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With his lens focused on specific aspects of daily life such as clothing, food, furniture, architecture, ecology, language, and politics, Moore describes the renaissance these can undergo when there is a genuine ...
With his lens focused on specific aspects of daily life such as clothing, food, furniture, architecture, ecology, language, and politics, Moore describes the renaissance these can undergo when there is a genuine engagement with beauty, craft, nature, and art in both private and public life.
Millions of readers who found comfort and substance in Moore's previous bestsellers will discover in this book ways to restore the heart and soul of work, home, and creative endeavors through a radical, fresh return to ancient ways of living the soulful life.
With Care of the Soul (1992, not reviewed) Moore almost created his own genre: religious but nonsectarian; more mystical and traditional than M. Scott Peck; inspiring, yet more psychologically and intellectually grounded than most current "inspirational" writing. Here he expands on the theme of soul to address the problem of the merely functional, cynical way in which we view the world around us. Enchantment for Moore has at its roots a sense of the lyrical, with strong connotations of magic, ritual, and charm. In ten chapters, each with four sections, he discusses nature spirits, gardens, traveling, sexuality, politics, books, music, holy places, and astrology. Moore lets us see magic in the emotions and rituals of sport. He reminds us that museums are dwellings of the muses. He challenges us to think about what pilgrimage sites are characteristic of contemporary Americans. He can even see seeds of wonder in such unlikely sites as the world of business, or in pornographic graffiti. Moore is still very much indebted to Jung's notions of religion and mystery and to the writings of James Hillman. He reaches out to Greek religion, to the Buddhists and the Koran, to Plato, to Rennaissance magus Marsilio Ficino, to Emily Dickinson and many others, not to mention his own Irish ancestry and his (at times) idiosyncratic Catholic faith.
Such rich fare makes for very stimulating reading, especially as Moore has a deep sensitivity to the etymologies and resonances of words, but it is not always clear where he is going in his desire to be inclusive, e.g., in his call for a "theology" that finally seems so eclectic as to be amorphous.
It's early summer, and the sunflowers are about seven feet high in the garden off the kitchen. I'm reminded that in the fifteenth century, Marsilio Ficino recommended that everyone turn toward the mystery of his own nature the way a sunflower turns toward the sun. In all things, even in the most recondite mysteries of the soul, nature is the first and finest of teachers.
All lessons in enchantment begin with nature: with animals that exhibit "pure soul," as Robert Sardello once remarked; with day and night, season and tide—natural rhythms; with our own instincts and sensations, our own nature, part of and reflective of the natural world around us. It's easy to speak philosophically and abstractly about being part of nature, but the important thing is to live that realization, to make local nature a concrete element in daily life. This is a necessary initial step in the re-enchantment of our individual lives, although it will take a while for society as a whole to discover that it can't survive humanely without surrendering some authority and initiative to nature.
Enchantment is to a large extent founded in the spirituality inherent in earthly nature. Religious and spiritual writers often symbolize their goal with images of light and sky that draw us upward and away from the particulars of life on earth. Our task in reenchantment is to expand our very idea of spirituality to include the lowliest of things and the most particular and familiar haunts of nature. Without romanticizing nature, we could turn to it as the major source of our spirituality—a difficult task for most of us who havebeen brought up on moral and theological abstractions.
Although nature is usually thought of as the quintessential example of the material world, paradoxically nature gives us the most fundamental opening to spirit. Mountains, rivers, and deserts, enjoying a lifetime far exceeding our own, give us a taste of eternity, and an ancient forest or gorge reminds us that our own lives are brief in comparison. In nature, we become sensitive to our mortality and to the immensity of the life that is our matrix, and both of these sensations, mortality and immensity, offer the foundation for a spiritual life.
For all our well-equipped investigations and classifications, nature remains full of mystery: The farther the physicist explores the subatomic world, the more mysterious nature appears; and the more pictures we receive from beyond our solar system, the more it inspires awe and wonder. By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path toward a spiritual life.
As we approach nature as fact finders, analysts, and classifiers, we tend to lose sight of the story we are living, the myth that gives shape to our very investigations. Are we like Prometheus, hoping to steal what we can for humanity from the mysteries of life? In our voracious pursuit of information, are we like the man in the fairy tale who gobbled up his world from a pointless, ravenous hunger? Or are we St. Francis, loving nature as the immediate presence of divinity? Or the Buddha, finding in the simple presentations of nature images of the mystery that is human life?
In religious practices around the world, we find spirituality and nature going hand in hand-among the Irish monks who built their stone monasteries on windy, raw islands and steep promontories inhabited mainly by goats, among the Tibetans who developed a highly sophisticated approach to the spirit in the thin air of their mountaintop monasteries, in the tropical rain forests where nature is revered in exotic ceremony and icon, or on the American plains where earth and sky are honored as divine sources of life.
Many of us who limit spirituality to a book or a church long for something more. Traditional peoples know that nature feeds the spiritual life as nothing else can. What is required is simple proximity, contemplation, ritual, and a spirit of piety. If we can allow ourselves to be stunned by nature's beauty, complexity, simplicity, devastating power, vast dimensions, and unexpected quirkiness, then lessons in spirituality will pour into us without effort on our part. But it isn't easy to be so naive and open in an age of scientific sophistication. We want to harness nature and not be directed by it, study it and not learn from it, get it under firm control and not let it have influence over us.
Nature is not only a source of spirit; it also has soul. Spiritually, nature directs our attention toward eternity, but at the same time it contains us and creates an intimacy with our own personal lives that nurtures the soul. The individuality of a tree or rock or pool of water is another sign of nature's soul. These intriguing natural beings not only point outward toward infinity; more intimately, they also befriend us. It's easy to love groves of trees or mountain ridges, to feel related to them as though by blood, and to be secure in their familial protection.
One of the great challenges we face as we develop technology and expand scientific knowledge is to preserve nature as a source of spirituality. Recent history has proven how easy it is to lose an appreciation for the sanctity of nature and to get so caught up in the material dimensions of our science that we fall deeper into materialism and lose touch with spiritual values. Then we not only destroy nature out of the shallowness of our appreciation but also lose nature's gift of spiritual sensitivity.
When I fly around the country, I usually leave from Bradley Field in Hartford, Connecticut. One day, as the shuttle bus approached the airport, the driver pointed to a grassy patch between the highway and the terminal, where a groundhog had made a home, and as we drove by we saw him sitting in the middle of the field, sunning himself. Behind him were the massive engines of the airliners and the typical busyness of the airport, and the odd combination appeared to me as a visual oxymoron, a woodchuck and an airliner sharing the same world.
Posted January 5, 2010
No text was provided for this review.