Henry David Thoreau's Walden and Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac
While discussing Henry David Thoreau's Walden and Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, we attempted to address an important challenge -- Is the close observation and description of nature merely an idle thing for people in today's world? It could be suggested that nature writing and the close enjoyment of natural environments is merely "recreational" and not intellectually, economically, or politically worthy of our efforts. Perhaps this activity has "spiritual value" or gives us a "sense of peace." But does it really have anything to do with the way we live in the world today? It seems to me that this question is central to the whole course of study and that we need to be able to answer it convincingly and in some detail.
In my view, there can be no doubt to the correct answer. The close observation and description of nature is no idle thing. It is an act of world-making, or founding one's world view. Since behavior is determined by the ways in which one sees the world (reality), it is the groundwork of one's behavior. It is this act in which we find both Thoreau and Leopold engaged. Thoreau himself comments on its significance in the essay, "Where I Lived and What I lived For." By closely observing, but especially by describing (by using language) we establish our lives within the whole natural world. We express our desire and commitment to live within that world.
Now, perhaps this sounds trivial and trite in today's world, but it is no trivial commitment for a citizen of today. Modern human life is set so firmly within a human-built world and dwells so thoroughly on human issues only that it is normal for us all to grow up and live out our lives within that narrow realm of human self-interests. To expand one's world and to become inclusive of the whole natural world as the "place" of one's existence requires significant change and, indeed, education. Just learning to see and hear is difficult; but learning the language of nature requires work. It is no trivial task.
None of this quite answers the challenge, above, though. Perhaps an inclusive view of nature is difficult and non-trivial, but it still might be construed as an idle fancy. How can we say that it is important? Why is the expansion of our world view to a nature-inclusive view a matter of importance. Answering this challenge, I can only say that nature is our home place. Thus, life as our culture...