Navigating this one precious life of ours is of utmost interest to me. So much so, I have dedicated myself to helping others to do the same. So intrigued by it, I studied a Bachelor of Social Science which studies society and the manner in which people behave and influence the world around them. The specific interest - relationships.
Our relationships with one another are so important. They have the power to bring joy, yet also incredible sadness. As people created in the image and likeness of God, it is no wonder that we seek to have good and right relationships with others. The triune God is the example of this right relationship - God, Jesus and Holy Spirit.
In all this talk about relationships I want to throw two words out - 'Integral' and 'Ecology'. Integral means that something is necessary to make a whole complete, in other words, essential or fundamental. Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. Put the two together and you get what Pope Francis in writing Laudato Si' is getting at; a holistic approach of reality. The Pope is bringing together concerns about the environment, alongside the interconnected social, cultural and economic areas of our lives. Pope Francis rightly puts forward that "The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to the causes related to social degradation" (LS 48). Here Pope Francis calls for "an ecological conversion" that entails a holistic and comprehensive approach to healing a broken world.
So where to start? What does this mean for everyday? As cliché as it sounds, it starts with me. Over the past few years, I have become more and more aware of the footprint that I have here on earth and the responsibility associated. We recently bought a new family car, and one of the features important to us was its impact on the environment. I seek to buy goods that have no form of slavery or human trafficking associated in their manufacturing, especially clothing. I also buy clothing that I think will last - in Australia we are the second highest consumers of textiles in the world (we consume 27kgs of new clothing per year and dispose on average 23kgs of clothing to landfill). However, I will admit that I don't always put the cloth bags back in the car before I go grocery shopping and have come home with the odd plastic bag from time to time - whoops!
I do think that there is a key to holistically understanding how we might keep integral ecology at the forefront of our minds, especially if we see the Christian life as one that gives us a way to do it. It is certainly how I have come to understand it more critically and concretely in my habits. Saint Paul in his writing to the Galatians around 40 something AD speaks about the fruit of the Holy Spirit in chapter five. Saint Paul talks about the proper use of freedom and describes nine attributes of the person that has the Holy Spirit as part of their lives. They are; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we apply these fruits to the framework of integral ecology the interconnectedness becomes apparent. A fruitful way of life is not just about people, but all of creation in right relationship.
This 'ecological conversion' that Pope Francis talks about, I think is happening to me. I understand that it is all about relationships and how I can play my part in healing a broken world in a life-giving way in my thoughts and actions towards my fellow human beings and the world in which we inhabit together. For me, this is how I see it and it makes a difference in how I approach decisions and the life that I want to live. It certainly is how we at ACU Campus Ministry seek to make our contribution to this one precious world.
BIO: Mark Lysaght is Associate Director of Identity & Mission at ACU; located on the Brisbane Campus. Over a period of 25+ years Mark has built up a wealth of experience in a raft of business, church and community-based contexts across a broad social and cultural stratum. Bringing his experience from the business world coupled with tertiary qualifications in Social Science, Counselling and Ministry, Mark is passionate about helping men and women understand faith, articulate it and live it in today’s world. Mark is married to Nikki and they have three children, Kaiya, Xavier and Bella.