I know a man who many think of as crotchety, unreasonable, rather strange and generally grumpy. He bemoans what he feels is a “dead” culture, lacking in ‘sentient beings;’ a bloated culture that is growing unsustainably, much like the Roman Empire just before its collapse. He sees in our broader culture people who have lost their sense of community, whose lives lack meaning, direction, and connection to the land. In an attempt to feel *something,* a culture that bulldozes over wild nature to build and accumulate supposed monuments of greatness accented by limited manicured lawns.
He is a well-read scholar of ancient philosophers – the usual sort, and then some. His conversations often branch off into the meanings of words, the pictures and deeper relevance of language and music. He’s a philosopher of nature and a fierce advocate for its rewards. He is an artist in his own right, but my favorite thing about him is how he cherishes the smallest creatures with honor, care and tenderness.
I believe God has given us each a spark of the Divine, and among its purposes it provides us awareness of injustice. When used properly the resultant anger can inspire actions to effectively right wrongs.
The great love of this man for helpless, orphaned rats, an injured wild turkey for which he built a treetop roost until it healed and rejoined its family, the ancient-soul bull that was going to be put down… he has rescued countless such animals and tenderly cared for them.
Like Seuss’ Lorax, when he is speaking truth to power he is speaking for the smallest flora and fauna that otherwise have no voice. He is speaking, too often as a lone voice, trying to protect us from a future humanity impaired for lack of such natural resources.
When he advocates for a safe, walkable, sophisticated, transit-connected, vibrant community to replace planned sprawl development, he is thinking of the wild rabbits and birds for which he scatters seed. Perhaps he’s remembering the mountain lion he once locked eyes with, or even the rattle snake he spared but which later struck his foot and nearly ended his life. He honors them all.
His passion is infectious, children love him, and he is happiest when sharing the mysteries of nature with others. Even when it’s personally uncomfortable, his advocacy is sustained and renewed by the burden he feels to protect the habitat and animal life for children in the future.
The man alone is often denigrated, dismissed and laughed off by the leaders he addresses, who have no desire to be held accountable. However, he is a powerful source of inspiration and has built up an effective team of activists. He has sought out economists, internationally renowned planners, an acclaimed legal team, and he is following models of success demonstrated in other parts of the country and world for true balanced growth to protect the natural resources he holds so dear.
He is teaching me, my daughters, and our friends, and there are many more like us whose lives he has touched.
The voice of the lonely, philosopher-nature man isn’t so lonely.