Zest For Life
Updated: May 31
"Le gout de vivre" or zest for life is a theme frequently used by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to refer to the life force that animates evolution. It is a generative idea that as Paulo Freire puts it, "can touch people so deeply that it can stir them into effective action for creating profound social change." It refers to great enthusiasm and energy and a quality of excitement and piquancy - eagerness, keenness, and drive. It is a dynamic energy and movement, an aliveness that spurs us on, nourishes and sustains human attitudes, inspiring further action, growth and development.
In the 2014 book From Teilhard to Omega: Co-Creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio, editor) Ursula King wrote chapter 11 titled The Zest for Life. This chapter explores Teilhards "large vision of hope, a new understanding of the Christian faith, a world in evolution, a passion for looking toward the future, and a conscious commitment to take on the responsibility of working toward a greater unification and higher evolution of the human species... a 'response-abilility' toward ourselves and others, the environment, nature, the earth, the human community, and Ultimate Reality, however named, often called the Spirit, or in theistic traditions, God."
Ursula King writes "It was Teilhard's particular passion to draw special attention to the spiritual energy resource that we need to draw upon in order to feed the zest for life. Nowhere is this more strongly expressed than in his 1950 essay "The Zest for Living."
"The zest for life - the will to live and love life to the full, and contribute to its growth - is an indispensable requisite for the continuity of life, especially in the form of a higher, more conscious, and spiritual life. It also shows itself in the development of a more integrated, stronger global human community that will give priority to promoting more equity, justice, and peace as well as a planetary ethic."
One hundred years ago in 1923 Teilhard spoke of the Noosphere (the emergent world of global thought) and his absolute belief in the forward march of thought ("or of Spirit, if you like.).
In his 1937 essay "Human Energy" Teilhard discusses the significance, organization, and maintenance of human energy,
The Human Energy Project portrays a Third Story in the YouTube video above. It draws upon First Story sensitivity to the sacred; the Second Story of scientific processes and modern technological solutions; into a Third Story which "aims to find the common bond between the First and Second Story and create a meaningful direction for our shared future." Our human energy, thoughts, and activities influence the direction that the world takes.
A few days ago I was contacted by filmmaker Alan Honick, who is currently developing a major documentary project based on the Human Energy Project's Science of the Noosphere; it will investigate the relevance of this deep evolutionary perspective to the social, technological, and ecological challenges humanity faces in the contemporary world." Honick told me about this project, "directed by David Sloan Wilson, one of the foremost living evolutionary scientists who, like Teilhard, includes all aspects of humanity in addition to the biological world as within his scientific purview."
Honick also mentioned plans for an online course in July and a Human Energy Project Conference in Berkeley later this year as part of the 100th Year Celebration. Is anyone interested in participating as part of a small team of 3-5 people? Find out more information about the Master Class to be led by David Sloan Wilson from July-September here.
According to the Liturgical Calendar May 28, 2023 is Pentecost Sunday or Whitsunday - a story of a sending by the Spirit with "tongues as of fire" to the ends of the earth with vision and prophecy about a new reality, where people of all nations are fully communicating and understanding one another. Marcus Borg saw Pentecost as an upending of the story of the Tower of Babble where people were divided against one another. I choose to interpret the Pentecost story through the lens of a Third Story worldview - "a dynamic energy and movement, an aliveness that spurs us on, nourishes and sustains human attitudes, inspiring further action, growth and development."
What feeds your zest for life?
Note: Ursula King is also the author of Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard De Chardin, a book on the spiritual power of Teilhard's vision of divine presence in matter and the evolving universe." This is a book about "one of the true prophets of our age, bringing Christian theology into creative dialogue with the new cosmology, expanding the dialogue between religion and science, and opening up profound dimensions of the human condition."
Another Ursula, (Ursula Goodenough) wrote the 2023 book, which I have yet to read: Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Has Emerged and Evolved. "The book presents an accessible and engaging account of our science-based understandings of Nature, with a focus on biology and ecology, and then suggests ways that this account can elicit abiding and enriching non-theistic spiritual responses, generating a religious naturalist orientation."