How do we make a visceral connection to the natural world?

 

So much of late modern culture seeks to alienate us from the tangible reality of the world. We seem to be in an ever deepening Gnostic age where the natural world is seen as an impediment to self-realization. Sadly, the very science that allows us to know more about world and its wonders also serves to destroy our sense of being physically reliant and present in the world.

We avoid pain. We ask science to remake our bodies. We pretend to try to live forever. We destroy the folk wisdom that comes from an intimacy with the physical world around us. We lose ourselves in the lit screens of the virtual world.And then we wonder why we treat the natural world so poorly. We have so little sense of our most basic dependence upon the natural world. It is so much simpler to connect with the natural world than to commit to the virtual worlds where so many seem to want to spend the future.

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Go sit in the grass. Play with some dirt.

Watch purposelessly as the seasons turn in the world around us.

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The 19th century English Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, expressed the importance of a sense of visceral awe toward our natural world in one my favorite poems. I read this first in grade school and have come back it to over and over through the years as a counter-point toward my own tendencies to alienate from the natural world.

Glory be to God for dappled things –

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

                                Praise him.

Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)
Pied Beauty from the Poetry Foundation

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