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    Letter from Brazil: Mutation Time

    A Workshop of Proposals for After the End of the World

    By Claudio Oliver

    July 21, 2020
    • Rachael Koev

      The sign in the photo says: a thought... If speaking kindly to plants can make them grow, imagine what can happen when we are kind to PEOPLE...

    • Kevin Cushing

      One thing which has haunted me for a while is the ecological catastrophe we have inflicted upon the world since the Industrial Revolution, especially the last few decades. It’s not pollution (which can be reversed) but an even a greater threat- global warming. That can be reversed all right, but even if CO2 emissions were halted tomorrow, it would take millennia for the earth to heal. Perhaps the earth will return to the Carboniferous Period. Hence the thought which saddens and depresses me every time I see young people: there won’t be not be much left for our children to inherit. So much for “upward mobility” (I’ve never subscribed to that materialistic myth anyways). It makes me glad I don’t have any kids. Though I say to myself that I’m no doomsday prophet who runs off into the hills to await the Rapture and the Second Coming, I do believe that some change is going on which is even worse than the Bubonic Plague. And it affects all of us. Although though a few people dismiss global warming as some naturally occurring phenomenon despite abundant scientific evidence, most just carry on their lives as it has been done for years- buying and selling things, driving cars, building suburban developments, establishing families, climbing up the corporate ladder, “having a good time”, etc. In short, they just don’t see what’s happening beyond their little world or even care. So what can I do? Live in crippling fear and despair? That has happened all too many times. The only thing I can think of is to concentrate on the present and follow Christ, without worrying about tomorrow (as Jesus said). Just don’t get too worried over things you have little control over but do your little bit. Today’s gospel reading (according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar) is the parable of the Ten Virgins- Jesus urging us to always be watchful. I guess that’s something to keep in mind while thinking about this too.

    Claudio Oliver of the Casa da Videira community in Curitiba, Brazil, describes how they are adapting and sharing love and hope to neighbors near and far in the pandemic.

    Many have asked how we are doing here at Casa da Videira. Fortunately, our circumstances inside the community are quite different from the world around us. But Brazil is facing several major challenges at the same time, what we could call the perfect storm.

    First, like the rest of the world, there is the coronavirus situation. I don’t call it a crisis because a crisis is something that crops up and after it you have your life back. It’s much more like a mutation time – society is mutating, there’s no going back.

    At the same time, in our area we are having the worst drought ever recorded in our country. Our environment here is very humid, normally very rainy, but now we have no rain – literally none in the past six months. The bigger rivers we have in our region are drying – you can actually walk on the riverbeds. This is a direct consequence of the burning in the Amazon forest. With climate change, these problems will continue to get worse.

    And to manage these emergencies, we have an abusive and incompetent government, widely recognized by international media as one of the worst in the world.

    But internally we are happy, because we have time to share life with our community. With less social interaction, our relationships are becoming more essential. We are urban gardening, making our food, and connecting with our neighbors. Before lockdown, we were already planning to be more local, really be there for the people around us. Since the pandemic started we are finding new ways to serve people with what we know how to do, like making bread. Through the bread we are connecting to more and more people every week. We are sharing part of our crops we have in the house, we have a huge garden and now we have fruits and things we are sharing with the neighbors and having more connections, more interactions, and more sympathy around us.

    While many are looking to go “back to normal” or waiting for the emergence of a “new normal,” we have had the opportunity to affirm that “normal” is what led us to the present situation. We don’t miss the streets, because our stay at home made a lot of sense. We don’t miss shopping, because we are now more productive than ever. We don’t miss people we never see, because we are seeing more deeply the people we can relate with. We are having the opportunity to live out what “responsibility” means: the ability to give a response.

    We started a YouTube channel where we offer hope, not only to our neighbors but also people who are in the city and the world. We are starting a project now that we have planned called the Hoffnung Project, to be conducted in Germany after the pandemic in partnership with a German university.

    Through many initiatives like these we have the opportunity to bring people together, including the workers and those who are exploited, to find ways to create a new economy of abundance out of this. We are creating structures and forms of adapting ourselves to the new world that has emerged and that will lack much more than people will like.

    three women making bread

    Members of the Casa da Videira community making bread Image courtesy of Helena Novelletto

    We must be aware that we are watching the end of the world as we know it. And we must prevent ourselves from longing for a world that is not there anymore. A good image is Lot’s wife. We are not afraid about what is ahead of us; actually, we have been preparing ourselves for this moment for years. Last year, for example, we started thinking about ourselves as a lab or a workshop of proposals for after the end of the world. This is the name of our new moment: A Workshop of Proposals for After the End of the World. We want a future that questions what the world means by normal, in terms of economics, politics, families, and more. We are experimenting for this future from what we are able to do today. The future is built today.

    What does this mean? The world has ended many times since it began. The Roman world ended, the Middle Ages ended, the world before the Second World War ended, so we have watched many worlds ending. To go towards the hope that is proposed for us in the resurrection we must always, as a church and as a community, be prepared to answer what is ahead of us. Even if we are talking about not just an end of the world but the apocalyptical end of the world, we are a people who are called to be always prepared. And prepared means “ready to give a response while waiting.”

    The coronavirus will leave on us many scars. Many families are losing their dear ones. Many people will get sick and heal and will have consequences after that. Economically and socially, many of the old ways of doing things cannot return, even after lockdown ends. So what will be in the world in terms of economy, services, and commerce, and how many people have been exploited through this delivery culture which is emerging in the middle of this moment? This will leave us with a lot of scars.

    Scars are a good thing for us to remember that life goes on. We reflect that the resurrected body of Jesus had scars. They show that he has passed through that old life and he has been brought into the new life with the scars. That life wins, that we are here for life, not for death. Scars for us are proof that we will continue.

    At this crossing time, instead of trying to control the circumstances around us, we are spending a lot of time reasoning, reflecting, having internal meetings, and relating to other people in order to figure out what’s next. We are reflecting more and more about what it means to have a mission in the twenty-first century. We need to prepare as a church and a community how to be in mission after the coronavirus, with less contact with people, with less traveling, being more and more local while using the possibilities of technology.

    We are not optimistic, but we have hope. We hope in someone who has been resurrected and this hope guides us.

    We are not idealistic, because ideals do not help anyone to cross through this mutation time. Our model is the preferential option for the possible – to do what we can do with the things we have in our hands.

    We have no dreams, because to dream you must be asleep, and the Bible calls us to be aware all the time. Awareness is what spurs your imagination to propose new answers and things to do.

    We must adapt in order to survive. The old forms, the old models, the old ideas, even as we value their experience, they will not be enough if not embraced with creativity.

    Finally, we must encourage each brother, each sister to not lament or complain about what has been lost. What has been lost will not come back. And what we have lost is a lot of things that we have been criticizing for years and years – all this consumerism, all these things that come easy, all this dependence on money and all these habits we’ve created have transformed values into prices. The life that is open ahead of us is priceless because it has a lot of value. So to be attached to our values is something that is priceless because value and price are not the same things.

    It’s a privilege to share this time and feel like a part of a huge family linked by the resurrection of Christ. Eternal life is not something that we will have after death. Eternal life is the very nature of life. God is life, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. There are many who are anxious or despairing at this moment of mutation. But life always will have the final word.

    a storefront selling homemade goods

    Casa da Videiras storefront Image courtesy of Helena Novelletto

    Contributed By ClaudioOliver Claudio Oliver

    Claudio Oliver is a pastor and the founder of a Christian community, Casa da Videira (House of the Vine).

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