Reverence for Nature – Part III – Radical Amazement
Last Child In The Woods has become a *must read* if you are trying to combine the environment and child rearing. Richard Louv, the author, coined the word ‘nature-deficit disorder.’ His central thesis is that lack of outdoor time negatively impacts children’s’ physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Apparently he has a new book out for adults – The Nature Principle.- which I have not read.
My journal actually suggests I didn’t love this book my first time through. (I know, I know.. ) I guess I (instinctively?) already knew the central thesis of the book – that children need more outdoor time than modern life generally allows. It was disappointing at the time as I was looking for concrete ideas of how to facilitate an intimate relationship with nature. But Louv strongly believes that we all – and particularly children – need unstructured time in nature. He is almost militant in this, belittling leave-no-trace type environmentalists because it hinders the intimate connection between people and nature. He might be right, but I have mixed feelings about these types of trade-offs in environmentalism. Between those mixed feelings and lack of concrete suggestions, I found the book a bit of a let down. Do not let that dissuade you from reading it; many cite it as pivotal in solidifying their own and their children’s relationship with nature.
All that said, the last section that outlines the spiritual intersection with nature in the author’s view spoke to me. I have a wonderful quote of a quote (original attribution is Abrahm Heschel) from the last section (pg 291) posted at my desk.
Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.
We’ve prioritized a lot of outside time for our child even if he probably doesn’t have as much unstructured outside time as Louv would like to see. He went to a small Waldorf preschool a couple of mornings a week last year; we chose it because they spend a lot of time outside or on nature walks, rain (most of the school year here) or shine. We’ve carried over the Waldorf tradition of a nature table – silk scarf representing the season on a small, child’s height table with his nature treasures on it – in our home. We visit the coast, the forest, the desert, the rivers often. We don’t shy away from explaining oil spills, big wave tsunamis, or big wind tornadoes. We constantly talk about how living things work – what the bugs eat, why the chickens eat the bugs, why ducks have webbed feet.
All this seems to be working. At dinner tonight, he asked “why do dogs have big muscles?” and was so excited to learn that they use their muscles to move just like humans do. When I was drafting this, our child looked up at the clouds during a family walk and said “look at that big cloud… isn’t it interesting how it touches that other big cloud.” My heart melts when he expresses that awe in his 3-year-old voice. I think it is is the combination of his innocence speaking my spiritual language.
I often wonder what it would take for most adults to find the natural world so awesome. What do you find awesome?