Thinking about “Nature”: Two Ways of Seeing the World and Our Place in It

In his first major work published in 1836, the quintessential American sage Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the topic of Nature. Emerson pointedly inquired, “To what end is nature?”  What is it for?  What are its uses and value?  In his highly original transcendentalist way, Emerson addressed these questions under seven headings or chapters: “Commodity;” “Beauty;” “Language;” “Discipline;” “Idealism;” “Spirit;” and “Prospects.”  The first of these categories resonates culturally with considerable, not to say hegemonic power, today.

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Prairie Song: Seeking Harmony in Our Relation to the Land

In the dead middle of the last finals week I would endure in college, sleep-deprived, empty-stomached, and mind-numbed, I climbed into my car without any particular idea of where I needed to go – “away” being the only direction I had in mind. About an hour later, I found myself on a prairie hilltop overlooking miles of dirt roads and acres of Kansas grassland.

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