I have always been fascinated by places set apart: Churches, temples, synagogues, cathedrals, historic sites, national parks, rivers, oceans, and particularly, forests. Place and space have a profound impact on how we feel, what we believe, and our personal ethics. Against any kind of dualism between spirit and matter, I have always felt that the interior is intimately connected to the exterior, like a kind of oscillating spectrum. Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins coined the term Inscape, similar to my own word Holyscape, as a kind of Holy fingerprint that each creature brings into the world, its uniqueness. Or as Franciscan scholastic theologian John Duns Scotus called it, a beings Haecceity (Hek-see-a-dee).
The Holyscapes Project is attempting to capture something more than just the miraculous this-ness of each creature. Holyscapes are the places that nourish our Inscape. Holyscapes are our very own spiritual ecologies whether urban, suburban, rural or wild.
Holyscapes are the wild and tangled inner landscapes where we fight demons and strive toward the Divine.
Holyscapes are the spaces and places that are saturated with meaning, memory, sacredness, reverence, and even trauma or sadness.
Holyscapes are the places where we make our living, grow our food, or go to be with family and friends; where we worship, where we move and where we stay put.
Holyscapes are the many layers of story and sacred sites that preceded many of our immigrant backgrounds. Places that should be honored, known, respected and decolonized.
The Holyscapes Project is my way of thinking about, exploring, teaching and advocating on behalf of the many ways in which human beings can deepen our connection to the Holy through place.
By paying deeper attention to the places we spend the most time, or by exploring new places, by making more time for prayer, contemplation and art, and by seeking to love and defend the places under threat, we are reclaiming the holiness of the world and engaging in what Thomas Berry called “The Great Work” of human beings–to build a mutually beneficial human-earth relationship.
In a time of environmental catastrophe, spiritual despair, political farce, and racial injustice, the convergence between interior and exterior, body and soul, self and other, self and world are a powerful space for reflection. How might a deeper sense of the world’s holiness contribute to healing hearts and ecosystems? The Holyscapes Project is an attempt to explore this terrain.
Photography: Holyscapes on Instagram