Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
The Ring-tailed Lemur
Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
Meister Eckhart

The Ring-tailed Lemur

Just about all I know about Madagascar can be summed up in one word: lemurs. They are endemic to the island, found solely in Madagascar. The ring-tailed lemur is iconic, and their habit of living in troops of twenty to thirty is part of the timeless look of their species. The habitat loss in Madagascar is enough that 103 out of 107 species of lemur face extinction. 

It’s not just habitat loss though. Lemurs are cute. Adorable. About the size of a house cat, they draw tourists in droves. Though it is illegal for hotels to keep lemurs on site as a tourist attraction, there is little incentive to follow the rules. As Gayle Boss says, “lemurs bring the hotel tourists and tourist dollars help pay police.” If a police officer knows their salary is dependent upon a thriving tourist economy, and the tourists want lemur selfies, the police will turn a blind eye to the hotels’ ecological infractions. It’s not new behavior. It’s human behavior. Gayle Boss says that “a baby lemur sold for two dollars pays what most workers earn in three days,” so trappers are incentivized to continue their trade, and the crisis comes full circle. 

Sometimes we want to draw near. Sometimes we want to be up close. I feel chastened by the story of the lemur, having that longing to draw near to nature, to the creatures of the earth. If I were a tourist in Madagascar I would want to take that lemur selfie. It makes me feel like we are repeatedly shortsighted about what it means to draw near to the creatures of the earth. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, translating the Pirkei Avot (an ancient Jewish text) says, “Creation is the infinite in the garb of the finite.” In other words, drawing near to the lemur puts us in touch with the spirit of God. I wonder what would happen if we lived as if that were true, tending especially to the vulnerability.

Joy Harry puts it this way in her poem called “Remember”: 
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their 
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them, 
listen to them. They are alive poems.

May we listen to the lemurs’ poems
May we look for the infinite in the garb of the finite. 

How else can we care for God’s creation? How else can you support the global animal population? Try these ideas from your friends at church:

Shorter showers, Mark S.

My next car will be more eco-friendly, Sue L.

Use reusable containers, Charlie P.

Turn down the heat, Charlie P.

Start composting, Vivian V.

March 19, 2024

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