Vitamin N For the Soul

“If one steps out on a starry night and observes one’s inner state, one asks if one could hate or be overwhelmed by envy or resentment. . . . Is it not true that no man or woman has ever committed a crime while in a state of wonder?” —Jacob Needleman from A Sense of the Cosmos

“All actual life is encounter.”—Martin Buber

MATTHEW, my youngest son, once asked me if a connection to a higher power is, in fact, an under-utilized sense—one that some people find activated in nature. This is the same son who, when he was five, asked, “Are God and Mother Nature married, or just good friends?” Great questions. Most religious traditions, especially in indigenous cultures, intimately or actively offer ways to discover the divine in the natural world. Some people worship nature. Others consider such worship blasphemous, or detect nothing. Most of us are less direct. Just beyond the veil of rain, we sense a presence for which we have no name.

Cover of Vitamin N For the Soul by Richard Louv | Algonquin Books

Cover of Vitamin N For the Soul by Richard Louv | Algonquin Books

Since the publication of Last Child in the Woods a decade ago, I’ve been surprised and impressed by the support that many religious leaders of all faiths, and nonbelievers as well—and from very different political persuasions—have offered to the growing movement to connect people, especially children, to the natural world. One of the first and unexpected champions of the book was the Rev. Albert Mohler, Jr., a conservative radio host and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who wrote: “Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines.” When I was asked to be on The 700 Club, Pat Robertson’s show on the Christian Broadcasting Network, a friend (who worked for a large environmental organization) said, “Don’t go, it’s a trap.” The segment, including footage of children outdoors, turned out to be very good. Other religious voices chimed in—Presbyterians, Buddhists, Muslims, Unitarians, Jews.

In a provocative piece for the Torah Aura Productions Bulletin Board, titled “It is not Jewish to Stay Inside,” Idie Benjamin and Dale Cooperman wrote, “At the Seder, we eat green vegetables to remind us of spring. We celebrate the holiday of Sukkot by sitting outside in our sukkot for eight days, surrounded by the fruits of the harvest. Is it any wonder that the holiday is called zman simhatainu, the time of our happiness?” They pointed out that, “Tu B’Shvat has become a Jewish Earth Day, a time to focus on the earth that God gave us and how better to care for our world . . . . But in many classrooms, that caring and learning is too often happening inside with paper trees and pink tissue paper blossoms.

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Source Citation

Tikkun 2016 Volume 31, Number 4: 58-61

RICHARD LOUV’S newest book is titled Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. In it, he offers 500 ways to connect our families, our communities and ourselves to the natural world. His other books include Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, from which parts of this essay are adapted. He is co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit organization working to build an international movement to connect people to nature. He speaks often around the world, including keynotes at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the first White House Summit on Environmental Education, and the Congress for the New Urbanism. He is the recipient of the Audubon Medal; prior recipients include Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson and President Jimmy Carter. You may follow him on Facebook and @RichLouv on Twitter.
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