I’ve been participating in Emergence Magazine’s Writing Beyond the Environment Course over the past few weeks. At our meeting yesterday, we heard from Scott Russell Sanders and were invited into his gathered wisdom as a writer who seeks to illuminate those moments when we find ourselves as humans in deep communion with the natural world, when the imagined boundaries between ourselves and the natural world fall away and when we remember that we are nature.
A few thoughts that I’m still chewing on:
- His note about how technology separates us from the world, and his discussion of technology as quite simple–houses, lighting, even chairs. It feels novel and exciting to me to consider what technologies separate me further from this communion and which facilitate it, and I think this awareness could invite me into simpler ways of being.
- That his writing process involves meticulously moving through passages until they are “right.” Instead of writing drafts and then combing through them later, he stops and works on a passage or description until it feels right to him and then moves on. It felt freeing to hear him say this and offered permission to enter a deeper way of engaging a piece of writing than just “getting it down.”
- In a discussion of the term “wilderness” as a colonizing term, I began to wonder about how both English translations of the Hebrew and Greek terms for wilderness in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament might have contributed to a muddying of definition.
Reading this article, I learned that the Hebrew midbar can mean a place where domesticated animals live or where wild animals live, or an uninhabited land where humans are nomads. The Hebrew chorbah can mean a land that lies waste. And the yeshimon can mean land without water. The Greek eremos / eremia can mean an isolated place. Yet, each of these terms is translated as “wilderness” in English.
In the landscape of these texts, at the time they were written, the actual environmental composition and experience of these lands might be radically different than the experience of “wilderness” in other contexts. For example, how might a generation of European immigrants to North America understand the world “wilderness” when a Christian preacher presents it to them, having never encountered a desert wasteland, but for the first time encountering the vast virgin forests, mountain ranges, prairies, and rivers of their new home?
Additionally, how does the re-contexting of “wilderness” by Christian thinkers to a metaphorical sense allow for the immigrant American to cast the wilds of the land as “wilderness,” and thus a place of spiritual struggle and turmoil? Lots to consider here.
Overall, it was a generative time, but I continue to hold the question for myself: why does it matter that we write and tell the stories of deep communion? It’s really a question I’m holding for myself. Why does it matter to me and for me to write these stories?
Would love to hear thoughts if any readers have them!