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News from the USCCA and the church in China

Book Circle Discussion: Ecological Meditations with Zhuangzi, Merton, and Donald P. St. John

In its May 2024 meeting, the USCCA Book Circle discussed "Ecological Wisdom in Merton's Chuang Tzu," Donald P. St. John's chapter in Merton & the Tao: Dialogues with John Wu and the Ancient Sages. Thinking through Dr. St. John's five meditations on Merton's reading of Zhuangzi, Book Circle participants considered the implications of Daoist and Catholic thought for a philosophy of ecology:


1. The problem of anthropocentrism: Some participants emphasized the problematic nature of anthropocentric perspectives which would place the human species in a position of superiority over nature; others posited a need to value nature while recognizing a special role for humans to care for and steward all of creation.


2. Seeing the world through the eyes of other creatures: Reflecting on Zhuangzi's story of a sacrificial pig with no concept of the special treatments imposed upon it, attention shifted to the ways in which artificial institutions are liable to ignore the intrinsic value and preferences of animals and humans alike.



Hogs living in a densely populated farm facility
Topics of spirituality, theology, and philosophy intersected with reflections on the treatment of farm animals and responsibilities of environmental stewardship.

3. The relationship between nature and culture: Reflecting on Zhuangzi's juxtaposition of a gentleman and a criminal, Book Circle participants explored the ways in which Zhuangzi displays a deep suspicion towards culture's various attempts to make us lose our original natures.


4. The usefulness of the useless: This meditation led Book Circle participants to discuss the value of play, the sacred "uselessness" of spirituality, and the important role played by the humanities and the arts in human life.


5. The problem of technology: The discussion concluded with thought-provoking questions on the dominance of instrumental reason in a technological age. Do these spiritual perspectives provide adequate resources to face the immensely consequential issues of technology that we face today?


We sincerely hope that you are able to join us for our next Book Circle on June 15, 2024 at 7 am PT / 8 am MT / 9 am CT / 10 am ET / 10 pm China Standard Time. For updates (including the Zoom link), please sign up for email communications via the USCCA Book Circle interest form

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