the emission of greenhouse gases to reduce the effect of global warming. The reductions specified are small but it is a step in the right direction.
As I treasure my random collection of books, let me give the same attention to my care of this fragile planet.
Will you pray with me, please: “Lord, bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.” (Pope Francis) I give you, Lord, what I am and possess. Heal my heart. Amen.”
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years