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This Sacred Life
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Book description

In a time of climate change, environmental degradation, and social injustice, the question of the value and purpose of human life has become urgent. What are the grounds for hope in a wounded world? This Sacred Life gives a deep philosophical and religious articulation of humanity's identity and vocation by rooting people in a symbiotic, meshwork world that is saturated with sacred gifts. The benefits of artificial intelligence and genetic enhancement notwithstanding, Norman Wirzba shows how an account of humans as interdependent and vulnerable creatures orients people to be a creative, healing presence in a world punctuated by wounds. He argues that the commodification of places and creatures needs to be resisted so that all life can be cherished and celebrated. Humanity's fundamental vocation is to bear witness to God's love for creaturely life, and to commit to the construction of a hospitable and beautiful world.

Reviews

'How can we live with hope in the midst of a deeply wounded world? In prose as lucid in style as it is illuminating in content, Norman Wirzba’s This Sacred Life builds a patient, forceful and elegant case that knowing where we are is crucial to understanding both who we are as human beings and how we are to live in ways that nourish our own being together with that of the world that sustains us. Drawing on biology, ecology, anthropology, economics and psychology as well as theology to show how our lives are densely interwoven with the well-being of soil, air and water, he provides an arresting vision of the gift such a rooted and entangled life can be.'

Ian A. McFarland - Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Theology, Candler School of Theology, and Quondam Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

'After the first two chapters’ diving deeply into the painful wounds of our world the reader is amply rewarded. Discernments for our soil bound life in a meshwork, where rootedness and entanglement are crucial, encourage thinking and acting otherwise. Countervailing power emerges in a polyphonic and widely read dialogue with Ingold, Levinas, Bonhoeffer and many others. Wirzba’s vision of life as a sacred gift and our resonance in sympathetic co-becoming accumulates an overwhelming amount of hope and faith that deserves a widespread open-minded readership.'

Sigurd Bergmann - Emeritus Professor in Religious Studies (Trondheim, Lund, Uppsala, Munich)

'Scriptures have said so ‘from the beginning’ while theologians have asserted for centuries that creation is a sacred gift and invites a sacred vocation. Wirzba articulately, delicately, and exactingly fleshes out the implications of this premise for a deeper sensibility and sympathetic community, for transparent economies and a participatory democracy, as well as for self-conscious city-building with life-supporting infrastructures. His appeal to a world afflicted by discontent and affected by a pandemic is to reimagine creation and creatures as being and living together, to reflect on where we are and who we are in order, as T. S. Elliot says, to ‘know the place for the first time’.'

John Chryssavgis - author of Creation as Sacrament

'Norman Wirzba has long been one of the most perceptive observers of our predicament, and this fine book encapsulates so much of his wisdom. You will come out of it feeling a greater sense of what the author calls 'creatureliness,' and that will be both a comfort, and a goad to do the work that must be done to preserve the possibilities of this wonderful planet.'

Bill McKibben - author The End of Nature

'There is no more important interpreter of how to envision thriving life with the living planet than Norman Wirzba. [He] writes in ways that bring the religious and the nonreligious, the Christian and non-Christian into a shared perception of the problems and possibilities of healthy creaturely life. This beautifully rendered account of the sacrality of life offers what so many writing today on ecology, ecotheology, or environmental ethics struggle to achieve – a coherent and compelling vision of the human creature. This is a book that sings!'

Willie James Jennings - Yale University

'Generously conversant with a wide range of thinkers, Wirzba’s holistic theology of creation makes an important intervention in Anthropocene discourse. Critiquing proposals that take human control or transcendence as premise, yet without conceding to recent pessimism toward the concept of humanity, Wirzba’s way of unfolding a Christian vision of humans made to affirm, celebrate, and creatively participate in earthly life should stimulate conversation in theology and, more broadly, across the humanities.'

Willis Jenkins - University of Virginia

'Like the best of poems, this is a book that does what it says: it is a work of sustained attention – to historical contingencies, ecological complexities, ethical imperatives, and spiritual rediscoveries – that brings creative imagination as well as intellectual discernment to the reaffirmation of creaturely co-existence. Underpinned by a profound understanding of Christian texts and traditions, together with a keen awareness of the wrongs to which they have been welded, Wirzba’s meditations are richly and respectfully informed by others as well, especially Jewish and First Nations.'

