I remember reading once about Native Americans who lived in the Yosemite valley. A commentator on American Wilderness said this, “For us Europeans, it was wilderness, harsh and rugged. But what we called wilderness, they simply called home. For them this was not a romantic place. They knew the realities of storms and cold, in ways we did not. For them it was a land that cradled and sustained. For us it was a land to subdue.”
I don’t agree with everything he said, but there is truth in his words. I would put it this way: For us it was harsh and rugged wilderness and we should have listened more carefully and learned from the ways they communed with the delights and dangers of their home, the American wild.
The religious practices of the Native Americans reveal a great reverence for the sacredness of the earth. They knew not only that sweeping vistas remind us of our dependence upon the earth and also that for every one beautiful creature another existed just as poisonous.
What I’m saying here is this…our future and our health as a people is dependent upon the bare wild. We have got to get ourselves out in the wilderness. We must move beyond mere technical changes in society for greener this and greener that. We must undergo a conversion that brings our hearts closer to God’s heart for his creation. We must begin seeing the earth as a vast array of subjects, a community of creatures.
I’m not suggesting that we begin seeing creatures as humans. Disney has done us a great disservice with talking animals, in a way. And I am not talking about a revival of animism or polytheism. What I’m talking about is a return away from the modern project to our ancient Christian values that led a twelfth century Italian monk to pen the greatest earth poem ever. He called the moon our brother and the sun our sister. It is an opening of our eyes to the verdant imagination of the psalmists and to the Holy Spirit, who after all came for a time in the form of a dove.