The oil spill in the Gulf has been front and center of the news for the past 3 1/2 months. I'm hopeful, after listening to the radio tonight, that the well may be capped soon, with only the clean up to contend with. However, even with this good news, there is still the possible longterm damage of the chemical dispersants that were used. It's probably true that we won't know about the total damage that this spill caused for a long time, if ever.

There's no doubt that this spill was a major environmental disaster. And given that, there's every reason to be cautious and proactive in setting up guidelines for future drilling, especially given the greed so common to humanity - greed which sets aside precautions for expediency, and substitutes inferior products to save a buck and enhance profit.

When I think about these sorts of catastrophes, especially those caused by man-made blundering, it's hard not to despair that we will ever learn how to care for our earth. It's easy to imagine that we may make choices that are truly irreparable. As I was pondering this, I was heartened a bit, by remembering the lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, The Grandeur of God.

Here's the poem:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God,
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why then do men not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.
And all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil.
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent.
There lives the dearest freshness, deep down things.
And though the last lights off the bleak West went,
Oh, morning, at the brown brink Eastward springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings.

As he writes this poem, Hopkins is no doubt dismayed by the inroads of industrialization of his day. The lines "All is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil, /and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell" seems to speak of the move from natural to manmade, perhaps even pointing towards the smells and sights of factories, smokestacks and urban sprawl.

Yet Hopkins was able to affirm the strength of the power God infused in nature. I'm constantly amazed that if you break up and tear out the concrete that covers so much of the American suburban landscape, there is still dirt . Dirt that, once exposed to the sun, will become green with weeds and shrubs and eventually trees, if left long enough. Truly "there lives the dearest freshness, deep down things".  

The poem ends with a resounding hopefulness. God has not left his creation, although it is being despoiled by man, but continues to breathe into it. The Holy Ghost who hovered over the chaos before the earth was formed, still "broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings" over the world in which we live. Despite the ways in which we manage to wreak havoc upon this precious gift of creation, the energies of God continue to pour forth renewal.

I trust that that same power will graciously bring restoration to the Gulf Coast. And that we will learn humility in our dealings with the earth, becoming better stewards of a cherished gift and see with clearer eye the granduer of God in the world around us.

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