Kate Rigby - Professor of Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University, and author of Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism (2004), Dancing with Disaster: Histories, Narratives, and Ethics for Perilous Times (2015), Reclaiming Romanticism: Towards an Ecopoetics of Decolonization (2020)

'Passionate, pioneering, prophetic. Wirzba delivers an urgent call to live creatively in a sacred world saturated with wounds. He ushers us beyond our critical Anthropocene condition to a timely - and salvific - reconnection with the earth.'

Richard Kearney - Charles Seelig Chair of Philosophy, Boston College, and author of the recent book Touch: Recovering our most Vital Sense

'In This Sacred Life, Norman Wirzba has written a book of immense generosity and astonishing intellectual range. At once down-to-earth and lyrical, graciously practical and deeply contemplative, the book offers a powerful rebuke to the misanthropy and cynicism of our age. It will guide and inspire generations to come.'

Tim Ingold - University of Aberdeen

'Norman Wirzba’s This Sacred Life is a timely book that equips us ethically, ecologically and epistemologically to address the multiple manmade emergencies we face: a health pandemic, climate havoc, biodiversity erosion and species extinction, and intolerable, brutal inequality and divisions. He takes us on a journey through the barren landscape of the desacralization of the earth and humanity that lies at the roots of these crises. This book is an invitation to take another path in which people practice the art of being creatures and members of one Earth Family, of receiving and giving life to create an abundant and flourishing world. This Sacred Life shows that we can reclaim the sacred by regenerating the Earth.'

Vandana Shiva

'Wirzba is not only extraordinarily perceptive about our ‘wounded world’ and the profound questions with which it faces us, he is also deeply convincing on how to live well with others in it. The secret is to receive life as utterly sacred, a gift of the divine love that is embodied in Jesus and that is to be shared in lives of love. The result is a wise, powerfully attractive book that deserves to be life-shaping for its readers.'

David F. Ford - Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus, University of Cambridge

'In this corker of a book Norman Wirzba, one of the foremost contributors to environmental philosophy and theology, addresses the modern western problem of rootlessness – not just from soil and land, but from self and a sense of purpose. Grounding his constructive vision in a theology of creation, he finds that this creaturely life (which encompasses the stars and the microorganism as well as ourselves) ‘is not simply the object of God’s love but its material manifestation’. Wirzba writes with an ease that welcomes every reader, and an erudition that will benefit all.'

Janet Soskice - William K. Warren Distinguished Research Professor of Catholic Theology, The Divinity School, Duke University

'No one I know can crosswalk between religious studies and environmental studies with the acuity and grace of Norman Wirzba. In This Sacred Life, he does not shirk from asking and answering some of the biggest questions facing humankind at this pivotal moment in our history. If our Creator offers us unconditional 'tough love' to guide us through moral dilemmas, then Wirzba offers us a kind of 'tough hope' that can help us make it through this dark night.'

Gary Paul Nabhan, AKA Brother Coyote OEF - author of Jesus for Farmers and Fishers & Food From the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities

'For many secularists and believers alike, God and creaturely life are more like enemies than friends. This Sacred Life is one sustained argument for the conviction that to love God rightly is to love life, and that, inversely, to love life rightly is to love God. This is an important, compelling, and urgently needed book.'

Miroslav Volf - Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University

'This Sacred Life answers an urgent question: What do theology and religion have to offer in healing the wounds inflicted on this living planet by an unbridled and ravenous capitalism? What is the point of human existence in an Anthropocene world? Wirzba's  judicious and thoughtful reflections on the human situation today draw creatively on Christian, Jewish, and indigenous traditions while being always in conversation with a wide range of thinkers, both past and contemporary, on questions concerning capitalism, colonial domination, race, gender, and sexuality. The result is a book that successfully lays the groundwork for an ethic of caring for the earth and the various forms of creaturely life that inhabit it. A must-read for all students of the Anthropocene.'

Dipesh Chakrabarty - Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College, University of Chicago

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