I am fascinated by holy dirt. A humble substance, dirt, and a humble word. “Humble” derives from the Latin humilis, “lowly,” or literally “of the ground,” from earlier linguistic roots with the meaning “earth.” Dirt is the literal ground of our being — that substance from which we, our food, our homes, and our very existence spring.
In the biblical tradition, the creation story tells us, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2). Adamah, in Hebrew, means dirt, soil, mud. From dirt, God makes Adam, the first man. We are dirt, and to dirt we shall return.
A less earthy word, “soil,” from Latin for “place” or “ground,” carries connotations of being in place, being grounded, rooted. Of growing in a place. I won’t mention the biological, geological, and chemical processes that form soil and produce life, but it is clear there is no shortage of miracles. Can there be dirt or ground that is not holy?
It’s our capacity to recognize the sacred nature of the ground, and to speak of it as such, that is in short supply. At Kairos Earth, we believe that people inherently have the capacity — and the need — to be in sacred relationship with each other, with the divine mystery, and with the Earth. In the modern era, though, this capacity has been stunted, covered over, and hidden. The loss of living in sacred relationship with all these — People, God, and Nature — has led us into ways of being that are destructive of ourselves and of the Earth. To heal ourselves and the land, we must begin to recover this capacity and language.
In the coming months, we will be launching a new program — the Sacred Ground initiative — to begin reclaiming and recovering human capacity to experience and speak of the land — all the land, everywhere — as sacred.
Some people and cultures have not lost this capacity, and we look forward to learning from them. Others are just beginning, and for still others this is new and challenging. We look forward to sharing our findings with you, and to learning from you and others.
How can we learn again to speak of our common mother — Earth — as sacred?