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dUSt

Cities vs Nature, Man vs God?

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dUSt

I've been thinking about how people who live in cities, surrounded by man made structures, with limited exposure to nature (God made structures) may be affected spiritually by this. Do you think this matters?

Personally, I feel closer to God when I am out in nature, experiencing the beauty He has created--as opposed to inside a building, or walking down a city block.

Now, maybe I am looking at things wrong--and I should actually feel closer to God when in a city because I am closer to more of His best creation, humans.

Thoughts?

Does anybody know of any spiritual reading that touches on this issue?

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Luigi

This makes a lot of sense to me.

Most monasteries are out in the country - in nature. Even those in cities usually have extensive gardens, a little lake, some trees, big sky, and so forth. All nature proclaims the glory of God.

Exposure to nature increases creativity (I learned that in a workshop I attended). That may not have a lot to do with spirituality, but it could mean that the mind is more open when you're out in nature.

People put demands on each other, whether they intend to or not. If I'm walking down a street, I have to be aware of others so I don't bump into them, or they might ask me for a handout, or I have to pay attention to traffic when I cross a street, or my attention is drawn to a siren in the distance, or I'm overhearing conversations of a not-so-savory nature - whatever. All of which means that my mind is occupied, attentive to the immediate situational demands. So it might be harder to focus on God.

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Era Might

The jungle appears calm to someone who doesn't know what lurks there.

A person who comes from a city might romanticize the country, but that's usually because they have no idea that the country is a human society, just as much as the city, with its own power structures, habits, prejudices, etc.

I think there is peace from nature, and it is partly good, because in nature we can step outside our human societies, step outside ourselves, step outside our symbols and our languages and our histories, and just "be." We find God there because it takes us beyond the human. But, we are human. We don't exist in a transcendent world. Maybe we will some day, but now we don't, so that retreat to nature can also be a fantasy, a running away. I think we can see this in various Bible stories, too, like Jonah who literally wanted to run away, but where could he go? He went to the deepest most remote part of nature, and he was swallowed up by a whale. John went to the desert and only found camel's hair and locusts. Actually this is one of my favorite passages in the Gospel:

"As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.' Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:7-11)

Apparently people had this idea of John that he was a holy man living a quiet life, but in fact, he was a wild man. There was no greater ascetic than John, and that's precisely why he is not first in the kingdom but last. Asceticism is a retreat from the world, and so far as prophets go, nobody fit that prophetic personality more than John. But the story of Christ isn't that he left that world, but that he came to it. Christ wasn't a man who ascended to God, but a God who descended to man. And not to the quiet of the desert. He wasn't Buddha sitting out by a tree. He wasn't John eating locusts. He came eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes. So, as much as we want to get out of the world, retreat to nature, we are only running from ourselves. We are social, historical, cultural, fleshy creatures. We exist in a specific time, a specific world, in specific circumstances and contexts, and we have to face that whether we like it or not.

As far as buildings, what I hate about buildings isn't the buildings themselves, but they are symbols of institutions. They are built to create fixed patterns of behavior. If you are from a particular area, then buildings can be a good thing because they are part of your sense of space and being. But if you don't really "belong" where you live, if you just live there, then everything becomes an abstraction. A bank is just a bank, a restaurant just a restaurant, a downtown just a downtown. That's why nobody wants prisons and power plants built in their areas...they want them built, just not near them, they represent something outside society, nobody wants to bring that death near. The writer David Foster Wallace wrote a few great pieces on tourism (he went on a cruise and took another trip to a lobster festival in Maine). He wrote:

"To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience, It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing."

And I think that's why we respond so instinctively to nature, because you are able to create and name things that have no names. Nobody has claimed nature, nobody has planted a flag. You wake up like Adam on the seventh day, and everything is new and fresh.

Here's a podcast you might like, on a man named Nils Christie who wrote a book called "Beyond Loneliness and Institutions" about an alternative commune in Sweden. Actually this is the last part of a 6-part series, one of the previous episodes discussed Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (founder of First Things magazine).

http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2015/8/17/beyond-institutions-part-six

Edited by Era Might

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BarbaraTherese

I truly love both: God and nature - cities and out in nature.  I do find God in a consistently special way in nature/our Australian bush - though in the cities at times it can be a special experience of God too - though more likely to be a special experience of people.  I used to love the nightlife to pieces (the lights, the all sorts of noises, the comings and goings of all kinds of people -   I would have a very conscious experience of community and belonging) although that has well faded in my more mature years as I no longer venture into the city at night, while night time itself as a Joy has not.

I would love to live (in my imagination) out in the bush far away from people and cities, I really would.  I think, however, that the absolute aloneness would scare me silly at night.  If I did not have bipolar to be concerned about on a shelf somewhere in my mind, I would like to live in a country town.  However, the availability of psychiatric help is not so easy to access as here in a major city.-

 

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CatherineM

I think it has less to do with nature itself and more to do with noise. The city can have so much noise that we'd have trouble hearing  God. 

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Ice_nine
On 7/6/2017 at 4:17 PM, Era Might said:

stuff, stuff, literary reference, contrarianism, more stuff

lol you're too much

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Maximilianus

Part of the reason one feels closer to God in the wilderness because you are separated from the many things that distract us from God. Too bad we tend to bring those distractions with us into the wilderness. 

 

Edited by Maximilianus
Nature rules

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Era Might
5 hours ago, Ice_nine said:

lol you're too much

Thanks, iguanas think I'm amesome too! 

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Seven77

 

On 7/6/2017 at 4:17 PM, Era Might said:

 

 

 

You, my friend, have a way with words.:) It'll take me a few days to unpack all of that.

---

I once heard the line, “a world without trees is no place for me.”

This thread reminds me of Lord of the Rings. There is a technology versus nature theme throughout the books. The bad guys are destroying nature, building up all these towers and structures while the good guys fight to protect the beauty of creation––the hobbits, prefer living in the countryside, the elves can't live anywhere else,  etc. I think it's kind of a commentary on the dangers of modern development and technology gone out of control… it destroys the soul. The machinery and mechanical stuff is unnatural and evil. And then I think of the movie Blade Runner, it has a similar idea––the world is bleak and dark and there's literally nothing green until the last scene.

Yeah, there's something conducive to prayer in nature. That's why the desert monks left the cities to dwell in caves. There's nothing artificial about nature. Yet, nature can be kind of creepy and scary too--Mirkwood in Lord of the Rings is no place to camp out in. But anyway, I would suggest reading Tolkien in that light.

Also, this philosophy professor has a lot of articles about nature, organic living, and creation… good stuff. He's a farmer who raises pigs, hence the title…

http://www.baconfromacorns.com/

5 hours ago, Era Might said:

Thanks, iguanas think I'm amesome too! 

Daylight come and me iguana go home...

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