‘To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul… Uprootedness is by far the most dangerous malady to which human societies are exposed.’ So says Simone Weil, and I reckon she’s got a point.
What she says is reflected in Bishop Bill Ind’s statement that, ‘as our experience of the world becomes increasingly global, so it becomes increasingly important for us to know where we belong, where our home is’, and by Professor Tim Gorringe, who makes the simple point that, ‘to be human is to be placed’.
If that is the case then E.S. Casey’s perspective is disturbing, that, ‘‘the world is nothing but a scene of endless displacement. The global village has become a placeless place’.
I wonder if this notion of place is something that you think about or not? I suspect it isn’t – it’s easy to think that place is trivial, just incidental to who we are, but I want to say that it isn’t. We are not disembodied beings; we are located. Place is a central part of what it means to be human and I want to make three simple statements about that:
Firstly, our fundamental home is this earth: it’s the land that feeds and sustains us. We are literally earth creatures – adam from the ‘adamah (Hebrew for earth). As human beings we have been placed in a garden and that is where we belong, as gardeners.
That may seem a strange concept because, apart from maybe spending some time in a little patch at the back of our houses, most of us live lives that are disconnected from the earth and don’t see ourselves as gardeners at all (caretakers or stewards maybe, but not gardeners). But we are, even if from a distance. All of us are involved in tending and caring for this earth that we live off, and it’s high time we found ways of rediscovering what it means for us to be gardeners in this globalised world.
Secondly, whilst our primary sense of place is rooted in the land, within that we also find our place within the human community, with our neighbours, family, friends, work colleagues. So often it is the people around us who make up our sense of place.
In my busy life I find that a challenge. I can spend too much time building up my own life, focussing on myself, and that isn’t wrong in itself, but I want to make sure that I’m thinking about those who are around me – how can I invest in them and root myself deeper into their lives?
Thirdly, for those of us with a Christian faith, we are rooted in Christ. Colossians 1:2 says literally, ‘to those in Colosse the holy and faithful brothers/sisters in Christ’: in Colosse, in Christ, are like two bookends relating to where we are. Yes, we are located physically in Colosse, in Chichester, Little Upton or wherever, but alongside that we are also located in Christ.
I wonder how our sense of place in Christ changes our sense of rootedness in the land and with people? Positively, a strong sense of being in Christ can be deeply comforting to those whose physical existence is painful, and many find that being in Christ leads them to uproot from where they are to follow him in a different location
Alongside that, though, it has too often had the effect of de-rooting us negatively, causing us to focus on ‘saving souls’ and not to be interested in the physical place that we live in and the physical needs of the people, species and eco-systems that share that place with us.
What does it mean to you to be placed – on the land, with other people, and in Christ – and how do you hold those three things together?