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Sermon for Unitarian Universalist Village Church’s (Hot Springs Village) March 17, 2013 Service: Deep Ecology

By April Ambrose

                              ORDER OF SERVICE

                                  March 17, 2013

*Please stand for hymns as you are willing and able


OUR Coming Together


·        Prelude ~ Sigilda Naidin

·        *Entry hymn “Hymn to Nature” words on screen

·        Welcome Visitors/Announcements           

·        Opening ~ Jerriann Nielsen, President


·        Chalice Lighting 

“Determined Seed”

Laura Wallace

As frozen earth holds the determined seed,

this sacred space holds our weariness, our

worry, our laughter and our celebration.

Let us bring seed and soul into the light

of thought, the warmth of community,

and the hope of love.

Let us see together, hear together,

love together. Let us worship.

·        Affirmation of Covenant ~

Love is the doctrine of this church,

And the quest of truth its sacrament,

And service its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship;

To the end that all souls shall grow

Into harmony with the good.

Thus do we covenant with one another.

·        Blue Boat Home -Peter Mayer

 ·        Reading ~ April Ambrose


“I am as old as the universe. 

I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again.”

I am a child of the universe. 

A part of all women and a part of all men.” – John Seed

“As surely as we belong to this universe

          we belong together.

We join here to transcend the isolated self,

to reconnect,

to know ourselves to be at home,

here on the earth, under the stars

linked with each other.”

-      Rev. Margaret Keip

Sing: “I am a child of the universe.  I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again.”

·        Meditation~ John Seed's Universe Jam 

·        Choir Anthem ~ “How Marvelous Are the Works”                                                           

·        Speaker ~ April Ambrose

"Deep Ecology:  We Are the Rocks Dancing..."


Say: “Part I: Deep Ecology:  We Are the Rocks Dancing..."

[Start slideshow of beautiful images of” extraordinary ecosystems on earth: ]


Looking at these images of the natural world, what do we see? 

I first see something beautiful.  I see illuminated colors, organic shapes, strong lines, and breathless beauty. 

I then see something wild, untamed, unknown, unpredictable, and deep.  I see mysteries unfolding with evolution urging.

With a pang of guilt…, I see my own failure with nature as something that requires protection from the scourge of humans – from resource extraction, destruction by tourism and overuse, and from politics for future impacts. 

This brings with it a mix of my own sense of power to change this, to be responsible, to claim dominion and to care-take.  


This seems to be an environmentalist response. 

However, environmentalism basically treats the ‘symptoms’ of ecological degradation, by cleaning a river, passing laws against dumping, and so on.  Deep Ecology, the subject of today’s sermon, seeks to challenge some of these basic assumptions and fundamental principles of our Industrial Growth Society.


The fact that I see a beautiful thing which I want to use and enjoy, AND thus have a desire to protect, is rooted in a great misunderstanding which keeps me from being fully effective:

-that I am separate from the natural world.

Our ego has convinced us that we are the shining jewel in the crown of creation.  That we are the peak of creation and the measure of all value, such that human life is valued above the natural world.  And so we view the world through our accomplishment of simply being human. 

This extreme human-centeredness is called Anthropocentrism.  John Seed calls this ‘human chauvinism’ where one can substitute ‘human race’ for men and ‘all other species’ for women. 

We have alienated ourselves by believing that we are apart from all things.  Thus, we have effectively separated ourselves from the natural world.  


In order to find our response to our responsibility, we need to shed our species arrogance. 


The central spiritual tenet of “Deep Ecology” is that “the human species is a part of the Earth and not separate from it”.  The term, Deep Ecology, was coined in the 1970’s by Arne Naess (a Norwegian philosopher, mountain climber, and scholar of Gandhi) and arose primarily as a response to human’s outmoded notion of separateness from nature. 

[Hold up Books]

The resource that created a movement from this basic philosophy was this book: a collection of essays, poems, and ideas called “Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of Beings” by Arne Naess, John Seed, and Joanna Macy.  This was named after an essay called “Thinking Like a Mountain” written by Aldo Leopold.  An extension of this is “Coming Back To Life,Practices To Reconnect Our Lives, Our World,” a book by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown that provides practical application through group experiential exercises. 

