Commit Yourself to a Place

"It is rare for any of us, by deliberate choices, to sit still and weave ourselves into a place, so that we know the wildflowers and rocks and politicians, so that we recognize faces wherever we turn, so that we feel a bond with everything in sight. The challenge, these days, is to be somewhere as opposed to nowhere, actually to belong to come particular place, invest oneself in it, draw strength and courage from it, to dwell not simply in a career or a bank account but in a community.

"Once you commit yourself to a place, you begin to share responsibility for what happens there. When PCBs leak into the water or dioxides into the air, it is your water and your air that is polluted. The parks, the schools, the hospitals, the government, all are yours to fret over. When kids knock at your door, requesting donations for the band or the debate team or the purchase of a limestone rhinoceros, you have to reach for your wallet. Entangle yourself in a place, and you become attached to your neighbors as to kinfolk."
Secrets of the Universe

Bring Fully Present

"In belonging to a landscape, one feels a rightness, at-homeness, a knitting of self and world. This condition of clarity and focus, this being fully present, is akin to what the Buddhists call mindfulness, what Christian contemplatives refer to as recollection, what Quakers call centering down. I am suspicious of any philosophy that would separate this-worldly from other-worldly commitment. There is only one world, and we participate in it here and now, in our flesh and our place."
Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World

Honoring Mystery

"Mystery is not much in favor these days. The notion that there are limits to what we can do, what we can know, limits to our dominion, does not sit well with kings and queens of the hill. Humility and reverence, we hear, are the attitudes of cowards. . . . By 'mystery' I do not mean simply the blank places on our maps. I mean the divine source — not a void, not a darkness, but an uncapturable fullness. We are sustained by processes and powers that we can neither fathom nor do without. I speak of that ground as holy because it is ultimate, it is what makes us possible, that shapes and upholds everything we see. The stories I am most interested in hearing, reading, and telling, are those that help us imagine our lives in relation to that ground."
Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World

Our True Home

"Nothing less than the undivided universe can be our true home. Yet how can one speak or even think about the whole of things? Language is of only modest help. Every sentence is a wispy net, capturing a few flecks of meaning. The sun shines without vocabulary. The salmon has no name for the urge that drives it upstream. The newborn groping for the nipple knows hunger long before it knows a single word. Even with an entire dictionary in one's head, one eventually comes to the end of words. Then what? Then drink deep like the baby, swim like the salmon, burn like any brief star."
Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World

Don't Flee from the Unknown

"The trouble is, we cannot banish ugly surprises without banishing lovely ones as well. The unexpected may annoy us, but may also wake us up. If you seal your windows against the odor of skunks and the shriek of sirens, you will also miss the lilacs and finches, the yeasty breath of bakeries and the playground squeal of children. If you cross the country and order the routine burger and fries without needing to look at the menu, chances are you will not taste what you eat. If you have been greeted in a dozen states by clerks wearing the same hairdo and smile, if you have heard everywhere the same remarks from talk show hosts, have seen on every newsstand the same reports of blood and lust, your brain may well shut down for lack of anything to do. We have good evolutionary reason to fear the unknown, for it may poison us, bewilder us, or devour us. But we have equally good reason to crave the unknown, for it may feed, renew, or enlighten us. We learn by coming up against what we do not already know."
Writing from the Center

Reimagining Our Place in Creation

"For what we need, all of us who go on two legs, is to reimagine our place in creation. We need to enlarge our conscience so as to bear, moment by moment, a regard for the integrity and bounty of the earth. There can be no sanctuaries unless we regain a deep sense of the sacred, no refuges unless we feel a reverence for the land, for soil and stone, water and air, and for all that lives. We must find the desire, the courage, the vision to live sanely, to live considerately, and we can only do that together, calling out and listening, listening and calling out."
Writing from the Center

Never Give Up

"A cause needn't be grand, it needn't impress a crowd, to be worthy of our commitment. I knew a man, a lifelong Quaker, who visited prisoners in our county jail, week in and week out, for decades. He would write letters for them, carry messages for them, fetch them clothing or books. But mainly he just offered himself, a very tall and spare and gentle man, with a full shock of white hair in his later years and a rumbling voice that never wasted a word. He didn't ask whether the prisoners were innocent or guilty of the charges that had landed them in jail. All that mattered was that they were in trouble. He didn't preach to them, didn't pick and choose between the likeable and the nasty, didn't look for any return on his time. Nor did he call attention to his kindness; I had known him for several years before I found out about his visits to the jail. Why did he go and spend time with outcasts, every week without fail, when he could have been golfing or shopping or watching TV? 'I go,' he told me once, 'in case everyone else has given up on them. I never give up.' "
Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journey

The Power of Spirit

"In trying to show what binds together the seeming scatter of things, I find myself pointing to an elusive energy, a shaping power that flashes forth in nature, in gesture, in human speech and action. And when I glimpse it, I can do little more than cry, 'There it is!' All the names we use for the fire at the heart of matter are risky — God, Yahweh, Creator, Allah, Manitou, among countless others — for each comes freighted with a long, compromising history. From all the possible names I favor spirit, because the word seems to catch the lightness, radiance, and wind-like subtlety of the power that I seek.

"This power seeks me, as well, or so it seems, for time and again I feel the pressure of an inescapable force that is sometimes delicate, like a wing brushing my face, and sometimes fierce, like a hand squeezing my heart."
The Force of Spirit

Hating Our Enemies

"The hardest puzzle for me, then and forever after, was how to reconcile what Jesus said about killing and kindness with what I saw going on around me. I would hear Jesus say how we should turn the other cheek if we'd been slapped, we should forgive those who hurt us, we should love our enemies; and then our family would drive home from church into the Arsenal, were men and machines prepared day and night to slaughter our enemies. As I read news paper headline about the war going on in a place called Korea, about the testing of A-bombs and H-bombs here in our own country, about the hunt for Communists, about murders in nearby towns, I began to suspect that grownups, no matter how much they talked about loving Jesus, meant to go right on hating their enemies."
A Private History of Awe

A Culture of Conservation

"Conservation arises from the perennial human desire to dwell in harmony with our neighbors — those that creep and fly, those that swim and soar, those that sway on roots, as well as those that walk about on two legs. We seek to make a good and lasting home. We strive for a way of life that our descendants will look back on with gratitude, a way of life that is worthy of our magnificent planet."
A Conservationist Manifesto