Getting Reenchanted With Nature

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It’s easy to get discouraged about the state of the environment, but the book A Reenchanted World by James William Gibson, published this spring in paperback, offers some succor to despairing souls.

Gibson meticulously builds a case that we are in the midst of “a wave of spiritual interest in nature,” a cultural shift that finds us treasuring human-animal connections, untrammeled landscapes, and all of nature’s vast wonder in our films, books, media, and personal lives. Writes Gibson:

The current change is much broader, deeper, and more varied than what has come before. Virtually every part of contemporary culture, from the highest realms of science, theology, art, and literature to the mundane world of commercial television programming, has experienced its revolutionary influence. … The ultimate goal of this sweeping change, which I call “the culture of enchantment,” is nothing less than the reinvestment of nature with spirit. Flatly rejecting modernity’s reduction of animals, plants, places, and natural forces to either matter or utilitarian resource, the culture of enchantment attempts to make nature sacred once again. …

People respond to the culture of enchantment because it offers them something they need (and cannot find elsewhere in consumerist America): transcendence, a sense of mystery and meaning, glimpses of a numinous world beyond our own. The spiritual connections made to animals and landscapes almost invariably lead–often intentionally, sometimes not–to a new relationship to nature in general. And nature perceived as “sacred” is allowed to exist on its own terms, for its own sake, valuable simply because it is there.

Source: A Reenchanted World

Image by suburbanbloke, licensed under Creative Commons.

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