October 2020

Deep listening in the natural world: a celebration of faith, science and biodiversity

In 2019, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan entered into an auspice agreement with the Faith Ecology Network (FEN), a sponsorship that supports the continuing mission of strengthening interfaith dialogue between science and religion.

Participants in a FEN Zoom Event held on October 12 this year were treated to an inspiring two hours of beauty, sound, reflection and sharing. ‘Deep Listening in the Natural World’ was truly a celebration of faith, science and biodiversity.

The Aboriginal Land, Fire, Water Ceremony and Acknowledgement of Country set the scene. The didgeridoo player walked slowly, gently and reverently on the land evoking his connectedness to that land. The word ‘Dadirri’ – Deep Listening – was familiar to many of us and its explanation called us to be attuned to what the guest speaker, Andrew Skeoch, would focus on.

Andrew is one of Australia’s leading nature sound recordists. Through his personal story of learning through an Indigenous person to listen to the land as the land listens to us, his relationship with other species began. Andrew shared his scientific expertise through his sound recordings and spectrograms of birds, fish and other sea creatures.

In listening to bird sounds we learn to pay attention to what they are doing. Like other creatures, they have personalities and play with sound. Surrounded by living things and hearing them, we can grow in our understanding of the unique place they occupy in our shared world. We can hear whole ecosystems.

Through listening attentively to bird sounds such as the dawn chorus, we can learn from and apply many characteristics to human society. Different bird species cooperate with each other; they are often heard answering each other and taking turns. It is not a competition.

All birds are included as together they sing in a new day. Listening to them, one gets a sense of sharing the same space in mutual accommodation. Sharing the same resources and processes are the core of functioning ecosystems.

Having the opportunity to reflect on and discuss Andrew’s presentation in break-out groups provided a chance to form questions and understand new learnings.

One of the fundamental themes of the FEN Planning Group was the Wonder of Biodiversity. Different faith groups responded to Andrew’s presentation in a series of short dialogues between a child and an older adult. Young children wonder at and ask questions about nature and this was captured in these videos. The Planning Group had several practical suggestions for the participants for further opportunities to connect with nature.

The last words were from our Indigenous who inspired us further to ‘Connect with Country’ and Andrew, who challenged us to join the ‘infinite game’ to ensure the continuous sustainability of biodiversity.

Andrew drew us into a new way of relating that shifts the focus from being anthropocentric. He gave us an experience which deepened our awareness of interconnectivity with the whole of creation, which views us as one part of its unique complexity.

We can try to ‘Connect with Country’ as we learn from our Indigenous sisters and brothers. Together we can grow into a new understanding of our faith, inspired by increased understanding of ecology, and turn that new understanding into action in and from our faith communities.

For more information or to join FEN, click here.

Sister Veronica McDougall SGS


The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

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