Her 12th-century Benedictine world came alive on the screen as Hildegard's music permeated the small art theater where the German film Vision was showing. It stars Barbara Sukowa as the Rhineland woman who was "tithed" when she was nine--given to the church-- since she was her parents' tenth child. Life in the cloistered monastary was to become her "new normal."
The nun, Jutta, her anorexic mentor and new "mother," taught her many things. But it was the brilliant visions she experienced since the age of three, that taught her the most. This film directed by Margarethe von Trotta does an admirable job of showing us her challenges as a woman of the time, of her music, her knowledge of herbs and stones. But the movie does not show us her paintings, such as this one called "Cultivating the Cosmic Tree."
Hildegard’s vision of all creatures being sparks from the radiation of God’s brilliance led her to paint a fiery world, a divine flame circling, ever rotating, ever changing. In this mandala, she captured moisture, air, fruit, seeds, trees in all stages of life. We see the essence of regeneration. Earth, air, fire, water. It’s all there. It’s all we have and all we have needed for generations. But things have changed in the 800 years since she lived.
I find myself wondering what Hildegard would have made of Bill McKibben’s new book, eaarth? He spells it that way because our planet, the one Hildegard knew so well, and the one we have known all our lives, no longer exists. Hence a new spelling for a different planet presenting a new normal for all of us.
With the help of a small cadre of students, Bill launched a worldwide movement called 350.org to bring to our attention the limits of carbon dioxide per million in our air which presents the outermost limits of safety for this cosmic place on which we now stand. We've already exceeded it. He fully believes we are headed toward dispersed and localized societies that can somehow survive the damage to our “eaarth” which, sadly, we can now no longer prevent.
Our new planet demands new habits We’re in a “new normal” now —a fiery wheel which Hildegard reminds us needs our cultivation and our collective holy wisdom.
“Out of the original source of the true Love in whose knowledge the cosmic wheel rests, there shines forth an exceedingly precise order over all things. And this order which preserves and nourishes everything comes to light in a way that is ever new…”
Hildegard of Bingen