Zen, Taoism, and American nature writing: Spiritualism and philosophy in works by Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Wendell Berry
Posted on 23. May, 2012 by James Miller in 0318, 0422, 0591, Abbey, Aldo, American literature, Annie, Berry, Dillard, Edward, Language, Leopold, literature and linguistics, Nature writing, PHILOSOPHY, religion, religion and theology, TAOISM, Wendell, Zen
|Title||Zen, Taoism, and American nature writing: Spiritualism and philosophy in works by Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Wendell Berry|
|Year of Publication||1998|
|Authors||Battaglia, John R.|
|Academic Department||ProQuest Dissertations and Theses|
|Keywords||0318, 0422, 0591, Abbey, Aldo, American literature, Annie, Berry, Dillard, Edward, Language, Leopold, literature and linguistics, Nature writing, Philosophy, Religion, religion and theology, Taoism, Wendell, Zen|
An examination of environmental philosophy over the past thirty years reveals an increasing interest in the influence of Eastern thought on current ecological attitudes. Philosophic-religious traditions such as Taoism and Zen Buddhism assert that the universe is ultimately beyond our ability to understand rationally and maintain that it is not made up of separate classifiable parts but is a whole entity, every element of which is dependent upon every other element. They suggest that the human attitude toward the natural world should be governed by the understanding that humankind and nature are essentially the same thing. In A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold argues for the preservation of wilderness based on a "land ethic." Claiming that "a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community" and that it is wrong "when it tends otherwise," he builds an argument not just on sound scientific principles but on spiritual ones that closely resemble the Taoist world view. Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire goes to the desert to "confront the bare bones of existence" and arrives at an understanding and appreciation of nature that emphasizes living in the present moment. His discovery and the methods that lead to it reflect many of the principles of Zen. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard sojourns in rural Virginia to find support in nature for her orthodox Christian view of the world. She concludes that nature provides no conclusive support for her beliefs but she does have several epiphanic experiences that when seen in the light of Zen suggest that ultimate understanding cannot be achieved but that the wonder of life is to be had in the mindful living of everyday life. In Recollected Essays, Wendell Berry determines that in order to live well one must stay put and be watchful. Using his experiences as a farmer and observer of nature for support, he argues for a deliberate living of everyday life in harmony with sound environmental principles. His conclusions about how to live harmoniously with nature parallel many basic tenets of Taoism.