The Great Work: Our way into the future, by Thomas Berry, Bell Tower, New York, 1999, 256 ff.
An inspiration for the future By Howard A. Jones
Thomas Berry, who died in June 2009, was a Roman Catholic priest who had a unique vision of what religion, and Christianity in particular, should be about - not primarily about individual salvation but care of the planet for the wellbeing of all living things. The Great Work of the title is an exhortation to all of us to embrace this philosophy of the love of others through care of the environment. The great age of 94 at which he died is a measure of the depth of wisdom of his message.
Though the book contains warnings enough of the perils for humankind if we continue on our path of materialistic self-interest, overall this is a message of hope, of what we can become if we have the moral strength and courage to shift the focus of our existence from ourselves with our short-term goals to the continuing existence of life on the planet: `We think of the Earth more as the background for economic purposes or as the object of scientific research rather than as a world of wonder, magnificence and mystery for the unending delight of the human mind and imagination.' A primary concern for humankind `must be to recover an integral relation with the universe'.
Like some other contemporary futurists Berry lays great emphasis on the importance of the role of education in schools and universities. The whole emphasis of education has become the acquisition of facts rather than to `hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea . . . We have disengaged from that profound interaction with our environment that is inherent in our nature' and which finds natural expression in the indigenous peoples of the world. `The other-than-human world is not recognised as having any inherent rights or values . . . we have silenced too many of those wonderful voices of the universe that spoke to us of the grand mysteries of existence.'
This is an inspirational book for anyone who is sensitive to the plight of the planet and who wants to immerse themselves in the spiritual journey towards what another futurist, Frank Parkinson, called metanoia - a fundamental shift in our outlook on the world.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.
There is a geat need to put meaning back into our living. This book offers us a way of visioning the past, the present and the future with the challange to re-envision the same past and present so that the present will renew our hope for the future - and once again give meaning to it all.
An extremely well written book - it is a pleasure to listen to the voice of wisdom. It is a wake up call to our role and responsibility to our planet. Read this book and get a feel for how you can take up 'the great work' - how you can find your own way of contributing to a future for all.
This book starts off slow and builds. It starts out sounding like a sermon, preaching renewed intimacy with the natural world. Of course it is easier to describe that, than to actually suck the reader into that experience. Slowly, however, Berry passes beyond preaching. The book becomes a passionate documentary, exposing with careful accuracy the gaping holes in our ethics, our laws, and our cultures. He travels up and down planetary history and across civilizations, always sounding familiar with his vast element. The whole presentation is an example of what Berry preaches: life centered on the greater self of the living planet, with all things no longer revolving around humanity.
--author of The Gardens of Their Dreams: Desertification and Culture in World History