Walt Whitman looked upon everything in nature as a message to man from the Infinite. He says:
"To me converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;
All are written to me and I must get what the writing means."
Did you ever think that every flower, every tree, every ray of sunshine, every beautiful landscape, is really a loving message, a letter from God to us, His children? If we could only read His handwriting in the rocks, in the fields, in the flowers, in the stars, in the moon, in the clouds, in the sunset, in all His handiwork, what joy would be brought into our lives!
Whitman urged people to learn to read God's handwriting by going direct to the fountainhead and studying and interpreting His messages for themselves. This is the only way to get their full meaning. Books and teachers open the door to knowledge concerning the infinite wisdom and beauty of nature and her laws, but only by intimate and loving personal communion with her can we read and understand God's messages written on every leaf of her great book.
"Stop this night and day with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems.
"You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the specters in books.
"You shall listen to all sides and filter them for yourselves."
The Creator has so fashioned us that we get our greatest happiness in finding Him in His creations. Nature is packed, saturated with things which are calculated to make every living creature happy. They were made for our use and enjoyment. They give pleasure to every sense through which pleasure can be communicated - the sense of sight, of sound, of smell, of taste, of touch. Every avenue to the brain opens up a new source of enjoyment.
Why is it that every normal person loves flowers? Simply because the same Power that created us made the flowers to fit our nature, to give us pleasure, to delight our senses. All things are made on a marvelous divine plan that fits each for a special purpose. There are no unrelated things in the universe. Every one bears a relation to all other creations; and to the seeing eye, the understanding mind, God is manifest in all.
A friend once surprised Emerson out in the fields and overheard him exclaim, "God, God; all is God!" If every human being could thus see God in every natural object every day and every moment of his life what a joy living would be! We would each be able to say with Emerson: "That which befits us, embosomed in wonder and beauty as we are, is cheerfulness and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations. Shall not the heart which has received so much, trust the Power by which it lives ? May it not quit other leadings, and listen to the Soul that has guided it so gently, and taught it so much, secure that the future will be worthy of the past?"
It is a pity that we allow the sordid side of life, our grasping, greedy motives and efforts to obscure God's handwriting, to cover up the beautiful things, the finer things, the things that are worth while; that we spend the greater part of our time struggling for non-essentials, while we neglect the essentials, the things of real worth, the things that make true happiness.
We cannot have the right attitude toward life; we cannot understand its meaning until we have learned to see God in all His creations, in the grass, the trees, the flowers, the mountains, the seas, the hills, the valleys, the clouds, the sunsets and sunrises. Yet many of us go through life without once enjoying the beauties spread out before us, without ever reading one of the glorious epistles that come to us from our Creator in every opening leaf and budding flower, in every shrub, in every tree, in every spear of grass. These beautiful epistles are telling us how God loves His children, but we. do not get their message because we have never learned to read them. We are in the position of a person traveling through the Yosemite Valley, through Yellowstone Park, and all through the most beautiful parks of California blindfolded. We have eyes but cannot see, and what we do not see we cannot know or understand.
It is a curious thing that our educators should lay such stress upon reading the works of the "great authors," but pay practically no attention whatever to the reading of the Greatest Author's works. Little pains is taken to teach our youth to read God's works, to study the miracles that are everywhere being performed in nature's laboratory, but the study of dead languages and the analysis of classic writers form an important part of our so-called higher education. No wonder it is so rare a thing to find a college graduate who can read God's letters in the flowers, the fruits, the vegetables, in the strata of the rocks, in the shining sand, in the crystal waters, in the sunbeam, in the formation of the earth, in everything.
One of the most excellent features of the Gary system of education is that it brings the children into closer relation with nature than any of the others. It takes them outdoors, where they are brought nearer to the Creator in His works. There is nothing else which will call so much of the beautiful out of children as the inculcation of a love and appreciation of the wonderful works of God.
In the unique school for boys established in India by the great poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore, where love is the only disciplinarian, learning to see and understand God in all things is a fundamental part of the boys' education. Teachers and pupils in this school all rise at half past four in the morning, and when dressed go outdoors chanting hymns in praise of "the Lord of the universe who is in the wood, in fire, in medicine, who pervades and permeates the universe with his loving spirit." Tagore wants to see the boys in his school grow with the plants; so each boy spreads his mat on the earth, and all study out under the trees. Sometimes the little students will be found studying an insect, sometimes the trees, the flowers, or other objects of nature, but always whatever the study may be, they are interested and happy.
Such a system could not be generally put in practice in America under present conditions, but the time will come when no one will be considered educated who is ignorant of God's handiwork. Children will be taught to read Him in the book of nature just as they are now taught grammar and mathematics, and they will enjoy that study as they enjoy nothing else.
We tell our children fairy stories to interest and amuse them, but the magic and marvels of fairyland are dull and lifeless compared with the wizardry of nature, the miracles she is constantly working before our eyes. We should teach our children the process of these miracles in simple language that they can understand, and when they look at flowers or fruit, vegetables or cereals, or any natural objects, we should teach them to see the good back of them all, to see the Creator's love in providing them for our satisfaction and enjoyment.
A little knowledge of nature would transform the world into a magic fairyland for our children. Agassiz could hold a hallful of grown students spellbound during an entire lecture on a grain of sand, or on a single scale of a fish. If we could show boys and girls the wonder and glory of a grain of sand, of a crystal, of every common object, how marvelously interesting it would make life for them.
Training children to analyze natural objects and to see the divine purpose back of them develops the imagination, the power of thinking clearly, and a feeling of awe and reverence for the Omnipotent Power that planned the universe. When we teach our children from the very start to see God in every plant, in every flower, in every tree, in every atom, in every molecule in the universe, life will have a wonderful meaning, a new joy for them. After this idea has once gotten hold of their being, never in all the years to come will life be other than a glory to them; it can never be a sordid grind.
Think what it would mean to the world today if every human being could read God's letters as Ruskin read them! Unless one knows and loves nature it would be impossible to imagine the rapture of his soul as he wandered through the country, drinking in with every sense its marvelous beauties. Clouds chasing one another through a blue sky across the sun, the grass, the trees, the flowers, the meadows, the brooks, the mountains, the birds, the insects, these made heaven for Ruskin. Yet to the average man, living his strenuous money-making life in the city, a day in the country filled with such glories would probably be an intolerable bore, because his finer sensibilities, his esthetic faculties, his love of the beautiful had not been developed in childhood as had Ruskin's.
All the money of a Rockefeller will never give its possessor a fraction of the real wealth owned by a Ruskin, a Wordsworth or a Burbank. It can never give him a tithe of the joy and happiness packed into one hour of the life of one who knows and loves God through His works. If you have never read a letter from God in nature, too transcendently lovely for description, you have not half lived. You are not an educated man or woman. When you can read God's letters to His children, you will see more in the weeds by the roadside, in the wild flowers, in the sun and the moon and the stars than ever was written about them in all the books that ever were printed.