We live in a world of facts and functionality – and we celebrate much of what that achieves: for example ‘following the science’ is good for beating Covid-19. But it’s become evident that our emphasis on data and productivity has downgraded things like love, honesty, wisdom, spirituality, and care for the environment. If things can’t be quantified or monetised, they literally don’t count.

Hildegard of Bingen

Every now and again, people appear who manage to span this quantifiable-unquantifiable divide. One of them was a German woman named Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). She was an accomplished writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic and polymath, writing theological, botanical and medicinal texts. She was known for perceiving the integratedness of all things, from the individual to the universal and cosmic, all encompassed by God’s love.

She knew nothing of the the facts-versus-wisdom, faith-versus-science divides we have in our society, where we urgently need to see science and technology talking ethics and compassion, spirituality earthed in everyday life, and everyday life nurturing the environment.

Her achievements were extraordinary for her time, and all the more so in a culture where women normally had no voice at all. She continues to be an inspiration today.