Friday, June 25, 2010

The wilderness will lead you

Tonight my prayer group was asked how they viewed the deterioration of the environment in light of their faith, and if it helped them make sense of it. One member shared how they interpreted the Genesis verse telling man to "tame the earth. Instead of the common interpretation used by the church in centuries past as an excuse to use the whole of nature as a tool to man's advantage, this person felt that the passage conversely belaid man with a responsibility to be an advocate for the environment, looking to God as a guide in using the benefits of nature for man's needs. I agree with this outlook but also think that there is a more intimate link between faith and preserving the environment. Put simply, as we degrade the environment, we degrade ourselves. I think that most would agree that as the overuse and misuse of the environment has increased, so has our speed. Our speed of travel and our speed of communication have undoubtably increased, while our patience and time spent in quiet reflection have nearly universally decreased. The harvesting of ready-made resources in nature has allowed us to move forward in technology so quickly. It has reaped benefits such as increasing the standard of living in many countries and curing debilitating diseases, but has it's price. More than just a correlation with a lack of time spent in reflection and self-realization, the loss of nature has an effect deeply felt in our humanity. Waves crashing against the rocky coast of New England can take your breath away. The breadth of the Milky Way shining above you makes you feel the endless possibilities where once you only saw dead ends. Something as simple as a shady spot beneath a tree can bring peace to a troubled mind. These things do not have value only because they exist. They have value because of the response and emotions that they can evoke in us. If we lost these things, would there be other experiences to replace them and give us these presepctives and feelings? I don't agree with worshiping the spirit of trees and rocks, but we cannot deny that the natural beauty in the world is an ever-present gift from God, an opportunity for guidence and reflection. When we lose these things, we lose a part of ourselves.