This train of thought was started by Ministry in today's Meeting. The announcement of allowing stem cell research based on mixing animal and human cells was discussed in an early morning religious BBC radio programme. What caught the speaker's imagination was the fact that the cells could be linked so demonstrating the unity of life. (I have read that most living creatures share a common pool of genes but how they get switched on and off is what creates the complexity of apparent differences). Towards the end of the Meeting, more Ministry explored the hidden exploitation of animals in the process as well as the plain fact that if we tackled world poverty then this would increase the well-being of the many rather then the few.
The meeting closed and in the after words session, a whoosh of conversations opened up exploring the notions of when human life is said to begin or what the benefits of research would be for relatives that are in the living death of senile dementia.
I remained silent as my thoughts had gone off in two different directions. One was that the whole issues under discussion call into question traditional Theistic notions of God. In that the idea of man being in the image of God is a key Christian notion as well as having dominion over all that fly and crawl. Both link to the image of the Emperor God creator. If humans are not unique and part of a continuum of life as has been traditional in many Eastern religions then the light is in all creation and not just in humanity. What does this mean for our relationship to the planet and life? To be fair what I have just written applies to the notion of a Transcendent God but it is compatible with Panentheism (not pantheism which is God as nature but everything in God, and God in everything). As illustrated by this old Welsh poem.
I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,My other train of thought, lead me to a concern that the research is driven by a medical profession and public demand that refuses to engage with ageing, dying and death. We urge bodies on to live as that are tired and weary of life. In part this had been set off by reading The year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion where she discusses the gradual change from where grief had a clear public timetable and ritual stretching over years to one now where grief is seen as an embarrassing private affair.
I am the wave on the ocean,
I am the murmur of leaves rustling,
I am the rays of the sun,
I am the beam of the moon and stars,
I am the power of trees growing, I am the bud breaking into blossom,
I am the movement of the salmon swimming,
I am the courage of the wild boar fighting,
I am the speed of the stag running,
I am the strength of the ox pulling the plough,
I am the size of the mighty oak tree,
I am the thoughts of all the people
Who praise my beauty and grace.
But it also been set into motion by a contradictory approach to the first set of thoughts. This are the ideas of Don Cupitt. In his writings, Cupitt sometimes describes himself an Christian non-realist This means that he follows certain spiritual practices and attempts to live by ethical standards traditionally associated with Christianity, without believing the actual existence of the underlying metaphysical entities. One of his arguments, explores the experiences of early Christian who believed in the second coming and end times. He and many other commentators argue that this what shaped and opened the cult to pagans and took a more equal view of women etc. He extends this today and asks how you would live your life if each day was your last. Dr. Bernie Siegel is a physician who has cared for and counselled innumerable patients echoes this notion as this quote shows.
In many cases people who've become aware of their mortality fine that they've gain the freedom to live. they are sized with an appreciation for the present: every day is my best day; this is my life; I am not going to have this moment again. They spend more time with the people they love and less time on people and pastimes that don't offer love or joy. this seems like such a simple thought-shouldn't we all spend our lives that way? But we tend not to make those kind of choices until someone says, " you have 12 months to live."They can be reconciled as they both ask me to value life and to live positively but we can chose to express that as helping God's love of the world or seeking to live in a just way. Who cares as long as we
show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world