Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Small Wonder

--by Barbara Kingsolver (Jan 21, 2013)

Barry Lopez writes that if we hope to succeed in the endeavor of protecting natures other than our own, "it will require that we reimagine our lives.... It will require of many of us a humanity we've not yet mustered, and a grace we were not aware we desired until we had tasted it."

And yet no endeavor could be more crucial at this moment. Protecting the land that once provided us with our genesis may turn out to be the only real story there is for us. The land still provides our genesis, however we might like to forget that our food comes from dank, muddy earth, that the oxygen in our lungs was recently inside a leaf, and that every newspaper or book we may pick up (including this one, ultimately, though recycled) is made from the hearts of trees that died for the sake of our imagined lives. What you hold in your hands right now, beneath these words, is consecrated air and time and sunlight and, first of all, a place. Whether we are leaving it or coming into it, it's here that matters, it is place. Whether we understand where we are or don't, that is the story: To be here or not to be. Storytelling is as old as our need to remember where the water is, where the best food grows, where we find our courage for the hunt. It's as persistent as our desire to teach our children how to live in this place that we have known longer than they have. Our greatest and smallest explanations for ourselves grow from place, as surely as carrots grow in the dirt. I'm presuming to tell you something that I could not prove rationally but instead feel as a religious faith. I can't believe otherwise. […]

Oh, how can I say this: People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wildness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully. Looking out on a clean plank of planet earth, we can get shaken right down to the bone by the bronze-eyed possibility of lives that are not our own.

-- Barbara Kingsolver, in "Small Wonder"

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On Jan 19, 2013 david doane wrote:
 "Our plans are small and somewhat absurd."  To me that statement is only half of the story, the other half being that our plans are significant.  What is really important is the big picture, which is the health of our planet.  Each of us is only a speck and our individual plans and actions are typically small and absurdly feeble, while on the other hand all of us is a force and our cumulative plans and actions make a difference.  We are part of this planet, and what we do to it we do to ourselves.  It is absurd that we do anything that harms it since in the process we also harm ourselves.  It only makes sense that we take good care of this planet since in the process we take good care of ourselves.  That seems so obvious and simple, and yet it's apparently important to say over and over since we continue individually and collectively to pollute and trash our planet and thus ourselves, which is so small, short-sighted and absurd of us to do.  I connect personally with this "place" in my awareness which has come to be that we are one and we are one with this planet, and I have come to ache that we abuse it/us.  It is a timeless landscape in that the actions of each of us and all of us ripple and have effects that go on timelessly -- we better be careful and wise with our plans and actions. 

On Jan 20, 2013 Ricky wrote:
At the high school I teach, we are expected to assign meaningful finals at the end of each semester.  For my yoga classes, I ask them to respond to three writing prompts, create their own practice in writing and pictures, and then offer an inspirational quote.  I received this inspirational submission from a young man who is a freshman, and I received it one day after reading this article here.  Frankly, after you watch this you will realize why I have nothing else to add:  this is Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, responding to the inquiry, what is 'The Most Astounding Fact'.  I hope you have a little over three minutes to watch this.
or Vimeo:

On Jan 20, 2013 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 I wish to thank you David and Ricky for their excellent comments.  Thanks also for the opportunity to respond.  What comes to mind after reading this piece and the comments is that awareness is the key to peaceful living.  Noticing one's noticing while one is noticing is awareness.  Before we can give attention to "what is" we need to be open to receive.  Openness to experience is a key.  I am reminded of Lane Gerber's 1968, University of Chicago doctoral dissertation with the title: "Openness to Experience." To paraphrase Gandhi: There is no way to openness.  Openness is the way.  Please contact your school board to arrange for your local schools to use social/emotional programs which tend to increase student openness and awareness.  Presently, too often schools and universities do not give attention to much other than developing special skills so that the economy will flourish.  If the development of special skills remains  the primary goal of schools and universities, openness and awareness will remain underdeveloped and our environment  will continue to be endangered.  Human nature coupled with a variety of other natures is all of one nature.  You are invited to be open to what that might be.  Schools and universities which permit students to study what students find to be remarkable, interesting, and important tend to greatly increase that openness and awareness.  Warm and kind regards to everyone.

On Jan 22, 2013 Thierry wrote:
I don't see that I can add much to these excellent comments. That we, 'earthlings' should take care of the place that provided our genesis and is providing our existence is so obvious and simple, as David says. An almost common place realization. Yet it does'nt seem to arouse much of a sense of urgency in a society so ridden with the problems it has created.
I spent some time in a place, a school actually, where taking care of the land,  sharing the menial tasks of the community, like cleaning, washing dishes, etc, was as much a part of the curriculum, for staff members as well as students, than teaching and learning academics. A rare place where one learns that inward freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility and caring.  

On Jan 24, 2013 a wrote:
 When I step into "the wild", I very much sense how small I am in relation to the bigness of everything around me.  The sun . . . ocean . . . mountain . . .  air . . . soil . . . rock . . . are not dependent on me for their function.  I, on the other hand, am very much dependent on them for my existence.  Per Divine Order,  God created the universe, all things wild, first . . . His people, second.  We hurt our home (our world) we hurt ourselves.  Per Divine Order, 'the wild' was created, not only, to sustain us, but also, to give us pleasure.  
I particularly enjoyed the last paragraph of this piece!  To best nurture self, (spiritually, physically and emotionally) we go to nature.  Be it a golf course, a woods, a body of water, a ski hill or an observation of the heavens/or creatures of the land . . . God loves, heals and restores  through nature.  
In and thru enjoying, studying, caring for 'God's handiwork', we become big in our smallness.  Let Heaven and Nature    Sing . . .