I've just read Kate Raworth's brilliant book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist (Random House, 2017).
Among many profoundly hopeful possibilities the book opens up, one that's particularly struck me is the possibility that economies could be what she calls 'regenerative by design'. That is, instead of assuming that 'efficient' economic activity must function to exploit all available resources (human and natural) to their full extent, regenerative human activity is designed to 'be generous' and to 'give back to the living systems of which we are a part' (p.218). Elsewhere she speaks about the built-in redundancy in natural systems, which means that things aren't always operating at full stretch but have some capacity to absorb shocks to the system or 'lean' periods. In a similar vein, Charles Massey in The Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture for a New Earth speaks of 'regenerative farming' and others speak of 'regenerative cities'.
All this seems to me to offer something incredibly important for thinking about what both social and ecological justice entails in our context, and for the kind of societal transformation we wish to see. Part of what I hope for Benedictus as we enter into a new year, is that we may be part of fostering this kind of conversation and community.
What strikes me also is how deeply congruent this is with our vocation as a contemplative community, since contemplation is itself a radically 'regenerative' practice. On the one hand, it invites me to trust that there is 'redundancy' in the ecology of my own life - that I've got time and space to 'do nothing' in the presence of God. Here we notice that 'redundancy' and 'abundance' are essentially the same - and the invitation is to 'be generous'. And on the other hand, as the practice itself brings us more deeply into contact with the endlessly regenerative livingness of God, we find our 'abundance' increasing, being renewed from the inside (springs of living water that never run dry, Jesus said).
This Wednesday retreat is one of the expressions of this 'redundancy' and this commitment to live 'regeneratively', abundantly and generously in my own life. I don't always manage to blog about it, even if I've 'made' the retreat. I will try to do better in that regard this year. But in this first retreat for 2018, I commit again to trust this time and space, to be faithful to it, in the hope and prayer that it is a gift not only to me but to our common life.