Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nature Deficit Disorder

When I was an adolescent growing up in Albuquerque, NM, I spent most of my waking hours outdoors. I loved to take long walks in what we called "the mesa," which was actually the upper sonoran desert that began at the end of our street. On Saturdays, I would hike in the foothills of the Sandia mountains, which were about two miles from home. As a Boy Scout, I spent one weekend a month on a camping trip that usually involved backpacking.

This way of life is now gone. Children and adolescents spend most of their time indoors looking a computer screens or TV's. Adults, too, spend most of their working hours and leisure time indoors. As a result we suffer from Nature-Deficit Disorder. The symptoms of NDD are obesity, depression and a lack of spiritual connection.

It's the lack of spiritual connection that I'm concerned about. I find it difficult to imagine a rich and full spiritual life without spending time in the beauty and sacredness of nature. My soul is fed by early morning rows on the Norwalk River and weekly hikes in Devil's Den Nature Conservancy, as well as sitting on our front porch reading.

In his book The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder,Richard Louv writes:
It's hard to fathom how any kind of spiritual intelligence is possible without an appreciation for nature. Most of us intuitively understand that all spiritual life, however it is defined, begins with and is nourished by a sense of wonder. The natural world is one of our most reliable windows into wonder and, at least to some, into a spiritual intelligence."

Louv has hit the nail on the head. If we want to experience awe and wonder, then we need to discover places that evoke these sacred emotions in us. For me, this sacred place is outdoors in the God-created world. Being there leads me to connect with it's Creator. The photo above, taken in Nepal, symbolizes the sacredness of nature by showing a "stupa" (shrine) against the background of the Himalayas.

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