"No intimacy: no revelation. No revelation: no givenness of things." (Henry Bugbee) — On becoming modern "Green Men and Women"?

A modern "Green Man"?
On Sunday I didn't have to give an address because a member of the congregation, Julian Holloway, gave a very fine one indeed entitled "Past Arcadia and Kingdom Come". Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) talks about the need for us to develop an "educated hope" (docta spes). This is especially necessary when it comes to maintaining a genuine hope for a better future world when one can no longer believe in the metaphysical hopes offered up by conventional theism. In his own way (without explicit reference to Bloch I should add) Julian modelled in a very clear way something of this "educated hope" and I found what he said valuable and very uplifting.

Now, because Julian was giving the address this meant that I was given the chance, at the end of Saturday, to spend some time properly to relax with my wife, Susanna, in the shade of the church garden with a cold G&T in our hands. We talked, read and sat quietly for a very pleasant hour.

As is my want I also took a few photos including a few double exposures just for fun. Even Susanna got in on that act and took one of me superimposed on a "Choisya Ternata" that is growing in the garden. It had something of the "Green Man" about it (see photo above) — that strange and evocative symbiosis of human and vegetable, simultaneously and indissolubly Pagan and Christian. In and of itself this might have been no more than a simple, fun image but, because it was created shortly after having read a wonderful passage in a very perceptive essay about Henry Bugbee (1915-1999) entitled "Presence, Memory and Faith" by Steven E. Webb, the photo resonated much more powerfully than it might of done.

Webb's words sent me excitedly back to their source in the Inward Morning. Bugbee's words there seem to me to offer us one way we might understand what it would take to become in our own, naturalistic (i.e. non-supernaturalistic) age, Green Men and Women, creatures intimately participating with all other things:

". . . the truth of the independence of things should not lead us to succumb to a sense of isolation and insularity among independent existents. The independence of things is not warrant for an objectivizing mode of thought about them, for taking an abstract point of view toward them and ourselves. For concretely, experience of the presence of things is also complete intimacy with them, the opposite of estrangement from them and ourselves. The gift of things in their independence is also the gift of ourselves together with them. And here [Gabriel] Marcel seems to me very clear and just right: In the experience of presence that estrangement between self and other, that tension between self and other, which supports the representation of the other as over against the self, that estrangement and that tension are dissolved. To be aware of the other as a presence in its independence is an experience of participation in reality with the other, and such experience concretely resists the reduction of the independence of the other to the terms of objectivity (the German term for objectivity, once again, seems most precise: Gegenständlichleit: "standing-over-against-ness") (Inward Morning p. 164).


Yewtree said…
Excellent. Experiencing the other in its independence as truly present reminds me of Harry Hay's concept of Subject-Subject Consciousness - the idea that in a relationship, we should regard the other as a subject in their own right, not merely as the object of our desires. And this is also true of the environment, if we wish to be in (right) relationship with it.
Dear Yewtree,

Thanks for your reply to my comment on your own blog a few moments ago concerning your excellent A prayer for the environment.

For readers of this blog I wrote there:

"Greetings [Yewtree]. Thanks for this prayer which was, today of all days, particularly and powerfully relevant to me. Why? Well, on posting a piece about "Green Men and Women" about half and hour ago I noticed you had put this up. So I came over to have a look. The connections are, I think, obvious."