Day 3: 18th May – Recognizing the Other as Other
From Laudato Si:
‘It is not enough to think of different species merely as potential ‘resources’ to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves.’ #33
‘The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us.’ #83
‘Even the fleeting lives of the least of beings is the object of [God’s] love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with affection.’ #77
Pope Francis is keenly aware of the great loss that is happening in our world. The expression ‘loss of biodiversity’ does not fully capture the enormity of the situation. To get it we need to have some understanding of the range of life-forms in our world.
John Feehan tells us that to date something like 1.7 million species have been named and described by humans. However, this is but a tiny fraction of the number of life forms inhabiting our planet which is somewhere in the region of ten to thirty million. Comprehension of such numbers is truly beyond us and in a sense a numbers approach does not really matter. Perhaps what does matter is the fact that, as John Feehan points out, ‘every one of these millions is as biologically complex as I am, made with the same loving care, unfolded from the same seed of being at the beginning of things, has travelled an evolutionary journey similar to mine, from the same starting point, but in a different and complimentary direction.’ The challenge then is twofold – to recognise the existence of so many species and to respect the fact of the otherness and uniqueness of each.
Our COVID-19 world is allowing other than human creatures more breathing space as so much human economic activity has shut down. The birds can fly with ease in the clearer air in China. Fish can swim again in the canals of Venice. The question we are invited to grapple with is: How might we open up our human economic activity while allowing space for the other species to live in comfort and without fear?
Let us be ever mindful of the right to existence of other creatures. May we be open to the fact that millions of life-forms inhabit this planet as their home. As we humans make tentative plans of recovery may all such plans take account of the fact that we share a home with countless other creatures all enfolded in divine affection.
All of the previous Laudato Si’ daily reflections can be found in our Resources Section under Social Issues.
Margaret Twomey rsm