Scintilla—the Spark of Life

Cover Photo of Original Self

In reading Original Self: Living With Paradox and Originality, a philosophical work by contemporary author Thomas Moore (2000, Harper Collins Publishing), I was moved by his observation that “thinking may only be the prerequisite of meaning.” Here is the passage that really caught my eye:

“… intellectual activities are priceless, but their value may be to prepare us for an instant’s recognition of the vital seed, what the ancients called Scintilla, the spark, that gives life to everything we do or see. Once we glimpse that spark, we will have learned that there is indeed a beyond that can be found in what is closest at hand. All our education might be brought to a point where it allows us to glimpse in wonder the slightest breath of life.”

How appropriate to the core mission of—to encourage a profound appreciation of nature near at hand! And while Moore considers the intellect a priceless commodity, he clearly does not view it as an endpoint unto itself. In other words, “knowing a lot about something” is not the same as being attuned to the breath of life. In fact, one can glimpse the miracle of life without knowing much at all. This is because it has more to do with one’s attitude, one’s mindset, than how much one knows about the subject.

Too much education can actually be an impediment to forging a deep connection with nature, unless that education is carefully tailored to produce a greater sensitivity to individual expressions of life. We’ve all seen examples of this. Imagine the “nature educator” who comes upon a beautiful Wild Columbine, its flowers dew-covered and sparkling in the early morning light. Then, without hardly taking a look at the plant, he or she launches into a lecture about the species’ scientific name, how to identify it, what habitat it is found in, and how it was used by native americans. The teacher is chock full of knowledge about the species yet fails to experience the glittering miracle of the moment, much less share that miracle with others.

photo of wild columbine covered with dew

The unfortunate reality is that knowledge is usually pursued for its own sake, leading to a desire for more knowledge and moving one farther and farther from the spark, yet all the while making the false claim that greater knowledge will ultimately reveal the secret of life and provide the heart and soul connection that we long for.

This is a wrong attitude. A heart and soul connection with nature is our birthright. It is like a mother’s love. We don’t need to know or do anything to receive it. We only have to quiet our mind, open our heart, and embrace nature with all our senses.

“Knowledge seems more like a kind of pain-killing drug that I have to take repeatedly against the boredom and desolation of my heart. And no matter how faithful I may be to it, it can never really cure me. All it can give me is words and concepts, which perform the middleman’s service of expressing and interpreting reality to me, but can never still my heart’s craving for the reality itself, for true life and true possession. I shall never be cured until all reality comes streaming like an ecstatic, intoxicating melody into my heart.”

— Karl Rahner (Jesuit Theologian; 1904-1984)


  1. How true – how true. I have seen it a hundred times. There seems to be too little time to stop and really see the beauty and splendor of nature. To allow our senses to expand and take in all that we can see and experience – such as the gorgeous sparkling of the water droplets on the columbine; the marvelous play of colors in the blossom; the gentle touch of the hummingbird that will come to feed from the flowers bounty. It takes great care and conviction to stop, clear the mind, take in all that is in front of you and experience nature at all of the levels that we can experience. Once that happens though, there is great joy and refreshment in the immersion. This is what Music of Nature is all about!

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