Cry, the Beloved Country: Common Place Book: Keep It, Guard It, Care for It

“Stand unshod upon it, for the ground is holy, being even as it came from the creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed.” p. 33

The interrelationship between man and earth cannot be denied, yet it also cannot be completely understood. This earth’s provision for us is beyond comprehension. But beyond this—and to our discredit and shame—we simply do not live in such a way that we grasp our dependence. 

The earth is so huge. We as individuals make no effect on it by our breathing, eating, working, playing. Sure we cut the grass, dig holes, burn our trash. But the grass regrows, the holes fill in, the smoke dissipates and is no more. Alone what effect can I have?

But the earth’s effect on us? The heavens declare the glory of God. They do that to each of us individually. A view—either across a vast prairie or from a mountain top—can move me, you, any individual, to a realization of smallness. It can move us to stop and consider. But I can pound my feet on the grass, jump up and down all I want, and the earth won’t move. It moves me; I cannot move it.

But we can. Not out of its orbit or faster or slower. But we can refuse to guard it from those who, joined together, seek to abuse it. We can refuse to keep it for the next generation and treat it like a grocery shelf in a pandemic. We can refuse to care for it—to fulfill our garden mandate. 

For we were given a mandate. To care for it and keep it. To till and tend. There was no—“so it will provide and care for you.” But there didn’t have to be in the garden. An expectation existed in those unfallen ears that what entered them was good. No need to ask why. 

But unfortunately, now, we still don’t ask why. But for a different reason. We don’t ask why because we don’t heed the mandate—or believe it. There is no mandate to question the why of. We are our own mandate. What pleases me is. I don’t think that I am slowly destroying my very existence—as man.

Again, my effect is imperceptible and so it is their job to be more careful. I’m mostly careful. But why mostly? Because mostly I care about what benefits me in the short-term: money and pleasure. The long game of the future is unknowable; the desire for comfort now is undeniable. So I will create for me today even if there is a vague or even profound sense that I am robbing tomorrow. We grasp at today. 

Jesus did not grasp. He played the long game of giving up now to save later. He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. He did not come to be served but to serve. But God has been playing the long game all along. “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” And Abraham’s 25 years of waiting were nothing compared to mankind’s two centuries until the promise was realized. If Weston were at all serious, he should have been an environmentalist before he was a space traveler. 

Keep it, guard it, care for it. We are undeniably tied to it. 

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