Saturday, February 18, 2012

BEN Special: Inspirational Passages from George Washington Carver

Inspirational Passages from Alabama's own George Washington Carver.

Dear BEN Readers:

I just finished reading a wonderful biography My Work is That of Conservation - an environmental biography of George Washington Carver by Mark Hersey. The book goes beyond the caricature of Carver as the "Peanut Man" and reveals to his readers a deeply religious man, scientist and conservationist.  The author makes the case that Carver needs to be taken seriously as a central figure in the American environmental tradition. Personally, I enjoyed reading how Carver weaved ecological principles into agriculture and his pure love of everything - "the Creator", the bugs, the soil, the weeds and the great gifts that a farmer can produce.  

I hope you enjoy the following passages from the book.

Best wishes,

Pat Byington
BEN Publisher

Carver's quotes are in bold.

Nature study, even in elementary school, also introduced the relationships that bound all living things together.  After all, he (Carver) reasoned, a "real bug found eating on the child's cabbage plant in his own little garden will be taken up with a vengenance in the composition class," and a student "would much prefer to spell the real living radish in the garden than the lifeless radish in the book."  In the end, he believed, "there is nothing better to interest the young mind than nature."


In fact, he (Carver) contended, the way to come into "the closest relationship with the Maker and Preserver of all things" was not via prayer or Bible study, but by studying "the little things in your own door yard, going from the known to the nearest related unknown, for indeed each new truth brings one nearer to God."


"The study of Nature is both entertaining and instructive," Carver wrote in The Guide to Nature,"and is the only true method that leads up to a clear understanding of the great natural principals which surround every branch of business in which we may engage."  Moreover, he continued, "it encourages personal investigation, stimulates originality, and awakens higher and nobler ideas."  Clearly the natural world was not a mere backdrop to his conception of agricultural education.


"To me," Carver wrote in a 1912 article, "Nature in its varied forms is the little window through which God permits me to commune with Him, and to see much of His glory, by simply lifting the curtain and looking in."


"I love to think of Nature as wireless telegraph stations through which God speaks to us every day, every hour, and every moment of our lives."


His (Carver) belief spilled over into his teaching.  He wanted his students to "see the Great Creator in the smallest and apparently most insignificant things about them.  How long for each one to walk and talk with the Great Creator through the things he has created," he wrote a friend.  Assuring his students of "joy unspeakable when you can work and talk with God through the things He has created," he enjoined them; "Look about you. Take hold of the things that are here.  Let them talk to you.  You learn to talk to them." ... Pointing to the fresh flower he always wore in the lapel of his coat, he would tell his students, "When you see this flower, you see thy creator."


If anything, the centrality of the natural world grew more pronounced in Carver's woldview as he grew older.  When he was in his mid to late sixties, Carver recounted a walk across Tuskegee's campus during which "God seemed to burst forth in... a startling way.  Everything I touched seemed to say 'O God how wonderful are Thy works.  In wisdom Thou hast made them all."  He was marveling not at a spectacular sunset but at some decaying branches.  Contemplating his own mortality, he explained that the "thing we call death in the plant is only a preparation for myraids of actual microscopic plants that could not have existed had those plants not given up their lives as we term it.  How wonderful."

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