Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Forest Ranger

By Artur Suski, S.J.

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Many of us have undoubtedly been fascinated by characters of our favourite fantasy books who roam the vast forests of forgotten and distant realms. There is something in their adventures that captures our imagination, drawing us into our own fantasies. And why not? We have become too comfortable in our big concrete-and-steel mountains that we call “civilized cities”! The majority of us have very few opportunities to take a walk in the forest; by “forest”, I don’t mean the small piece of land in the middle of the city with a couple of trees. So, when was the last time you went for a good walk in a forest?

To put it bluntly, our society is losing contact with nature. Once upon a time in my childhood, my brother and I would often go and play in the forest that neighboured our house. We made swords out of branches and play fought, pretending to be knights of distant kingdoms, battling for...a princess! Nowadays, it seems that youth are more than content with their video games and high-tech gadgets. Maybe their parents are afraid to let them play outside, fearing that they may break a sweat and catch pneumonia. After all, a forest can be a scary place, perhaps harbouring such ferocious beasts such as squirrels or field mice.

Not only does nature fuel our need for beauty and serenity, we also find God in his wondrous creation in a unique way. If only we would smell the scent of the trees, or hear the chant of a skylark! Nature provides us with an encounter with the unexpected. We wander through the forest, not knowing what or whom we will meet. Will it be a beautiful red fox? Or a majestic snow owl? The unexpected teaches us to be open to what God brings our way; we are not in control, and we are only the recipients of a gift.

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With the idea of a gift in mind, it is then a sense of thanksgiving that nature evokes from her visitors. Perhaps it is no surprise that the young Fr. Karol Wojtyla – who would become the late Pope John Paul II – often celebrated mass in the mountains with his student entourage, as eucharistia stands for “thanksgiving” in Greek. After all, “through him all things were made” (Jn 1:3); through these things we encounter the Lord, and for this we are thankful.

Human beings have lived in a good relationship with and often close proximity to nature for thousands of years. We are most at home out there in the forests and mountains, or deserts and wadis, for that matter. It’s in our genes to intertwine our lives with things natural, such as forests. Today’s steel and concrete edifices are suffocating us! We need to go out and be in nature if we know what’s good for us.

I invite you to make an effort to go and spend some time in the forest. It won’t be all that bad; just make sure you bring a walking stick to shoo away those ferocious forest beasts.

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