Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs and turtles, elderberries, acorns, wild strawberries, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, sand, snakes, hornets and huckleberries, and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education. - Luther Burbank, 1907
My personal experiences and reflections, and excursions into the philosophical ideas of others, has led me to think... to feel... to know... that it is necessary to provide children with experiences of interaction with the natural world. I say it is necessary, not just desirable, because children need experiences that will prevent the problems of nature-deficit disorder as outlined by Richard Louv (2008), and also because experiences with nature contribute to the evolutionary unfolding of heartfelt awareness of the human earth inter-dependency. Experiences with nature can help children discover their personal destiny and their role in the destiny of the human race, and of the earth and cosmos.
My search for deeper understanding of this thesis may be a good example of what Will Schutz described as humankind’s development of wisdom. In his book, Profound Simplicity, Schutz summarizes our search for wisdom as a three step process, “simplistic, complex, and profoundly simple” (1979, p. 69). He suggests that human wisdom and understanding begins with simple awareness of ideas — proceeds through reflections and exploration of related ideas in attempt to make rational sense of the original ideas — and then finally arrives at the realization of the “profound simplicity” of the underlying wisdom of the original ideas.
At the simple stage, ideas arise from awareness — they result from things we see, hear, or experience. This can be understood as knowledge that is grounded in our senses
. The stage of complexity often follows, as we seek empirical and consensual validation of the simple ideas. This is knowledge that is grounded in our brain
. At the third stage, which may or may not follow from the stage of complexity, we come to understand the “profound simplicity” of basic ideas. This is knowledge/wisdom that is grounded in our heart
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Thomas E. Smith, PhD, a.k.a. Old Raccoon, is founder and director of the Raccoon Institute, which began with offices in a tree-house in 1982. He studied with Native American elders in the late 1950's, and with Carl Rogers at the University of Wisconsin. He has authored over a dozen books.