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Forest Managers' Spiritual Concerns

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image of Journal of Empirical Theology

A connection with nature is the core motivational factor that inspires 12 forest managers to carry out their daily work. This has been ascertained through qualitative research into the structure of the emotional perceptions of Dutch forest managers. Three domains or clusters of concepts have been identified: 1) the intra-personal process, 2) the relation between the manager and the management object, and 3) the relation between the manager and the transcendental. The most prominent expressive element arising from all three clusters is 'connectedness'. Positioned in Frijda's motivation-theoretical approach, connectedness in an individual's dispositional constellation can be defined as a so-called 'source concern' (a standard which transcends the everyday situation). Inherent to this concern is a certain sensitivity to external impressions, which can in turn initiate a process of transformation in consciousness or behaviour. As such, connectedness can be an emotional experience in concrete situations and manifest itself as an initiator for change: a change of cognition or world perspective, becoming embedded in the transcendental (self-transcendence), or a personal obligation to bring this connectedness about in everyday practice. In addition, connectedness as a concern represents a goal, an ultimately desired situation, which emerges in the second domain, where quality and ethical value form the two targets (for forest management). In reality these source concerns are insatiable. Nevertheless, managers want to make a contribution to their realisation. They find their motivation in the third domain, 'Immanent-Transcendent Reverence', where we observe the source concern of connectedness embedded in forms of transcendence focused on an immanent and/or transcendental entity ('nature', 'the cosmos', 'creation'). Connectedness with an ultimate source creates an 'ultimate concern' and as such, it is the central line of motivation that prompts people to manage forests. Personal and professional actions are embedded in this larger whole, which transcends the individual.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for the Sustainable Management of Resources, Faculty of Science; 2: Department of Empirical Studies in Religion, Faculty of Religious Studies; 3: Titus Brandsma Institute for the Study of Spirituality


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