Monday, October 8, 2007

"Forgive us our tresspasses"

a. Earth (Oil on Canvas. Painting in the series on the Lord’s Prayer. 1988. Collection of the Missions Prokura sj. Nurenberg.)

‘Earth is my sacred mother’. Such affirmations are central to most of India’s faith-traditions. Vedic, Epic, Agamic, locally indigenous and primal faiths - all find striking forms of affinity with the natural world. In spite of the Eastern Church’s sense of the divine ‘presence’ and ‘glory’ within creation, and western saints like Francis - ecstatic in their sense of oneness with Christ who in love ‘descends’ down to share the life of all lowly creatures - calling on ‘mother earth’, along with birds and all her creatures, to join in self-giving praise to their Creator God, western Christian culture has all too often rejected as ‘pagan’ any idea of earth as a sacred Mother. Nature and her powers are not to be sacralised. Only the Creator is to be worshipped.

Now, increasingly, we all find ourselves re-imagining earth as our nurturing Mother, to be revered, protected, given great value for her own sake (as well as for the sake of human well-being and wholeness, and in a more ultimate sense for God the Creator’s sake). Our ravaging of earth’s life increasingly appals us.
For millennia in India, as we saw earlier, devout people have asked earth’s forgiveness even for stepping on her as they rise from sleep in the morning. Primal sacrifice too, bloody and cruel though it may have been, was at least offered from a sense of guilt at intruding into the realm of earth’s powers.
Jyoti here imagines a young woman’s body, as though embedded in the earth, bending down at dawn in an act of reverence, offering up the sun. Or perhaps making an offering to the Sun of Righteousness, arising ‘with healing in his wings’. Earth is shown in multi-hued browns, golds and greens. Sun, sky and clouds have an almost child-like riot of bright colours. Thus this picture is just one example of how strong is the impinging of ‘primal’ cultural life on Jyoti’s consciousness.
There is a socially aware pathos hidden here too. Today’s growing eco-faith can all to easily become naive romanticism. Jyoti intends us to look beyond the colourful landscape to the hidden agony of the young woman. In his own words:

We are all represented by this woman embedded in the soil, especially those who are walked upon and trodden into the dust. In India this means the millions who have been made out-caste, who now call themselves Dalits. And we can take this to mean ‘children of Dal, children of the earth’.

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