This article was originally published on July 25th, 2008. John is still a good friend and every conversation we have is insightful and fun.
When I played in a band, I learned an interesting quirk of human nature – when we played a gig with other bands, the degree to which we liked the people in the band influenced how much we liked the band’s music. Reading Renewal in the Wilderness by John Lionberger was a fun experience for me, as I am lucky enough to call John a friend of mine. He’s “good people” and someone I’ve gotten to know over my career. So I admit that I’m a little biased.
When I gave him feedback on the book, the highest compliment I gave him was that it sounded like he wrote the book. His voice comes through in the writing which makes it all the more accessible and grounded (just like he is). John has been taking groups into the wilderness for years to find spiritual renewal, and this book is a distillation of what he, and those he’s guided, have experienced in their journeys through the wilds. It’s an examination of how going into nature can help us reconnect with the spiritual presence inside each of us.
Ideas, Implications, and Questions
- John talks about how wilderness experiences “scrape the barnacles off” of our psyche and our soul. Something that I don’t think I notice is that over time I tend to accumulate stress in my body and soul. It’s a reminder that you have to clear this stress out every once in a while, not with a quick vacation to Las Vegas (which just covers it up), but by slowing down and recalibrating.
- Another point that struck me was the idea of going into the wilderness to find God without expectation. Our society places a lot of expectations on what God or spirituality should look, feel, and taste like; this is pretty ironic considering these things are an inherently personal experience. The visceral qualities inherent in the wild allows for a much more intimate approach to the topic, and it reminds me that there is value in finding my own path.
- John also talks about how the wilderness is a place where we can push ourselves beyond what our comfort zone is. I think that there are a lot of places to push us beyond our comfort zone in “civilized” places; most of us simply don’t take advantage of them at all. I think as an entrepreneur, for example, I’ve often pushed into the wilderness beyond my own experiences of who and what I am. I think it takes more conscious effort to get to these places, but I think they can be just as powerful.
- I need to at least go to the park more!
Should you read this book?
I think this book does a fantastic job of driving past the cliches of nature and exploring what is to be found beyond our comfortable city life. In many ways, I think it addresses the unexplored wilderness within ourselves as much as in nature. Renewal in the Wilderness talks very tangibly about an intangible experience, and does it in a very real and sincere way.