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Your Covenant with Nature

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The central concept in Humanism is that human beings can solve human problems. A simple example: a pile of dirty laundry.

Facts about that pile include the fact that the objects in the pile were made by human beings and that someone made the pile. So, a human being can do something about that pile of laundry.

Some human problems are created communally. We create constitutions, committees, communities, klatches and cliques . . . all sorts of groups that do all sorts of things, from mountaintop mining to small kindnesses.

Human beings make wars, economies, prisons, and hospitals. We create rules, laws, customs, and justice.

We create covenants. A famous one is YHWH’s covenant with Abraham and thereby with Isreal, ברית — berith — in Hebrew. YHWH makes a covenant with all of humanity after the flood — YHWH won’t do such mass killing (at least with water) ever again.

Christian scripture uses the Greek term διαθήκη, diathéké. The concept of universal covenant is where Paul got the idea for Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (King James Version)

The Stoics taught that we have such a diathéké, a convĕnĭentĭa naturae — a covenant with nature — simply be being born. We are born into the web of existence where, as Marcus Aurelius framed it:

All things connect — are bound together and sacred. Nothing is not connected. All things combine to make up the universe. There is one universe, made up of all things, and all things are one divinity that pervades all things and is all substance. All that is operates within one law and one understanding and truth saturates everything. All living things intersect in the web of existence. (Meditations 7.9)

The climate? You have a covenant with it and are bound into it. It is you and you are it. The polar bear. The glacier. Each living thing. All you.

As MLK wrote in his book Why We Can’t Wait:

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Yes, like a pile of dirty laundry, human beings create human problems, and only human beings can fix human problems . . . if those problems ever do get fixed.

It goes way beyond laundry, even way beyond social systems. As Marcus Aurelius and MLK both saw: “All living things intersect in the web of existence.”

Each of us is born into that web and into a covenant with nature. We can choose to rip or we can choose to repair.

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