While we are born with curiosity and wonder and our early years full of the adventure they bring,

I know such inherent joys are often lost.  I also know that, being deep within us,

their latent glow can be fanned to flame again

by awareness and an open mind.”   ~  Sigurd Olson

Results: And now we learn that natural awareness leads us to spiritual awareness: In solitude, theologian Paul Tillich writes, “we experience, love, which reconfirms our true self and gives us the basis for communion. It is not a coincidence that the great spiritual teachers through the ages have found spiritual enlightenment through spending time in nature: Jesus, Mohammed, certainly Buddha, St. Francis, Gandhi, and perhaps all of the wisest Native American elders.  Baha’is also understand the need to spiritualize our environmental challenges. Traditional respect for nature, born of intimate contact with her power and immediate reliance on her bounties, has been taken by materialistic and exploitative philosophies. The rediscovery of those eternal spiritual and humanitarian principles which have inspired the rise of great civilizations at key points in human history can alone create the necessary ground swell for change, and set our society on a new and more ecologically benign direction. Baha’is believe that the essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds…that Knowledge-Volition-Action thing (I discussed in the previous Blog).
To apply what you have gleaned from your time alone in the natural world requires the next step: sharing your knowledge and nature spirit with others. Rachel Carson said it best: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in….The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.” We’re talking about lasting meaning and impact here. Perhaps you heard the NPR show last week called the “Take Away.” In one segment, the emphasis was on the importance of water…and listener after listener called up to relate their vital times as children interacting with water: the ocean, lakes, and rivers.
Go try this. Lead by example and watch what happens. I think being role-models are important, in fact. And I like all the conservation groups that have these certification programs for school yard habitats, and back-yard birding. It’s fun, I used to work outdoor school for Portland for sixth graders. All of our counselors there were high school students and we trained them. One day as we were about to begin our training, we heard this sound. It was horrible. It was the sound of a Harley motorcycle pulling up and one of the kids came out in this leather clothing. And I’m going, oh my god, here’s this biker kid that wants to be a counselor. Well, getting to know this kid a little bit better, I thought I’m going to try and experiment. I’m going to have him be with the toughest group of boys at the camping council I can find. I could be a disaster, maybe it could work. So one day I was going by his cabin. The kids rushed out saying that his leader, the biker guy, was going to take them on a mystery hike. I thought I’d tag along. So, the kids are way in front of the counselor but he says kids come back! Take a look at this! And everyone’s going, what’s the deal. Well right in front of them was this beautiful yellow wild flower. And I’m going, what’s going on here. And the leader knelt down, smelled it and went, isn’t that fantastic. So I was fascinated. Here was the cool leader doing something that’s very uncool, smelling a flower. How would the kids react to this? Well, he didn’t say anything else, but one by one, by their own volition, every kid smelled that flower. So being a role model, practicing what you preach has huge benefits.
Finally, Why is any of this important? Edith Cobb, author of The Ecology Imagination in Childhood, offers one reason: Early experiences with the natural world have also been positively linked with the sense of wonder. Wonder, s not an abstract term or a lofty ideal. It is, instead, a phenomenon concretely rooted in the child’s developing perceptual capabilities and his or her ways of knowing. This way of knowing, if recognized and honored, can serve as a life-long source of joy and enrichment, as well as an impetus, or motivation, for further learning. ~