The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 26, 2023 - 5:24:58

Nature’s abundance, our need

Katie van Schaijik, Jun 22, 2015

I haven't yet read Laudato Si. (I am waiting for the political dust around it to settle.) But this morning I came across some lines that brought it to mind in Karol Wojtyla's play, Radiation of Fatherhood. The character Adam is contemplating the face of his young daughter:

I look at your features, at the way they are formed. I look at the impenetrable sanctuary of a child. You have been lulled to sleep by the overabundance of nature, which harmonizes with insufficiency in man. 

Such a density of personalist wisdom in those lines! The father is contemplating the mystery of his child: her unique features. He is profoundly aware that she has an interior terrain that is her own, her sanctuary, that does not belong to him.

But what strikes me particularly—I suppose because talk of Laudato Si is in the air—is the relation between the "overabundance of nature" and the "insufficiency of man." Nature is given in abundance to supply our needs. The child, having been filled, rests in it.

This is as different as can be from the rapacious and wasteful attitude toward nature that has characterized our society since the industrial revolution. We don't cultivate and rest in nature; we dominate and exploit it—not to fill our insufficiency, but to enrich and empower and engorge ourselves.

I am sure that our present Pope, too, intuits the correspondence between nature's abundance and man's need—our need for beauty, for a home, for a sense of belonging, for play and work, for wonder, for creativity, for poetry, for seasons and rhythms and patterns and surprises; for warmth and nourishment and sharing and rest...

He wants us to stop "mastering" our environment, stop being enslaved by it—begin anew to receive and share its gifts, like a child does.