I got a little feedback about my first post that maybe my words about nature were just a little too Kumbaya-ish - that I failed to recognize all the bad things that arise from the natural world, like earthquakes, cancer, wildfires, hurricanes, plagues.
Exactly my point. We each have our own beliefs or perceptions about nature - from Kumbaya-butterflies-fluffy clouds nature (cue humming and bonfire smoke) to the mighty-powerful-unpredictable-and-often-cruel force (cue lightning bolts and thunder claps). And maybe we are all correct. The natural world (including us humans) is complex and chaotic and capable of destruction. And it is beautiful and mysterious and capable of healing. Both views can be true.
What determines our views? Our experiences with the natural world itself? Our experiences with other humans? Maybe a little of both? I once read a study in which adults were asked to describe their feelings and perceptions about their parents, and then were later asked about their picture of God. The researcher found that the individuals who had positive relationships with their parents, characterized by nurturing and trust, described a loving and forgiving God, and those who had painful relationships with their parents, involving loss or abuse or neglect, described an angry, judgmental, and punitive God. I don't know if this makes any sense in terms of our perceptions of nature, but we do know that the quality of early relationships has an impact on how we see the world in general as we mature. Our early relationships lay the foundation for cognitive schemata that shape our world-view, our first go-to interpretation of what is in front of us.
Or maybe our perceptions of the natural world are more simply informed by our direct experience, or lack of experience, with it. A counselor I know worked with urban youth who were frequently exposed to and involved in violent life-threatening events. She took the youth on a night-time hike through woods into a large star-lit meadow - maybe hoping to inspire feelings of awe and wonder, thoughts of one's place in the universe. What was inspired was terror! These cocky 16 and 17 year old almost-men were frightened by the open spaces and the dark, and by the unfamiliarity of their surroundings. Mission aborted. I think we are often frightened by what we don't know, what we don't understand, and what we cannot control. And nature can certainly fall in this category.
Something influences our views of nature - something or some things unique to each of us. What has shaped your views?
Mine have changed over the years - keep in mind that I have never experienced a flood or hurricane or earthquake or another tragic natural disaster. My views have ranged from curiosity during childhood, when the outdoors was our world and mysteries abounded.... to occasional indifference during high school alternating with some Kumbaya times at church retreats (okay, I admit it!).... to respect and awe and curiosity again, and even shyness, as an adult. I feel shyness as I learn to plant my first kind of big garden - like I am finally getting to know someone well who has been around for a long time, and I don't exactly know what to say or do, and I am wondering if that someone will find me worthy! (You might understand my doubts when you hear that my first garden yielded one - yes ONE (1) - zucchini! I have never ever met anyone who got only one zucchini! I was truly humbled.)
For some reason, a constant through my life has been a love of thunderstorms - the louder the better. I think they remind me that there is something much bigger and more powerful than I am out there, and that feels reassuring and safe to me.
And now that I am thinking about it, these changes kind of parallel my spiritual development and political growth through life. Does that make sense? I know I cannot separate my feelings and thoughts about sustainable living and the natural world from my values, politics, imagination, and spiritual life. I suspect this might be true of others as well. What do you think?