These are books that seek to make Deep Ecology a verb, and not just a philosophy.


So, how does Deep Ecology seek to heal our separation from nature? 


Gregory Bateson said, "the major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way man thinks.” 


The ‘Way Nature Works’, is that:  we are simply one member of the evolving community of earth.  All things have intrinsic value, not just humans.  And all things are interconnected and interdependent like a web.  As you know, the Unitarian Universalist Seventh Principle, “affirms and promotes the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”


We are, as Aldo Leopold says, a “simple member of the biota”.  We are a mammal, a vertebrate, and a species only recently having left the rainforest. 

From Thinking Like a Mountain: "Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks have the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing." 


Annie Dillard says “All day long I feel created.  I can see the blown dust on the skin on the back of my hand, the tiny trapezoids of chipped clay, moistened and breathed alive.”


So, paraphrasing John Seed, “I am protecting the rainforest” becomes… “I am part of the rainforest protecting myself.  I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into thinking.” 

Oh what a relief!  How awesome and freeing!  We are not apart from everything and can recall our true nature!    


John Seed also says:

"What are you?

What am I?

Intersecting cycles of water, earth, air and fire,

that's what I am,

that's what you are" (John Seed 1988, 41).

This spiritual change and authentic understanding and experience of our roots is called….

Deep Ecology. 

Matthew Fox said: “A morality of reverence will also be a morality of responsibility—not a responsibility based on duty and fear of disobedience but a responsibility based on care for what we cherish and revere.”

The term for our wider sense of identity, John Seed calls “Ecological Self”.  This is an extension of altruism.  Altruism asks you to be opposite of your ego… to love from mere duty or moralizing to: sacrifice, show more responsibility, more concern, etc.  However, if the self is widened and deepened so that the protection of free nature is felt as protection of ourselves, then we need not sermonize about our moral responsibilities. 


Joanna Macy says:

“Sermons seldom hinder us from pursuing our self-interest,

so we need to be a little more enlightened about what our self-interest is. 

It would not occur to me, for example, to exhort you to refrain from cutting off your leg.

That wouldn’t occur to me or to you,

because your leg is part of you. 

Well, so are the trees in the Amazon Basin;

they are our external lungs. 

We are just beginning to wake up to that. 

We are gradually discovering that we are our world.”


The more we expand the self  to identify with "others"…

[hold arms wide open]

people, animals, ecosystems…the more we come to realize ourselves.

So, again, look at these images.  As you see these ‘others’ in our community, be them plant or plain, animal or tree, mountain and field, allow ourselves to be reintroduced to them that we might understand and expand ourselves more fully. 

Please take this moment to expand your ecological self to include these and all beings, by accepting them in Mayan tradition where there is a greeting: “In Lak'ech”, which means in modern translation: “I am another yourself” and also means in a traditional Mayan translation: “I am you, and You are me”.  This Mayan greeting is an honoring for each other and a statement of unity and acceptance of our reintroduction to all of these images of our new Ecological Selves.

Let us say it now: “In Lak’ech”.


Say: “Part 2: Deep Ecology: Awareness is Responsibility”

So, if we are aware that the rest of the natural world is an extension of ourselves, and we are aware that there are some very negative consequences to harming ourselves…what exactly do we do? 

Each of us is just one person!  What can we do?  How do we stop the destruction of the planet even as we attempt to maintain our own current ability to feed, clothe, shelter, work, play, and love in a way that does no harm to all of us?  Unitarian Universalists have always been at the forefront of both asking, answering, and taking action to solve this question.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  Let’s retrace our steps. 

First, we must see where we want to be.  If this is point A, what is point B? We dream and we see and we visualize the ultimate, best possible way that this could occur.  We come together and agree on common principles that if achieved, would be the better, positive world we agree we want. 

