Reverence and the Environment

Do you ever think about reverence? I don’t. So now, I will. If you look at the religious demographic of the world, most people will either have a spiritual, mystical, or religious belief. That means that these people will probably have at some point in his/her life an experience of reverence for themselves, for others, for something outside of human experience.

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Perhaps a profound feeling. Something mystical. Something religious. Something unknown that cannot be articulated in words but felt for the people we have in our lives and our surroundings. I think that a lot of the concern for the environment seems to come from two domains. One is a sense of ownership and the other is a sense of reverence. The former is more devoted to the domination and control of the environment, while the latter is based on protection, respect, and interdependency. I think that at some fundamental level, these two ideas are distinct, distinguishable, and mutually exclusive. And that they are unable to be converged or brought together in some relevant practical sense

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Maybe in some sense of higher-order, they can be abstract and brought together. However, I do not think this is necessarily possible at this present time. In a practical sense, I think that the perspective of reverence for nature, or for the environment, is a concomitant of concern for one’s own livelihood. It is remarkable that people will risk their own livelihood to go out onto a boat and try to save a dolphin, or a whale, or some form of cetacean that is assumed to have some kind of cognition like to feel pain. Some might even argue a soul. Although, historically, people have argued that animals do not and are machines, and even more to the modern perspective have extended this to people, and that we are not special in this natural world. That sense of reverence is something that seems to extend into wanting to help the environment and all creatures that live in it.

This is a bit of an evolving discussion. My questions to you: What is your own relationship to reverence and the natural world? And does this reflect an environmentalism? Or does it reflect a concern for the well-being of children in terrible working conditions? Or the fact that slavery exists in this modern world?

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Image credit: Moises Levy

Reverence is a nearly fundamental aspect of being a person. However, it may not be the most fundamental thing about being a person. But it does seem to be reflected a lot of times in the ways in which activists – economic, social, political, bring themselves to sacrifice their own well-being up to the point of the potential death for an ideal they consider higher than themselves.(And I would make the term “higher” in some sense very metaphorical and not in any way literal). It’s overused, cliché, and a sort of toss-away term now. So I would argue that reverence is in some way completely natural and evolved as some mechanism for I know not what, but I think that this is now at the present time possibly expressed in concern for others.

And I don’t mean to restrict this to the formal or informal religious or spiritual or mystical communities, in fact, this can be definitely and assertively extended to those that are in the a-religious community such as humanists, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists. These communities themselves have many individuals that promote and advocate some type of practice for self-improvement in many domains. And this is in itself reflective of the sense of reverence for humanity, nature, oneself, or one’s own reason. So, this is not something that is necessarily restricted but I think, makes it one of the things that is universal in all of us.

Because it actually shows up throughout the world and across cultures, political systems and societies.  Or in different groups of people throughout the world. (Same species: duh) Do you have your own sense of reverence, Scott? I’ll leave that for another day.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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