I recently read Randy Woodley’s Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with Sacred Earth (Broadleaf Books, 2022). (First super chill book review for a book that was published in 2022—woohoo!)
I’ll confess I did not take the full one hundred days to read it. But I still like how the book is broken up: one hundred very short chapters (like, very short—1-2 pages each), each with an intriguing quote at the beginning and a suggested action item at the end. Even though I sometimes read several short chapters in one sitting, I still liked being able to digest the book in such small chunks.
I found this book very much worth reading; as always, here are a few random thoughts and quotes!
1) It must have taken Woodley some time to find one hundred different interesting and relevant quotations to begin each chapter with. But I’m glad he did.
I found myself appreciating the variety of people quoted—many indigenous thinkers, some Buddhists, some Christian theologians, some Bible quotes. From Gandhi to Sitting Bull to Mother Teresa to Alice Walker to James Baldwin, as well as lots of indigenous people I hadn’t heard of before but enjoyed learning from, it’s quite the diverse and brilliant cast of thinkers.
2) In particular, I found this quote very striking:
“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”
-Cree Indian Proverb (p. 141)
Reminds me of what Jesus said about not hoarding treasure where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matt 6:19). We either learn to share resources, giving and receiving generously, building just communities where everyone can flourish—or, eventually, we are all destroyed.
Money might protect many wealthy people from feeling the effects of climate change, pollution, unsustainable agriculture practices, etc. as quickly as others, but it will catch up with all of us in the end. We can’t eat money. I hadn’t quite thought about it in that way, but it feels right.
3) I also liked this quote:
“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
-Eric Hoffer (p. 241)
Reminds me of what Jesus said about the meek inheriting the earth (Matt 5:5). To be learners, we have to admit that there’s so much we don’t know. (And often also that much we’ve learned isn’t actually true or helpful.) We have to become humble enough to want to learn, and to know that we need to learn.
Also, the idea of being “equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” is something one of my seminary professors used to talk about a lot without attributing it to anyone in particular (other than, by implication, himself). So it’s nice to know where that comes from.
4) Woodley has such great stories. So many of them. I appreciated his willingness to share his life and spiritual experiences so openly.
I especially appreciated his emphasis on God speaking through nonhuman beings, since this is often overlooked and undervalued in Western churches.
I’m Western enough in worldview that it sometimes seems silly, to me, to feel like I sense God speaking through wild animals or plants. Or maybe it’s not even so much that I think it’s silly—I actually think it’s very common, and very sacred and beautiful—but maybe more that I’m sometimes a little embarrassed about it. That is, I worry others will find it silly.
I appreciate Woodley’s leadership in being willing to put himself out there and say, yes, that eagle is totally a sign. It’s totally God speaking. And it’s real. You might find it silly—but if you do, you’re missing out on so many amazing ways God might be speaking to you.
5) Woodley writes, “Humanity has yet to realize the fact that nature is wiser and more powerful than we are. Nature will, without a doubt, outlive us. She knows her mind, and she understands what keeps life in balance” (p. 17).
This was another thing I hadn’t quite thought about in this way, but when I hear it, it feels true. From Woodley’s perspective, climate change isn’t exactly a threat to the earth—as we might tend to talk about it—so much as it’s a threat to humanity. The earth will be okay, with or without humans.
It’s almost an image of Earth having to spit humanity out because we aren’t playing well with others—with, as Woodley often calls it, the whole “community of creation.” Earth will be okay—she doesn’t need us.
So when we fight climate change, we’re fighting for our own survival—for our own place in the interconnected web of creation. And that’s worth fighting for. I would very much like to get to stick around.
6) I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler, but this is how Woodley sums up the values he’s hoping to teach and reflect on throughout the book:
“A harmonious worldview. Mutual respect. Generosity. Hospitality. Inclusion. Relatedness to all creation. Cooperation. Wisdom. Humor” (p. 116).
Then again, at the very end of the book, he describes these values a little more:
- “Respect: Respect everyone. Everyone and everything is sacred.
- Harmony: Seek harmony and cooperation with people and nature.
- Friendship: Increase the number and depth of your close friends and family.
- Humor: Laugh at yourself; we are merely human.
- Equality: Everyone expresses their voice in decisions.
- Authenticity: Speak from your heart.
- History: Learn from the past. Live presently by looking back.
- Balance work and rest: Work hard, but rest well.
- Generosity: Share what you have with others.
- Accountability: We are all interconnected. We are all related” (242).
I appreciate this articulation of indigenous values that we can all seek to live by, whether Indigenous or settler.
These values also strike me as very Jesus-y. By mentioning Jesus so many times, by the way, I don’t mean to say that indigenous values are only valuable if Jesus also taught and lived them. I don’t mean to say that something is only valuable if Christianity affirms and endorses it, or that Christians don’t have things to learn from indigenous worldviews that we might not learn from the Bible alone.
I do mean to say that I think Jesus would be down with this book. Respect, harmony, friendship, humor, equality, authenticity, generosity—these are exactly the things that characterized Jesus’ life. The fact that indigenous thinkers and theologians often have to push back on aspects of the dominant Western Christian worldview says less about how Jesus and indigenous views relate to one another and more about how far removed a lot of the dominant Western Christian worldview is from who Jesus was.
Here’s to moving toward, as Woodley puts it, “heal[ing] ourselves, the Earth, and the whole community of creation” (116).
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.