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Life in Community

Do You Have Green Space?

September 21, 2015 by

God created the universe, or on a more local scale, what we call “nature.” He did this out of love for all of us, so that we have a place where we can find ourselves and become peaceful. Nature will change you. Try it out; you will not regret it. It will transform your outlook on life; you will see many things differently.

It has changed my wife and me. As we age, physically we can do less and less, but we find we have more time to simply be in nature. Each time we go out, we marvel at God’s creation and at his love for us.

My wife and I both grew up in the jungles of Paraguay. We did not know how privileged we were until we immigrated to the United States. In Paraguay, we were surrounded by the beautiful rainforest, abundant with animal life: colorful birds, chattering monkeys, deadly snakes, not to mention the pumas and armadillos. The rivers and streams contained the most bountiful fish that one could imagine. These things were some of the most cherished parts of our childhoods.

The author as a boy in paraguay, holding his pet Amazon parrot which is playfully biting his nose
The author at age thirteen in Paraguay with his pet Amazon parrot.

Now, I know not many of you grew up, or are growing up, in a vibrant jungle. But no matter where you find yourself, nature is important for you. Whether we live in the city or in the country, it’s crucial to find peace and experience God’s creation. Once you set your mind to it you will be surprised how quickly you can find a place where you can sit and watch the birds and animals, the trees and flowers, or the clouds and the sunset.

a beautiful orange and gold sunset with trees silhouetted against it.
Photograph by the author’s wife, Verena, taken near their home in New York.

We need to realize that the rivers, forests, mountains, and grasslands that are still unpolluted are one of our greatest assets. I have written several books about children in which I remind parents and teachers that children need white space. Just as essential, for us adults, is green space, that is, a time and place when we are away from all distractions.

If we love our children and want them to be wise like Albert Einstein; indeed, if we ourselves wish to grow in true wisdom that transcends mere intellectualism, then we should all go into nature as often as we can. As Einstein said, “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

a squirrel on a log standing still and attentive.
Photograph by the author’s wife, taken near their home in New York.

These thoughts are possibly too profound to express in these few words. When I go out into the woods near my house, I get a feeling in my soul that is indescribable, but which I sense is of deep significance. Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in his classic, ­Walden, of the “tonic of wildness,” articulated it better than I can. He knew that experiencing the natural world is the most important thing anyone can do. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” For as many years as God gives us here on this earth, this is what my wife and I want to do.

Johann Christoph Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, founder of Breaking the Cycle of Violence, and the author of twelve books published by Plough Publishing.


About the author

Johann Christoph Arnold and his wife, Verena

J. Christoph Arnold

Johann Christoph Arnold was a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, founder of Breaking the Cycle of Violence, and the author of...

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