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Values of Experiencing Nature in Modern Society

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by Aya Goto

“Nature is a beautiful, reticent, severe, and at times a warm and gentle being. If you are surrounded by that kind of presence it will teach you many things.”

Sharing his wilderness experiences on the remote Yukon River in Alaska, Dr. Takashi Nigorikawa, Professor Emeritus at Rikkyo University, told an online seminar, “Values of Experiencing Nature in Modern Society,” that experiencing nature enriches spirituality, which is needed in our modern society.   

Dr.Takashi Nigorikawa, Professor Emeritus
at Rikkyo University.

 “Spirituality” is a sense cultivated with integrated universal values of various religions, Dr. Nigorikawa said. The featured presenter at the seminar, Dr. Nigorikawa said spirituality excludes organizational and institutional aspects, such as obligatory, exclusive and dogmatic creeds. 

 He emphasized that spirituality helps people become humble, grateful and live for others. A sense of spiritualty transcends a sense of separation, which causes divisions and conflicts in the world.

“Extreme Western values of ownership lead to separation, fragmentation, and fear of loss,” he said. “Put simply, these values don't lead to happiness.”

Our ultimate human nature is one of altruism and compassion for others; happiness is a consequence of loving others, while division, discrimination and inequality lead to conflict.

Nature, in contrast, has not been touched by people for the convenience of their lives.  Quoting at length the renowned Japanese photographer and explorer Michio Hoshino, Dr. Nigorikawa emphasized the stark lessons that nature teaches when given space and time in our occupied lives.

The Journey of Pursuing Light,
by Michio Hoshino (Chinese edition)

“The years fall and accumlate like snow in a person's life,” Hoshino wrote, “the painful memories are lightly covered, and the past is purified into nostalga. . . Our feelings are a funny thing. They are swayed by such trivial things in daily life, but on the other hand, the feeling of the wind and the signs of early summer make us feel so rich. I think people's hearts can be deep, yet strangely shallow.”

Citing the Dali Lama and Nazi concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl, Dr. Nigorikawa said our ultimate human nature is one of altruism and compassion for others; happiness is a consequence of loving others, while division, discrimination and inequality lead to conflict. “How a person behaves expresses the values of that person.”

The seminar on February 21, 2021 was organized by Global Peace Foundation Japan and engaged some 90 participants.

Dr. Nigorikawa was a researcher of transpersonal psychology and wellness at the College of Community and Human Services at Rikkyo University. He was named professor emeritus in 2020.