Nature

John Burroughs: Nature — The Most Precious Source of Life

“The kingdom of heaven is not a place
but a state of mind.”

 

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“Every walk to the woods is a religious rite, every bath in the stream is a saving ordinance. Communion service is at all hours, and the bread and wine are from the heart and marrow of Mother Earth. To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter…to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

The most precious things of life are near at hand, without money and without price. Each of you has the whole wealth of the universe at your very door. All that I ever had, and still have, may be yours by stretching forth your hand and taking it.

If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature. I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

I am in love with this world. I have tilled its soil, I have gathered its harvest, I have waited upon its seasons, and always have I reaped what I have sown. I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, crossed its deserts, felt the sting of its frosts, the oppression of its heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings.

I have loved the feel of the grass under my feet, and the sound of the running streams by my side. The hum of the wind in the tree-tops has always been good music to me, and the face of the fields has often comforted me more than the faces of men.

A man is not saved by the truth of the things he believes, but by the truth of his belief — its sincerity, its harmony with his character. The absurdities of the popular religions do not matter; what matters is the lukewarm belief, the empty forms, the shallow conceptions of life and duty. We are prone to think that if the creed is false, the religion is false. Religion is an emotion, an inspiration, a feeling of the Infinite, and may have its root in any creed or no creed. Any creed that ennobles character and opens a door or window upon the deeper meanings of this marvelous universe is good enough to live by, and good enough to die by.

The universe is so unhuman, that is, it goes its way with so little thought of man. He is but an incident, not an end. We must adjust our notions to the discovery that things are not shaped to him, but that he is shaped to them. The air was not made for his lungs, but he has lungs because there is air; the light was not created for his eye, but he has eyes because there is light. All the forces of nature are going their own way; man avails himself of them, or catches a ride as best he can. If he keeps his seat, he prospers; if he misses his hold and falls, he is crushed.

The lesson which life constantly repeats is to ‘look under your feet.’ You are always nearer to the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars. Every place is the center of the world.”

***

~John Burroughs was an American naturalist and nature essayist, active in the U.S. conservation movement.

Excerpts from:

  • John Burroughs, Gospel of Nature
  • John Burroughs, Studies in Nature and Literature
  • John Burroughs, The Summit of the Years
  • John Burroughs, The Light of Day

Excellence Reporter 2020

Categories: Nature, Wisdom of Life

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