Not so long ago, each morning, school assemblies in Britain reverberated with children chanting the Lord’s Prayer.
…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On Earth, as it is in Heaven…
A switch in one letter, ‘o’ to ‘i’, turns the ‘on Earth’ to ‘in Earth’ as it was in the older form of the prayer. ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven.’ Recite it anew and suddenly a small seed sparkles.
In the version most of us are familiar with Heaven is a place apart, a pure essence in which hopefully we live after death; a cloudy enveloping all-consuming space of the purest brightest light.
Earth is solid inanimate, a place on which we dwell. On top, cut away from, disconnected – and apart from the Divine.
When we switch to ‘in Earth’ everything is suddenly included. It is all in Earth, made of Earth, part of Earth – laughing Earth’s laugh.
The origins and essence of these two words, on and in, are upon and within.
For so long we have been up and on Earth, supported by, above, superior. Heaven we strive and hope to be with and in. Earth, matter, we move away from so she can be used without empathy.
If we are within Earth we are with and in. Humble. And this humility lowers our head from up high and down to Earth, whether with defeat and shame or softly and shyly with modesty. We go down on our knees and with head to Earth we pray; knowing earth, Life something we are part of is far greater, far more powerful, and surrendering to That.
It is not about superiority, inferiority or even equality. We are not apart but embedded with and in Earth. The rain lashes us, we wade through mud, ice, snow, swim in seas and rivers, breezes brush up against us unseen but felt, we run through deep meadow grasses, sink into sandy beaches, shelter in caves and homes of wood, earth, ice. And of course we eat Earth’s generous gifts.
Our body, our matter, is almost wholly water, very similar to the waters of the seas. Death eventually takes our bodies back into Earth – consumed in flames, dissolved into rivers and oceans, eaten by birds, worms, microbes and finally disappearing back into Earth – any hint of separation gone. We are with and in Earth.
Living in Earth, being totally composed of it, many feel its pain, as well as its rippling joy. It is Life flowing. These senses are heartfelt and very deep; from deep down in the soul, down in the Earth, down in the soul of the Earth.
The joy of in-Earthness is easily understood. Small moments of great joy in nature are treasures many of us have had. Such incredible moments are gifts to be accepted, let in. It is enough to be with them joyously, witnessing.
The increasingly frequent natural and human created disasters, like the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, shout out to remind us of this fragility, the pain in Earth and our role in its cause and healing.
Life and humanity are crying out. Crying out for justice – the right relations between humans, the right relations between humans and Earth. Echoing the lines of the Lord’s Prayer, may Thy will be done in Earth. It is as though Earth is forcing us to see ourselves as part of her, pushing us to see that we humans are not the centre of Life.
Having lived up and on Earth for so long now something within Earth, within Life, can no longer cope with being mistreated and looked down on from up there.
Words are powerful; they shape our consciousness, our ways of experiencing and so behaving. So what if we said in earth, rather than on, routinely in everyday life as well in our prayers for healing and justice?
It is one simple change: an ‘i’ replacing an ‘o’. Then back within Earth, no longer upon, reconnected, joy, Life flows.
One Earth sparkling with its Life. And as we are all within Earth so we individuals sparkle too – not a single person, not a single atom being left out.
2010, originally published in Resurgence Magazine, spring 2011.