Big question answered: The voices we need to hear

Published: 9/5/2019 6:30:14 AM

(Last week, we asked readers this question: “What ‘voice in the wilderness’ do you wish reached the ears of more people, and why?” Here are the responses we received.)

The wisdom of John Muir

He lived most of his life in the wild. He wandered far and wide steeped in its sights and sounds. His works were borne of it. I think if anyone personifies “the voice in the wilderness,” it’s naturalist and philosopher John Muir.

As it happens, his way of life makes us well.

Last week the PBS NewsHour reported on why doctors are increasingly prescribing nature for patients.

There’s growing scientific evidence that we need to spend time outside. Nature helps people to heal, lowering rates of anxiety and depression, pre-term labor, asthma and nearsightedness. The segment’s reporter, Cat Wise, said, “Some suspect that natural stimuli, the swaying trees, rushing water and singing birds, might reset our fight or flight response, which is too often switched into overdrive by the stresses of urban modern life.”

How nature benefits us is not entirely clear, but, to me, it’s the magic of the outdoors that makes life worth living.

Listen to Muir: “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”



Words to live by

It’s hard to think about a “voice in the wilderness” without reflecting on biblical themes. And that’s a good thing in our increasingly divided society, where “What’s in it for me?” is usually our first response to any proposal by a politician, a community member, or even someone in our circle of friends and family.

While there are many who are uncomfortable with the thought that Something Bigger than Ourselves is out there, and that we and our immediate or long-term needs are not the most important things we have to deal with in our lifetimes, a Voice that helps us recognize that fact is one we need to hear.

I feel very fortunate to have heard such a Voice. It came from many sources: from teachers and preachers, from mentors at work, but most particularly, and from a very early age, from my mother. My mother died more than 30 years ago, too young and too soon, but her words have stayed with me.

My mother’s words maintained harmony and discipline in a household full of headstrong and assertive children. We didn’t always like “Share and share alike,” “Everyone gets a turn” or “The only way to get something done is to do it,” but they worked. And such phrases as “My time is more valuable than my money” have helped shape our world view.

Many of the sayings I remember directly from my mother were overtly biblical. When I hear “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “To whom much is given much is expected,” “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” and, importantly, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God,” I hear them spoken in my mother’s voice.

These are part of a blueprint for a good life, I think, spoken by someone who tried to live them each day. If more of us listened to voices such as my mother’s, there’s a good chance our divisions would not be as deep, and that we would be more willing to work together for a common purpose, putting aside the “What’s in it for me?” for the good of us all.



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