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Chapter 8: What’s That? Naming, Knowing, Delighting, Caring, Suffering by Debra Rienstra

An illustrated companion to Chapter 8 of Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care. To view main webpage, click here:

"my tiny daughter Mia was enchanted with the doggie and wanted to visit her every day. Eventually, we learned from another neighbor the dog’s name: Penny. ...I don’t know whether our ritual visits made a difference to Penny, but I do know that Penny’s suffering mattered more to us after we knew her name."
Mia Rienstra, the author's daughter (Photos courtesy of Debra Rienstra)
"Learning what is needed to steward the nonhuman creation is very difficult, especially because many of us cannot name more than a few of the plants, animals, waters, or landforms around us."
Top, left to right: ninebark, dutchman's breeches, and oak leaf hydrangea. Bottom: red maple (a.k.a. swamp maple, water maple, or soft maple!)
"These delightful words invite us to return to that childlike sense of the world as a curious and lively place."
"So as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities toward the creation, we can begin at the beginning: we can learn the names for things. Learning names, we might say, is the first step in creation care. When we begin by learning names, we activate a deeper knowledge that prepares us to receive the gifts of delight, caring, and suffering."

"For those of us who wish to learn more, there are wise and willing teachers all around." If you are interested in starting the journey of learning the names of the plants and other species around you, below are links to several helpful websites.

"Applied to creation care, being ignorant of names indicates that we lack knowledge about human and nonhuman creatures that inhabit the creation, not to mention the interactions on which they depend."
"If we imagine Adam beginning with deep knowledge of the other creatures, could his act of naming also be seen as an act of love?"
Medieval painting from Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery
"Moving from knowledge to care, admittedly, is no easy task. Our complex and differing human motivations and priorities combined with the sheer amount of labor required make gathering and combining knowledge difficult."

Michigan's Sand Dune Ecosystems

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Types of Sand Dunes
Why type of dune do you think this is?

To learn more about the different types of dunes, click the following link:

Scrubby grasses at Sleeping Bear Dunes

To learn more about Michigan's dunes, or to plan a trip to visit them, see the following websites:

(All dune photos courtesy of Debra Rienstra)

"Each of us needs to join in the project of learning names, gaining knowledge, caring, and suffering if we are to fulfill our calling as God’s image bearers and work toward justice and flourishing for “all creatures here below.” Knowledge is difficult and complicated, but ignorance is dangerous and irresponsible."
"All species with legend" by Global Amphibian Assessment [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:All_species_with_legend.jpg
"our work is to find our way into the delight and mutual respect that Adam had for the creatures he named, the delight and curiosity of an innocent child. That work is risky, because it may lead to the suffering that comes with caring. But it is necessary work on our way to a doxology of love and praise."

To return to the Beyond Stewardship homepage, click here:

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