yanan's fieldnotes on faith and beauty
an introduction to Sacred Sonder
“Fieldnotes” is such a fascinating word. I immediately think of the notebook brand Field Notes, those hip-looking notebooks designed for farmers, ecologists, hikers, and wanderers. Though they’re made specifically for the outdoors, I’ve mostly seen them used by hipsters, young professionals, and millennials in indoor spaces like coffee shops and cafés. Honestly, I think it’s because I’ve spent more time in coffee shops than the outdoors for most of my life... and it's time to change that.
I remember what my Lola (grandmother) taught me when I was a child, “The plants breathe like us too. Like us, they can feel pain.” She formed me to become a listener of peoples and places, to listen closely and read between the lines. She wanted me to see beauty in the places where it isn’t normally apprehended, to call beautiful the faces and creatures that have been marginalized and ostracized from majority cultures.
She wanted me to hear the breathing of creation—how we all share the same breath by the precise movement of the Holy Spirit through all creatures.
Cherokee theologian Randy Woodley writes about the biblical concept of shalom, a “Harmony Way” that returns modern imaginations to the community of creation. Like my Lola, Woodley wants to imagine a world that is no longer divorced from creation but in complete harmony with the land, animals, and other human beings.
Sadly, the world we are living in today is not organized to live in harmony with the land. Instead, the land is ravaged through operations such as the mining of fossil fuels, slavery, deforestation, and the like, which are all perpetuations of the modern, colonial imagination that has dominated the planet for centuries.
Like in my home country of the Philippines, people are discovering these colonial projects and struggling against them all over the world. One way in which people in the Philippines are doing so is through movements like the Association for Women in Organic Farming, where women seek to promote organic and sustainable agricultural practices to cultivate the earth and shape a new ecology. And that is precisely what we need: a new ecology.
So this is Sacred Sonder, a public, online journal where I will share my reflections on faith (religious history) and beauty (theological aesthetics) as they intersect with my environmental/eco-theological research interests. In my work and research, I strive to understand the world in terms of a doctrine of creation that invites belonging and inspires various theologies of making—as I believe God intended all things to be en Christo.
“Sacred”—adjective. Considered to be holy and deserving respect, especially because of a connection with a deity.
“Sonder”—noun. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
Hence, I thought it would be apt to call Sacred Sonder my “fieldnotes”: concise and precise journal entries exploring the theological terrain of my field of study. Here, I seek to inspire others to see beauty in the places that have been marginalized—to touch the dirt and discover the journey of living in harmony with the land itself. I want people to go out and learn the histories of their homes, be enraptured by the wonder of creation, and work toward justice in places where beauty is being distorted. I know that this is a grand premise. Still, I believe that it is a mission worth undertaking.
And truly, I hope you join me on this journey. 🌄