What does caring mean? Leonardo Boff

What does caring mean?
Leonardo Boff
Theologian
Earthcharter Commission
________________________________________
The debates about sustainable development, one of the central themes of Río +20, have now taken over the concept of sustainability. Sustainability cannot be reduced to the present kind of development, whose logic is contrary to sustainability. Development is linear, with the limitless growth that implies the exploitation of nature and creation of profound inequalities, while sustainability is circular, involving all beings in interdependent and inclusive relationships, so that all may and should coexist and co-evolve. A situation is sustainable if, given the challenges of the environment, it can maintain, reproduce, and preserve itself, and always be positive. This derives from the combination of interdependent relationships that is maintained with all other beings and their respective habitats. Sustainability is the foundation of a paradigm that must be realized in all fields of reality.
For sustainability to actually happen, especially when the human factor capable of intervention in the natural processes enters the picture, the mechanical functioning of the processes of interdependency and inclusion are not enough. Another aspect, compatible with sustainability, must be added: caring. Caring is also the foundation of another paradigm.
In the first place, caring is a cosmological constant. If the original energies and the first elements had not been governed by a solidarian form of caring, such that everything maintained its proper proportion, the universe would not have arisen, and we would not be here writing about caring. We ourselves are sons and daughters of caring. If our mothers had not held shown limitless caring, we would not have been able to leave our cribs and go in search of our food. Caring is a precondition for a being to come into existence. It is the anticipated guide to ensure that our actions are constructive, rather than destructive.


Caring enters into everything we do. We care for what we love. We love what we care for. Given the knowledge we have today about the dangers that weigh on the Earth and life, we know that if we do not care for them, our species will be threatened with extinction, while the impoverished Earth will continue for centuries in the cosmos until perhaps another being appears, that is endowed with high complexity and caring, capable of enduring spirit and consciousness.
Below, we continue with the different meanings of caring, derived from many sources that will not be mentioned here, but which come from the remotest antiquity, from the Greeks and Romans, passing through Saint Augustine and culminating in Martin Heidegger, who saw in caring the very essence of the human being, in the world, together with the others and oriented towards the future. We identify four great meanings that are interdependent.
First: caring is a relationship, an attitude of loving; soft, amicable, harmonious and protective of the personal, social and environmental reality.
Metaphorically we can say that caring is the open hand extended to the essential caress, to the handshake; caring is the intertwined fingers that form an alliance of cooperation and of joining forces. It is the opposite of the closed hand and of the tight fist that subjugates and dominates the other.
Second: caring is all types of concern, inquietude, unease, discomfort and even fear for persons and realities with which we are emotionally tied and for that reason they are precious to us.

 This type of caring accompanies us in all moments and in every phase of our life. It is involvement with the situations and persons that are dear to us. They bring us caring and let us live essential caring.

Third: caring is the experience of the relationship between the need to be cared for and the will and the predisposition to care, forming a collection of supports and protections (holding) that make possible this undissolvable relation at a personal and social level, and with all living beings. Loving-caring, concerned-caring and caring-protection-support are existential, this is, they are objective facts of the structure of our being in time, space and history, as Winnicott has shown us. They precede any other act and underlie everything we undertake. This is why they are part of the human essence.
Fourth: caring-precaution and caring-prevention refer to those attitudes and behaviors that must be avoided due to their injurious consequences, foreseeable (prevention) and unforeseeable, that sometimes result from the imprecision of scientific data and the unpredictability of their damaging effects to the life-system and to the Earth-system (precaution).

 Caring-prevention and caring-precaution derive from our mission to care for all beings. We are ethical beings and responsible for those consequences, this is, we understand the beneficial or damaging consequences of our actions, attitudes and behavior.
As can be seen, caring is linked to vital questions that can lead to the destruction of our future or the maintenance of our life on this small and beautiful planet. Only if we radically live caring can we guarantee the necessary sustainability for our Common Home and our life.
Leonardo Boff
05-25-2012
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, alfaro_melina@yahoo.com.ar,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.

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