The philosophy of nature

If you’re looking for the ideal setting for connecting with nature, Dave Guerin thinks you won’t do much better than Lake Logan.

That’s why the self-described philosopher chose the Haywood County spot for an event he’s dubbed the Lake Logan Earth/Spirit Gathering, a weekend filled with speakers, song, dance and, of course, philosophical discussions.

The indefatigable Waynesville resident (who seems considerably younger than his 85 years) is spearheading the weekend’s events in hopes that folks will soak up nature and apprehend the linkages binding all life.

“The universe … is suffering from a crisis of perception,” offers Guerin. “And we don’t see it. We don’t see that everything, indeed, is interconnected. There’s no such thing as standing aside and saying, ‘Oh, well, I won’t suffer consequences.'”

That holds for racism and other social ills as well as for environmental blights such as pollution, Guerin points out.

“Let’s face it: We came out of the Earth, and we’ll go back to the Earth,” he observes. “We wouldn’t be anything without nature. We wouldn’t be anywhere. We wouldn’t exist.”

Lake Logan itself could be considered a testament to the power of nature and spirit. Once owned by Champion International, then by Blue Ridge Paper Products, the lake’s fate became a subject of concern after Blue Ridge decided to sell the lake and 300 surrounding acres. A local “Save Lake Logan” campaign was mounted to preserve the local treasure from development, says Guerin, and the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina ended up buying the property. Fittingly, the Lake Logan Earth/Spirit Gathering is the first major event held there since the change in ownership (about two years ago).

The philosopher’s promotional instincts kick in when he describes the value of the weekend’s events. “It hardly needs pointing out that this is a fantastic bargain,” says the press packet.

Highlights include a keynote address by the Rev. Bill Bailey of Asheville on a new alliance between the faith community, science and the environmental movement. In addition, WLOS-TV weatherman/outdoors essayist Bob Caldwell will discuss WNC’s natural beauty.

Native American stories, music and dance will enliven the weekend, along with jazz, Celtic and country music. Dana Davis of the Asheville-based JD Project will perform a dance created for the occasion, and the Frank Southecorvo Earth/Spirit Combo will unveil a new jazz composition inspired by Lake Logan.

Trail guides will lead participants on woodland walks and a sunrise hike, and homing pigeons will be released for added effect — twice.

Philosophy, Phun and Phellowship, a philosophical discussion group, is presenting the Gathering, in cooperation with the Intentional Growth Center at Lake Junaluska. Guerin founded PH3 about 12 years ago as a way to bring folks together for nonjudgmental philosophical exploration.

Guerin credits his unusual upbringing in Long Island City, N.Y., with leading him toward philosophy. The son of parents who could neither hear nor speak, he found himself always translating for his father (his mother died when he was a baby).

“I grew up in a mixed world in terms of communication,” recalls Guerin. “So I became very sensitive to communication. And if you’re sensitive to communication, it kind of leads you into philosophy.”

A high-school English teacher also sparked his interest in philosophy, which was strengthened by undergraduate courses at Fordham University. Guerin earned his Ed.D in curriculum development and communication at Columbia University and went on to work for the RAND Corporation in a program that trained the people operating the nation’s air-defense systems.

When Guerin retired to WNC, he wound up teaching critical-thinking courses at Haywood Community College for about 10 years. In addition, he organized forums in Asheville on the topic of “what it means to be human.”

Guerin’s goal for the upcoming Lake Logan Earth/Spirit Gathering is simple: “What I would like is that [participants] will go away feeling more connected … with one another and with nature.”

Earth connection

The first Lake Logan Earth/Spirit Gathering takes place May 31-June 2 at Lake Logan in Haywood County. Fees for the weekend event — including meals — are $118/person (without lodging), $148/person (bunk bed) and $188/person (twin bed). For more info or to register, call Guerin at 452-6211 or Brenda Cathey at 646-0095.

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