Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Soil of Human Flourishing

In an 1814 collection of sermons, Rev. James Freeman, former minister of King's Chapel, contends that the best form of prosperity is being rich in good works. He considers human life “a soil, where every kind of seed will vegetate” if you water and nurture it. You plant your own garden. You plant your own life. But just as your plot of land draws its nutrients from sources beyond itself, so too the fertility of your soil directly impacts the plants around you. You affect, and are affected by, the ecosystem of which you are a part.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Freeman observed how “the air [was] filled with the seeds of vice.” He therefore exhorted his parishioners to “Pluck up…the weeds of evil, as soon as they appear.” Two hundred years later, Freeman’s advice remains frightfully relevant. We, too, must pluck up the weeds of excess and irresponsibility. Instead of living way beyond our means, we should adopt the practice of self-emptying. We should release ourselves from gratuitous desire. We should lose a life of surfeit in order to gain a life of sustainability.

Our garden depends on it. The soil of the world, literally, depends on it.

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