ex nihilo

Ex nihilo – out of nothing. I first heard this phrase in my Biblical Ecology course in Divinity School. One moment it meant nothing, the next everything.

Christmas is coming. The season to buy stuff. I considered humanity’s role in creating stuff against the concept of creating ex nihilo. Humanity cannot create stuff out of nothing. God created the universe and all of its marvelous wonder out of nothing. But humanity cannot create necessary nouns –  energy, water, food, plastic – out of nothing. We are charging through our resources (if you can’t grow it, you have to mine it or drill it) and because we are not perfect, every time stuff is created an inefficiency tax gets levied: waste is created.

It takes energy to convert natural resources into usable goods. Reading Adventures in the Anthropocene left me despondent. Our created solutions simply move the problem forward, like the illegal forward pass in professional football. We are moving the ball down field, but it is still there. The real solution is a decrease in consumption (here my football analogy falls apart).

Is there anything the created create out of nothing? Our imagination. Certainly, some medium must be used to transmit the idea, but a truly original idea, one never conceived of before, brushes shoulders with the Divine. The written word, music, art, dance, any of it, original? Divine.

The celebration of the Divine manifesting as created occurs this weekend. A hope so original, so inconceivable, so wholly different from any other practice of living then or now, came into being. We celebrate.

We celebrate! This year I purchased one book, used or on clearance, for everyone on my Christmas list. Meaning, I am no stranger to purchasing stuff. Last year my sister wrote out a card for each family member in her distinctly print-cursive penmanship. For each family member, she answered the questions: what do you love about this person? Admire? What story is remembered?

Where only 1% of stuff is in use 6 months after purchase, her Christmas gift still sits on my dresser (see page 9 of the linked pdf).

Christmas Eve is here, friends. If you have not purchased gifts yet take it for the blessing that it is. Create something Divine. Write a letter, a poem, a short story. Draw a picture, sketch a scene. Practice your long neglected instrument and play a song for your loved ones. Bake a homemade loaf of bread! If no one in your family eats carbs anymore, send it to me. I will luxuriate in your gift.

When I was little we used to make coupon books. We cut out little business card sized slips of paper which read, “This Coupon Entitles the Bearer To:”

  • one free night of dishes,
  • one night babysitting my siblings, (my parents never took me up on that)
  • one breakfast in bed,
  • one time vacuuming the living room,
  • one time cleaning the bathroom,
  • one popcorn and movie night (parent gets to choose the movie!).

Looking back at my currency coupons, I see that I endeavored to convert many of my weekly chores into one-time gifts for my parents. Always enterprising.

As for spending money, buying books, and not getting particularly creative, I’m sorry I did not think of it sooner. I wish I had. Taking the time to create a gift for my immediate family members would have meant so much more. But… we start the new year shortly. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.

May your 2017 bring you rest, reflection, and much rejoicing. Take a year off from buying stuff and get creative. Cross paths with the Divine.

Merry Christmas!

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