The New Story Summit was held at Findhorn in Northern Scotland last week, and some of the story activists in attendance have been heading home via Edinburgh. Drew Dellinger came through last Tuesday and I had a chance to hear him perform his poetry and share his reflections on Western culture at St John’s Church. Drew is a protege of the late great ecological theologian Thomas Berry, of Dreaming the Earth fame, carrying on the task of resacralizing the Earth through writing, speaking and activism in a Berry-sort-of way. Drew spoke passionately about the toll of Western culture’s insistence on the materiality of all things (“no thing is actually a thing”) and of our need for a deep, poetic and sacred vision of our beautiful planet.
Drew is carrying out restorying work in some very concrete ways. He is currently working on a book tracing the threads of ecological thinking through Martin Luther King’s life and work. This is not “ecological thinking” in the modern materialist sense, but rather in the deeply spiritual even cosmological sense that Drew argues is so desperately needed today.
By coincidence, I’d covered the historical origins of the Environmental Justice movement on Monday in the first year undergrad course I teach on global health. I had taught that history in the good old modernist style: African American communities observed that toxic waste facilities were more often located next to them than next to other communities and cried for justice. I’m sure these observations did play a large part in the development of the movement. However, what Drew’s restorying work uncovers is a deeper, more cosmological, more longstanding thread of ecological thinking, of the resacralization of the Earth, in the Civil Rights movement. Some of this New Story will be threading its way into my teaching on the Civil Rights Movement and environmental health activism next year.
Drew’s overall message was that dream, story, art and action are the tools we have on hand to return the sacred into our lives. To paraphrase:
“Art is how we communicate
Art is how we connect at a heart level
Art is how we transform consciousness.”