To know Nature.
To really know nature, how should we start?
Though I share this with you through the medium of text, I want to start by saying nature can not reveal herself fully through lines on a page.
It is only in getting out and engaging that we can truly come to know nature.
In fact I think you need to play with nature to really get to know her.
I want to share a funny story about how I missed this point completely about the very game featured in this post.
A funny thing about me is while I advocate for play, I can be a rather serious fellow.
I am not always the most open-minded to just any kind of playfulness. I like play that has a certain seriousness. Part of that is just my personality. Part of it is that I recognize play serves a higher purpose which is the development of the individual, and not all play serves that equally.
Sometimes I am right to be dismissive, but sometimes I really miss something.
Nest Robbers was one of those games.
Kyle Koch, one of our core teachers, first introduced the game in 2016. This was the third day of Return to the Source that year and I happened to come down sick with Lyme Disease that day. As Kyle explained the game I found myself losing interest thinking “What is this all about? I don’t get it”.
In the end I went and napped in my tent. This day was Kyle’s to lead and I needed the rest (as it turned out I got so sick I had to leave the site for the night).
The next day when I came back I asked the students about the game and they were absolutely enchanted by it. They couldn’t stop talking about how transformative it was.
I filed that observation away but didn’t do anything with it.
For the next three years we played this game and each time I demurred. I really did need the rest after 3 days of primary leadership of all the activities at Return to the Source.
Each year the feedback was the same, this game was one of the consistent highlights for our students, and yet I didn’t understand the power of the game.
Finally in 2020 I came into the Return to the Source having just recently read What the Robin Knows by Jon Young. That book gave me a new interest in understanding what Kyle was up to.
I still needed to rest while Kyle facilitated the game, but instead of leaving I sat and watched from a tree house while the game was played and suddenly it clicked for me.
The game was teaching an understanding of the worldview of a songbird at depth, that could only be achieved through this kind of play.
At this point I think it’s important to understand something about what it means to know something.
John Vervaeke has proposed there are 4 Fundamental Ways of Knowing.
Propositional knowledge is semantic, the kind of knowing you can get from reading a book.
I can tell you that birds have 5 fundamental types of bird vocalization.
(What the Robin Knows, Jon Young)
But knowing this fact informs you about birds only on a very shallow level.
To really know the bird language you need to learn to expose yourself to all of these vocalizations. To adopt the procedures of a birder.
You need to see the world from a bird’s perspective and understand why they use these calls.
By doing so you come to know the world as a bird knows it, to participate to some degree in bird consciousness.
The western academic approach would be to start at the propositional, then procedural layers and pay little attention to the lower levels.
What I had not grasped until 2020 was that Kyle was doing something brilliant with this game; he was introducing the students to a bird’s gestalt through movement and play. With that context in place the propositional and procedural levels land far more strongly for the students.
Through the game we begin to know bird languages on all four levels. A knowledge of the natural world that truly connects us more deeply to it.
At Evolve Move Play our goal is leveraging the power of movement practice to live a more meaningful life. We believe the meaning in life comes from transforming our character positively over time and connecting deeply to the fundamental relationships that define human life.
These fundamental relationships are:
1. Between the different aspects of the self: physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual.
2. Between the self and the physical environment
3. Between the self and social-relational environment
So what do we see in this game? We see how through play and movement we cultivate understanding at all four levels of knowing. We realize (as in make real) more fully the different aspects of ourselves, we realize our connection to the natural world, and we realize our connection to each other.
These are fundamentally the purpose of movement practice from the Evolve Move Play perspective. The glowing faces of the students after this game is complete are ample testimony to its power.
In play we have teaching tools of incredible power and one that even I as a play teacher can fall into being too blind to see.
If you want to experience this kind of transformative play based and nature focused movement training, apply to join us for an upcoming retreat.