Friday, March 21, 2008

LCW: spectating

Somehow, I don't put Louv's book Last Child in the Woods in the propaganda pile. If you love kids, if you love the outdoors, if you only love one or the other this is a book every parent and anyone who works with children should read. Though the author feels very strongly about all that he covers in this book he's quick to site other people's opinions. And I have to say that he writes with a lot of basic common sense. His stories and the research he includes is interesting. Some of it is scary.

I started this post on March 4th. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book. Lots to quote. Lots to think about. I probably won't go chapter by chapter. The bottom line for me is this: What if we were to stop interacting with all that God's hands have created? I think the first ways I knew God, even when I wanted to be a doubter, was God as Creator and God as Father. Think about your understandings of the Creation story or the story of Noah's ark if the only way you interact with the environment is through movies, TV, or computer. Think about all the Biblical imagery from the outdoors. What if you only saw it through a glass window. What if children didn't know what the sea smells like or fresh cut grass? What if they never crumbled the grains of wheat from the top of the wheat stem. What if they never rubbed a donkey's nose or rubbed their hands through a sheep? Far-fetched?

Gee. Maybe you're reading this thinking, "I've never done those things!" It's not too late!

As he starts the book, Louv talks about a series of books written for boys in 1915. "...[W]hat really defines these books, and the age they represented," he says, "is the unquestioned belief that being in nature was about doing something, about direct experience - and about not being a spectator." [LCW p. 15]

What does it mean, "not being a spectator"? You go to a park and the guide tells you that every place you step in forest or meadow is someone's home. Look, don't touch! If everyone touched, it would be destructive. Does that mean being a spectator is the only way to protect our environment?

For centuries Native Americans and other peoples lived off the land yet with deep respect for the land and wildlife surrounding them acknowledging their mutual dependency. They used only what they needed to live - no waste. Their interaction was wise and respectful. Their stewardship mattered because their livelihood was at stake.

Today men, women and children still hunt and fish respecting the wild life systems they visit and love. They too for the most part are respectful and appreciative of the opportunity they have to interact with the natural world.

Then there are the people whose thoughtless wasteful interactions with the natural world ruin it for everyone else. No one who cares about the natural world wants people like this interacting with nature and destroying it for this generation or all the generations to come. But they were born into this created world just like everyone else. Excluding them denies them a significant portion of their God-given heritage.

Can I learn to interact with the outdoors without ruining it for the creatures who live there or for other people? Can we teach others so we aren't limited to just being spectators? Can we respectfully steward this God-created learning environment and still be able to immerse ourselves, interact with it, and enjoy it? The television screen or the glass window might protect the outside from the spectator and visa versa but when that becomes the only way we can interact with the outdoors and the only way to keep the outdoors in tact, it will be a sad day indeed. It means we've failed as stewards.It means we've failed to educate.

Observing is seeing. Hopefully, we observe with a willingness to recognize opportunities to interact for the good of another. Sometimes seeing means gazing with awe. But being a spectator is observing with no intention of interacting or participating.

The scriptures tell us to be doers. In Genesis we were called to steward all that God created. We were creates as just a small part of something bigger, not as spectators but interacting and participating. We were also the part of creation that God made in His own image.

Jesus came interacting and participating. We express our faith through our actions and our choices. Jesus came living faith as God incarnate. What was it about Jesus that made His disciples follow Him? Was it just some overwealming urge to obey? Or because they loved the interaction they had with Him? When Jesus was no longer around to observe - did they find someone else to follow or did they find ways to continue that interaction with Him?

As I say, this is an interesting book. More to come.

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