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Nov 01, 2023

Homework: Contemplation as Environmental Practice

Prior to beginning work on this homework, read Eggemeier`s essay Ecology and Vision: Contemplation as Environmental Practice. Eggemeier`s thesis is that poetry and other forms of art can help us learn to pay close attention to the beauty of the natural world and therefore to appreciate its non-instrumental value. In other words, aesthetic experience breaks us out of our anthropocentric viewpoint so we can see that nature has intrinsic value apart from its benefit to human beings. Note that, while Eggemeier links these ideas with the spirituality of Christian monasticism, his argument should still be relevant to non-Christians since it is based on the philosophy of atheist Iris Murdoch and pantheists like Aldo Leopold and Henry David Thoreau.

After reading the Eggemeier essay, choose one of the poems from the Poetry Foundation`s Poetry and the Environment web page that speaks to you personally. Print the poem out (or bring it up on your phone or other device), take it outside to a spot where you feel a connection with nature (whether in the wilderness, a city park, or simply your back yard), and read the poem to yourself. Then write two to three pages about the experience, reflecting on how the poem helped you contemplatively encounter nature, citing specific lines from the poem as appropriate.

Finally, briefly brainstorm at least four spiritual practices other than poetry that might have a similar effect in helping you break out of your anthropocentric viewpoint on nature. Write a sentence or two about each practice, describing how you will engage it and what effect you think it will have. Your total paper will be three to four pages, including the list of practices. If you need help thinking of spiritual practices, see the Suggested Spiritual Practices and Spiritual Practice Toolkit web pages for examples.

In your paper,

A. Analyze how a chosen poem facilitates a contemplative encounter with nature.

B. Cite specific lines from the poem.

C. Describe four spiritual practices.

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