Appleton, WI

July 12: Day by Day with Father Bill


from Father Henri Nouwen’s Clowning in Rome

In recent decades we have become particularly aware of the crucial importance of our relationship with nature. As long as we relate to the trees, the river, the mountains, the fields, and the oceans as properties to be manipulated by us according to our real or fabricated needs, nature remains opaque and does not reveal to us its true being. When we relate to a tree as nothing more than a potential chair, it cannot speak much to us about growth. When a river is only a dumping place for our industrial wastes, it no longer informs us about movement. And when we relate to a flower as nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, the flower loses its power to reveal to us the simple beauty of life. When we relate to nature primarily as property to be used, it becomes opaque, and this opaqueness is manifested in our society as pollution. The dirty rivers, the smog-filled skies, the strip-mined hills, and the ravaged woods are sad signs of our false relationship with nature. Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.