From the Ground, Up

Take the following multiple choice quiz:

1. A first grader will usually take better care of something (1) she was given by her parents (2) she purchased with her own money (3) that belongs to someone else.

2. Who generally takes better care of land? (1) environmentalists (2) government agencies    (3) the land owner.

3. Stability in this life is perhaps best anchored to (1) money (2) power (3) community.

Depending on one’s views of human nature, each of us might answer a certain way.  For my part, I would argue for answers (2), (3), and (3) respectively.  Based on the flow of thought over the last month of blog entries, I believe the closer one’s ties to place, the more one will contend and care for physical property.[1]

Connection to people and place has its origins in Genesis.  God uses wordplay in Genesis 1-3 to suggest the importance of the connection between adam (man) and adamah (ground).  We are tied directly to the ground.  God created ground (Genesis 1:10) establishing the physical basis upon which creatures would live life on the ground (1:25).

The ground belonged to God which He sustained with water (2:3-6).  Man was brought from the ground to work the ground (2:5).  The ground would then produce food for human sustenance and pleasure (2:9).  In addition, animals were molded from the ground (2:19) creating obvious similarities and differences with man.

After sin, maintenance of the ground (2:15) brought with it hardship (3:17) and relocation for production (3:23).  Before sin, man brought fruit up from the ground (2:5, 9).  After sin, man would go down to the ground (3:19).  However, while the ground was cursed, man was not (3:17).  Crops from the ground were to be given as a physical display of thanks to The One who gave it (4:2-3).  However, the best not the leftovers were intended.  The ground even allowed shed blood to bear witness of crime (4:10-11) while its productivity was withheld as a punishment for the criminal (4:11-12, 14).

The curse of the ground by God was not left without its comfort or “rest” brought by Noah whose name means just that—“rest” (Gen 5:29).  The destruction of the ground (7:23) would not be done again (8:21).  Even Noah is called “a man of the ground” (9:20).  And from this lineage would come Abram through whom “all peoples of the ground would be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

God’s intention for humans was a linkage to their origin, the ground.  We are never to forget where we came from, where we’re going, what we’re responsible for, who holds the promise of redemption, and how that restoration will come about.

The young learn early personal cost heightens personal responsibility.  Landowners have a vested interest in caring for the land where they live than any outside group.  Communities spring up because there is a common commitment to place by the people who live there.

Any permanence that can be acknowledged in this life is tied to the ground we walk, the property we own.  The piece of land we call our own will survive us; we who have but seventy to eighty years of life to live.  It would seem clear that our best efforts on this earth, in this life should focus on loving our neighbor by creating from our place so that provisions of food and shelter would be abundant.

Yet, beyond our current responsibilities toward others, we must prepare our place for the next generation and the next generation for our place.  Only then, will our offspring be able to properly answer the multiple choice quiz above.

Dr. Mark Eckel has been writing about place since 2006 and lives in the place called Indianapolis, IN.

[1] Movies such as Places in the Heart, The River, Fried Green Tomatoes, or The Field might offer visual examples of people who care deeply enough for place, that they will invest their lives for it.

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