Friday, October 14, 2016

Insistent problems

Greetings from Harvard Divinity School - my first visit. I'm up for a weekend-long conference fêting 20 years since a series of symposia here launched the field of Religion and Ecology. The first day's panels looked back and forward from the perspective of 8 religious traditions - Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian - constructs the various speakers were varyingly comfortable or uneasy with in this, our post-"World Religions" moment.

The most exciting talk came from a scholar of Daoism who thinks the "religion and environment" language, along with the disciplines it appeals to, perpetuates the very division of human from nature which led to the environmental crisis in the first place. What's needed is something like the "liquid ecology" of Daoist traditions:

To be an individual is not to be distinguished from “the world” by virtue of some unique nature of character that “nature” does not possess. Instead the subjectivity of nature “insists in” or informs the subjectivity of the individual; the uniqueness of each individual life, and the uniqueness of the human species is constituted by the particular way in which the Dao is configured or constellated within each life.

Tomorrow explores indigenous traditions from several continents and some specific environmental issues, before, on Sunday, the conference engages new voices and interlocutors in fields like Environmental Humanities. Should be an education!

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