In Wildness is the preservation of the World.
As I paddled down
Through the psalmist, the Holy One implores us: “Be still and know that I am God.” The implication is clear: if we wish to hear the song of the Holy One, we must learn to be still. This is where wilderness is invaluable. We all need, on occasion, to escape the tyranny of our technology and the fast-paced life that it engenders. Wild places force us to unplug. When cell phones and Facebook do not work, we turn back to older, slower, and quieter pleasures: introspection, flesh and blood friendships, taking in the beauty of reation. As we shift from constant “doing” to more contemplative “being,” we re-experience our elemental selves and the depth of the natural world around us, with which we have co-evolved, in conviviality, for hundreds of thousands of years. And in doing so, we open ourselves to hearing the still, small voice of God that is so often drowned out by the accoutrements of contemporary western culture.
Wilderness is not a luxury; it is, by contrast, an essential part of who we are. Jewish tradition teaches that one who wishes to be wise should learn to make him/herself a kind of wilderness, a home of openness and stillness. In order to do this, we need the experience of wildness in the wider world. To lose wild places is to impoverish ourselves and even, as it were, to diminish God. As the Jesuit poet and priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote: What would the world be, once bereft/Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet;/Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.