The Vulnerable (Post) Modern Self and the “Greening” of Spiritual Personhood Through Life in the Spirit

Mary Frohlich
Catholic Theological Union

In the period now being called the Anthropocene, the fatal vulnerabilities of the modern way of constructing selfhood are becoming ever more evident. Joanna Macy, who is Buddhist, has written of the need to “green” the self by rediscovering its participation in ecological and cosmic networks. From a Christian perspective, I would articulate this in terms of an imperative to rediscover our spiritual personhood as radical communion in both God and cosmos.

In this paper, “self” refers to an ever-restless process of construction of identity based in self-awareness and aimed at maintaining one’s integrity, coherence, and social esteem. I use the term “person,” on the other hand, to refer to a relational center that exists to be in communion with other persons. How – within the conditions of the dawning Anthropocene – can the tension between these two essential aspects of human existence be opened up in a way that can more effectively protect human and other life on Earth? This would require, it seems, harnessing both the self-protective and the self-giving potentials of human beings. The path that I propose is to give ourselves over into the rhythms of the Spirit, being breathed in to selfless personal communion and out to co-creation of our refreshed selfhood.