At convocation on Monday, Peter Illyn encouraged students to explore the world around them. As an “environmental evangelist,” his focal message could be summed up as follows: be aware of good in a world in which good is hard to find.
Illyn was referring specifically to the natural world. In the case of college students,who don’t often leave the mile-long conglomerate of classrooms, dormitories and bicycle racks of campus, this message could be difficult to apply practically to day-to-day life. But we don’t have to escape into some sort of wild, foreign tundra to experience the beauty of creation.
While Illyn was flipping through slides of wild caribou, dusky Idaho plains and newly beaten forest paths, I whispered to a friend sitting next to me, “If he’s trying to get us to quit school and move out into the wild, he’s doing a pretty good job of it.”
Of course, he wasn’t giving any such call to action. However, as someone who has read her fair share of aimless wanderer novels (thank you, Jon Krakauer) and American transcendentalist poetry, I am usually convinced that the escape from the whirring of a digital society would be a peaceful one.
As we speed-walk from class to event to lunch break, we’re often digitally hurdling over text messages, new emails, Facebook updates and calls from home. Busy schedules often lead to the bad habit of looking at a screen for too many hours a day. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember to slow the pace of your walk during the between-class interlude, look up and breathe. But if we do, we are able to participate in the same worshipful living Illyn described on his quest through the tundra of the Pacific Northwest. We may not be awoken in the middle of the night by a screeching elk in our dorm rooms any time soon, but we can still appreciate creation.
Of course, if you do want to get out and explore, Goshen can probably help you out there too.
We attend a college with a seemingly infinite number of serving opportunities. We don’t have to feel confined by the boundaries of campus. Merry Lea will offer a sustainability semester geared to teaching students to live sustainably starting next fall. Goshen has pioneered acres of prairie grasses and has built a solar-powered water heating unit. We are continuing the second year of a successful composting project. And Illyn gave advice on how to get involved with Restoring Eden volunteer activities (including semesters abroad in New Zealand or Belize).
Illyn spoke of his quest across the Northwest, living alone and learning to love God’s creation. It’s a tempting thought. But it doesn’t have to take a months-long hike to learn to love creation.