The Intimate Distance of Herons: Theological Travels Through Nature, Place, and Migration

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In a theological understanding of nature, what is the significance of herons? This article reflects on the question of herons by first describing how bird migration can be included in a theological approach to nature. To explore the theological meaning of migration, theology must model nature as defined by the idea of 'emplacement'. Next, it investigates how the migration of herons challenges and complements our sense of dwelling by detailing the different ways that herons are emplaced as migratory birds. It concludes by offering three insights into the place of herons in a philosophical theology of nature. First, migrating herons and other nonhuman animals penetrate into nature as both radically particular creatures and anonymously general ones. Second, herons push us to understand the theological meaning of the otherness of otherness. Third, nonhuman animals remind us to move beyond solipsistic views of our emplacement. Together with a general description of the elements of emplacement that are added by the migration of herons, we see how we are theologically influenced by the 'intimate distance' of herons.

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