The Earth Charter is a document that contains a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for our emerging world community.  It’s 16 principles may seem familiar.  At least they remind me of the UU principles, especially the first four:

#1: Respect earth and life in all diversity. 

#2: Care for the community of life with understanding compassion, and love. 

#3: Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful. 

#4: Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations. 

It then goes into sections for Ecological Integrity, “Social and Economic Justice”, and then “Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace”.  All of these principles show us what a better world would be.

So, first we must believe it, in order to see it.  As the Earth Charter says, “We will succeed because we must.”


Then we motivate ourselves to get there. 

We rearrange treats in our life to be treats for the universe. 

that personal treat we’ve definitely earned this week, rather than getting those cheesiee puffs or comfort foods at the store that remind us of being a child, we’ll get the locally grown organic chicken from the AR Local Food Network that reminds us of animals roaming free on the range. 

Instead of flying across the world for a vacation, we’ll explore our own native state and firmly develop our sense of place through unique, self-made, relatable, unusual, and extraordinary experiences in places we didn’t even know were so close and already a part of us. 

Instead of buying what’s at hand, we’ll put our money where we most want to see value in the world.  In this way, the power of millions of dreamers will change the financial structures, and thus the motivations of millions more. 

Then we must make the choices that get us there at the times that matter.

It’s all choices.  We have choices at every minute of every day that affect so much.

One can get overwhelmed at the numerous decisions and solutions that exist.  How do we evaluate them?  We can’t know everything about every discipline, theory, product, or action.  What we can do is learn to push past the hype, advertisements, pandering, trends, and packaging. 

One of my favorite cartoons is of a woman asking “How do I know your company is environmentally friendly?” and the representative says, “By the wording, the typeface, and the pictures of nature in the brochure!”.

We have to educate ourselves by getting past Greenwashing.  

Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or benefits of a product or service.  

TerraChoice, now UL Environment, lays out “The Seven Sins of Greenwashing”. 

For example, the sin of lesser of two evils: organic cigarettes or fuel-efficient SUV’s;

or the sin of irrelevance: a product says that it is “CFC free”, since CFC’s are banned by law;

or the sin of vagueness: a product claims to be “all natural”, whatever that means.  Arsenic could be said to be ‘all natural’ too. 

Learn about the sins of greenwashing and how to spot them, whether accidentally or purposely performed. 

Employ your newly developed greenwashing sense and make better choices.  We need not run through the long list of the myriad of ‘green’ choices you could make.  There are millions of resources online (start with: Treehugger.com or grist.org) and in your local community (Sandy Garcia) for that.  Since you can’t do them all, how do you choose from these long lists of potential good actions? 

Pick those with the greatest impact.  Driving your car for one mile cancels out all those days you left your cell phone charger plugged in while not being used. 

Pick those that you can financially do.  Check the “Dirty Dozen” list from EWG, or Environmental Working Group, for the most pesticide laden foods and choose the more expensive organic versions for just those foods, and buy from the list of “Clean 15” for the cheaper conventionally grown foods for the others. 

Pick those that fit into your life.  Can’t walk there?  Can’t public transport there?  Can’t drive electric car there?  Drive a vehicle that is fuel efficient, uses responsible materials, and is low-emitting car by comparing the sum of these attributes at greenercars.org.

Pick those that make you feel the best!  You can whip and self-motivate, and will yourself to take certain actions, but that isn’t usually sustainable.  So start with the things that also make you feel good when you do them.  If you love to plant flowers, you will adore growing your own herbs.  If you love to eat, you’ll enjoy the new taste of an organic, local tomato or maybe a fully vegetarian meal.  If you’re a techy, then you’ll enjoy researching greener alternatives to the electronics we buy and how we operate them.  It’s inevitable that your list of enjoyable items will begin to grow.   

What you put out you get back.  These things will begin to get easier and incorporated into your life.  You won’t always have to stop and think.  You’ll be able to put it on cruise control eventually…though then you’ll be working on solutions to new problems.

