The experience of nature being magical, being enchanted, being mesmerising that each child has, tends to fade when we reach adolescence.
I recently had a devastating conversation with my 15-year-old son about flowers. We were on a ridge walk north of Ubud and I was in awe over all the amazing and beautifully different wildflowers; their colours, their scents, their shapes. I shared my enthusiasm with him, and his response was: I don’t see anything special, mum, a flower is a flower.
While it might seem fine and normal that our view on nature alters when we grow up, and that we no longer swoon over the color of a flower or the glittery wings of an insect or the scent of newly fallen rain, it is of great importance that we understand the actual loss that happens when this kind of behavior gets cultivated out of us and we start viewing nature mainly through a rational perspective that focuses on how annoying and messy it is when it isn’t tamed and controlled. This loss doesn’t only concern our ability to see, salute and embrace beauty; diverse, messy, chaotic beauty (a loss, which in itself is bad enough): I am convinced that this loss is also to a great extent the reason why we don’t take care of our natural environment.
In this equation however, we forget that we too are nature; we are not separated from nature, not in control of nature, not in a position to view nature as ours to use and abuse. It seems that the enthralled experience of nature is crucial to sustainable behavior.
But if the experience of the enchanted nature is crucial to fostering respect for nature and developing sustainable lifestyles, then why isn’t nurturing the ability to experience nature in that way a part of schooling — or at least of environmentally focused education? And — what does it take to support the experience of the enchanted cosmos in children, to maintain it in adolescent — and to reintroduce and foster it in adulthood (as a part of rewilding the late modern human being)?
Is enchantment inter-depended on wildness and a degree of hardship? Is convenience and cultivation the enemy of the magic of the beautiful, chaotic diverse life?
Rewilding would involve a step back to a less convenient nature-relationship: a relationship in which a manifold of annoying insects sums around our ears at spring, in which bushes and weeds grow wild, and animals might pose a threat. But at the same time; that rewilding, that step back to less convenience, less user-friendly-ness and more friction, chaos, challenges and even danger might be prerequisite for the re-enchantment of nature.
And that re-enchantment is so needed. Because it has the potential to foster a deep sense of interconnectivity and respect as well as to fill us up through nourishing aesthetic experiences. The mysterious, unpredictable, uncultivated part of nature is crucial to sustain in order to re-enchant it and foster the immediate, uncultivated respect for it that each child owns and lives by, before s/he is shaped by our “everything-is-there-for-us-to-exploit-culture”.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Preston Browning on Unsplash