The Great Work

Year of Living the Community of the Cosmic Person: Week Three

"Tickletank" is one woman's extraordinary experiment in "reduce, reuse, recycle." Irene Pearce has spent since 1998 creating a beautiful home, fully integrated into gardens and landscape, out of a 500,000 gallon concrete water tank. The CCP Team visited last week for inspiration in "learning to be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner."

"Tickletank" is one woman's extraordinary experiment in "reduce, reuse, recycle." Irene Pearce has spent since 1998 creating a beautiful home, fully integrated into gardens and landscape, out of a 500,000 gallon concrete water tank. The CCP Team visited last week for inspiration in "learning to be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner."

Jana writes, "When I first encountered The Great Work: Our Way into the Future by Thomas Berry, I immediately recognised it as a frame of reference with the power to give order and direction to the jumbled and often sporadic concerns I have for the state of the world, especially with regard to the environment.

"Berry's core idea of "human beings learning to be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner" continues to inspire me. It's about 1) learning (one of my favourite things; 2) presence (something I value and practice;  3) the planet (my favourite place to live!); and 4) mutual benefit (win-win situations thrill me). 

"So much of who I am - my commitments and consciousness (things I regularly think about) - can be described in terms of the Great Work. I am grateful to Berry for his life's work of giving us the Great Work."

The CCP team has spent the past week identifying and living with alternative words to the three Cosmological Imperatives around which the Great Work revolve. According to Berry, the Great Work consists of a shift of consciousness by which human beings come to realise and celebrate that these bio-evolutionary principles govern our lives just as they govern all life on Earth. Berry uses differentiation, subjectivity, and communion to describe the imperatives. 

P writes, "These are the truths of the universe by which everything has to exist. The reason we're articulating them is because human beings (in dominant Western culture) live as if they aren't true. 

"It's like if we were to try and live as if gravity weren't true. You'd just end up hurting yourself all the time and nothing's going to work right. To acknowledge the truth of gravity or these cosmological imperatives gives you a chance to live harmoniously."

The team was having trouble relating to these terms. 

M, a literary scholar, comments, "These Enlightenment era words are the problem; they are Latinate and obtuse. I need something more accessible and embodied."

In order for the team to acknowledge and play with the Cosmological Imperatives more comfortably and creatively, we came up with some substitute words to trial for a while:

differentiation - particularity (what makes us unique)
subjectivity - agency (the ability to learn from our environment)
communion - unity (interdependency and connection)

We'll see how we go! 

Year of Living the Community of the Cosmic Person: Week One

Today begins an experiment in living the Community of the Cosmic Person: human beings learning to be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner. 

Thomas Berry calls this our "Great Work." He describes it as a reinvention of the species, by which he means a shift in consciousness from an anthropocentric culture to an ecocentric culture. 

"The proposal has been made that no effective restoration of a viable mode of human presence on the planet will take place until...intimate human rapport with the Earth community and the entire functioning of the universe is reestablished on an extensive scale." (Berry, 1999. The Great Work: Our Way into the Future. 19)

Here we'll tell the story of three people who are committed to a collective mindfulness about making this shift in themselves and together creating a microcosm of this culture. The overarching task involved is mindfulness of our place in the universe. 

"We think of a viable future for the planet less as the result of some scientific insight or as dependent on some socioeconomic arrangement than as participation in a symphony or as renewed presence to some numinous presence manifested in the wonderworld about us." (Berry, 1999. 20)

The hope is that our experiment will tell a story we can share with others about how to join the Community of the Cosmic Person - that is, ways to participate in the Great Work of learning to be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner. Our hope for ourselves is that our lives will deepen in meaningfulness and purpose in the face of all the challenges of our time.  

The mindfulness journey we're embarking upon has nine key features, or characteristics of the Cosmic Person - a term coined and defined by Jana Norman. Here are the categories and characteristics, and we'll be unpacking their meaning in this blog as we go along:

cosmological imperatives (those realities that govern all life on Earth): 
differentiation
subjectivity
communion

conscious awareness (particular attributes of our species)
transcendence
self-awareness
sensitisation

spiritual wellbeing (beneficial to human being, fulfilling the "mutually beneficial" aspect of The Great Work):
self-actualisation
consonance
connectedness

Here is the experiment team:

Community of Cosmic Person experiment team: Paul, Mandy, Jana (on the  High Line in NYC )

Community of Cosmic Person experiment team: Paul, Mandy, Jana (on the High Line in NYC)