This is not a race or a linear path, but a spiral journey to incorporate kindness for all life into your awareness.  There is no magic pill and no final destination.  There are only the unending goals of the Earth Charter to guide us.  What can a page of mere words do to change the future?  Anything we do toward this end helps us to produce a better world for all life on earth. 

Have you seen that statement about climate change?  “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”  What if we’re all a part of what Joanna Macy calls “The Great Turning?”

We as UU’s have already heard this call.  It is UU’s that have taken the above actions, but it is also UU’s, like all humanity, that can get complacent in this work.  Thus, I would urge and encourage you all to again choose just one action that you will individually and internally pledge to do consistently over the next week.  Consciously create a better world by consciously making one new choice.  Choose wisely, choose well.  Choose your love and love your choice. 


Is there a sense of urgency?  Yes.  We live on one planet.  This is spaceship earth.  We have all the resources we need to survive on this planet.  There are no other planets for us to move to.  There is not unlimited time nor resources.  If we use it up, it is gone.  And we are adding more people all the time which are using it all up.  So, there is some sense of urgency, maybe even a tipping point. 

In 1976, Stephen Gaskin one of the founders of “The Farm” in Tennessee and the organization “Plenty”, wrote a book called “This Season’s People” in which he said:

“We are this season’s people;

There are no other people this season;

If we blow it: it’s blown”


That sure puts the feeling of burden upon us, doesn’t it!

However, worry begets stress, and stress is paralyzing. 

Joanna Macy found that we all deal with the environmental challenges in different ways.  Do you remember when you first felt the impact of the planetary disaster?  How did you feel?  Did you immediately translate this to action? 

No, rarely.  We first had to deal with our emotions about the issue.  Many of us are not taking action because we become enveloped by grief, whether it takes the form of sadness, anger, guilt, apathy, fear, or suffering/pain.  We can not move to a place of action, until we first move past these extremely paralyzing emotions.  We first must realize that this is not a personal problem that we must handle alone.  We need to come home to each other. 

So, Joanna Macy originated and taught others to provide “Despair and Empowerment” workshops.  She found that it took community to move past these emotions.  Only when we realized that we were part of community, the community was deciding to take action together, that we are allies for each other and that as a community we are stronger and can make more impactful actions, could we as individuals feel empowered and stand in solidarity with each other.   

You are part of community.  You are part of the community of life, community of earth, community of land, community of this continent, community of southern bounty, community of Arkansas – the natural state, community of hot springs and crystals, community of this intentional Village, and community of this church of living light.  Together you can make the decision to join together and feel communally empowered through your individual actions to change the environmental fate of our planet.  May it be so.

·       *Hymn : # 175  We Celebrate the Web of Life

·        Our Shared Responsibility ~ (Offertory)

      Special Music ~ Sigilda Naidin

                              SENDING US OUT

·       *Hymn ~ Hymn #123: Spirit of Life 

·        Chalice Extinguishing ~ 

Lee Iafrate 3/14/13

Earth Day

Let the flame we extinguish remain in our hearts

As a reminder to take care of our Earth that it might flourish.

Let us plant a garden of love.

May the seeds that we sow be the seeds of faith,

May they be the seeds of humanity and compassion,

May they be the seeds of wisdom and truth

That they may grow strong and tall to become a source

For a better world.

·        The Garden Song -Peter Mayer

·        Closing~ April Ambrose


“I am as old as the universe. 

I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again.”

I am a child of the universe. 

A part of all women and a part of all men.” – John Seed


From “The Desiderata of Happiness” written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann.

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than [AND NO MORE THAN] the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. 

“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. 

Be cheerful. 

Strive to be Happy.” 

·        “Peace Be With You” ~ Words adapted by Shirley Scheel


Peace be with us ‘til we meet again.

Nature’s beauty will surround us,

Loving kindness all around us.

Peace be with us ‘til we meet again.


Peace be with you ‘til we meet again.

May our fellowship enfold you,

Kindred spirits here uphold you.

Peace be with you ‘til we meet again.                     

·        Postlude ~ Sigilda Naidin (Please remain seated during the postlude)