Simplifying

A bird sings quietly in the trees outside my house. The sky is a vain shade of cobalt blue and without a cloud or sigh of winter. I have all this technology at my fingertips—a computer with high-speed internet, an IPod filled with my favorite music and apps, a TV with my favorite shows, a camera to take pictures, Facebook to share my life with family and friends…and yet a bird’s song outdoes them all. No song on my IPod is as lovely as that bird’s song, no picture I take with my camera can compare to the blue sky beauty just outside my window, no interaction on Facebook or text can compare to an interaction with nature—a walk in the woods, a swim in the ocean, or a gaze at the stars. Technology clutters my life; nature feeds my soul.

Henry David Thoreau was wiser 150 years ago than we are today. “Men have become the tools of their tools” (Walden p. 33), he said–and he said so before all the technology of today. What have we become? Technology serves its purpose, of course; I could not share these thoughts with you in this way were it not for computers and internet. But too often I lose my way and let my interactions with technology replace my interactions with God, man, and nature. Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” (Walden p. 74). What could I learn about God, myself, and the people around me if I were to wake up from the stupor of technology and live deliberately?

de•lib•er•ate (adv., de•lib’er•ate•ly)

v. 1.To consider carefully and at length. 2. To take counsel together so as to reach a decision. 3. To think about or consider carefully; weigh. adj. 1. Carefully thought out; intentional. 2. Slow and cautious in determining or deciding. 3. Leisurely in movement or manner; unhurried; slow.

Syn. 1. Deliberate, ponder, reflect, meditate, and muse mean to think deeply, usually in silence (As defined by the Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary).

How much more could I enjoy this quiet little life I’ve been given were I to step out of the bonds of technology and into the sanctuary of nature—if I were to deliberate, ponder, reflect, meditate, and even muse upon the stunning beauty of the world around me? Today I read for the first time William Cullen Bryant’s A Forest Hymn–it is stunning. I would love to share the whole poem but it’s rather long so I omitted lines here and there:

“The groves were God’s first temples. …

Amid the cool and silence, he knelt down,

And offered to the Mightiest solemn thanks

And supplication. …

Ah, why

Should we, in the world’s riper years, neglect God’s ancient sanctuaries, and adore

Only among the crowd, and under roofs

That our frail hands have raised? Let me, at least,

Here, in the shallow of this aged wood,

Offer one hymn …

Father, thy hand

Hath reared these venerable columns, thou

Didst weave this verdant roof. Thou didst look down

Upon the naked earth, and, forthwith, rose

All these fair ranks of trees. They, in thy sun,

Budded, and shook their green leaves in thy breeze,

And shot toward heaven.

till, at last, they stood,

As now they stand, massy, and tall, and dark,

Fit shrine for humble worshipper to hold

Communion with his Maker. These dim vaults,

These winding aisles, of human pomp or pride

Report not. No fantastic carving show

The boast of our vain race to change the form

Of thy fair works. But thou art here—thou fill’st

The solitude. Thou art in the soft winds

That run along the summit of these trees

In music; thou art in the cooler breath

That from the inmost darkness of the place

Comes, scarcely felt; the barky trunks, the ground,

The fresh moist ground, are all instinct with thee.

Here is continual worship;—Nature, here,

In the tranquility that thou dost love,

Enjoys the presence. Noiselessly

Thou hast not left

Thyself without a witness, in the shades,

Of thy perfections. Grandeur, strength, and grace

Are here to speak of thee.

My heart is awed within when I think

Of the great miracle that goes on,

In silence, round me—the perpetual work

Of thy creation, finished, yet renewed

Forever. Written on thy works I read

The lesson of thy own eternity.

let us [not] need the wrath

Of the mad unchained elements to teach

Who rules them. Be it ours to meditate,

In these calm shades, thy milder majesty,

And to the beautiful order of thy works

Learn to conform the order of our lives.”

How stunning would it be to step away from our loud, busy worlds and see creation the way Bryant did? Get me to the woods.

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