Facing modern culture

Barry Lopez is the author of a dozen books, including Desert Notes, Of Wolves and Men and Arctic Dreams (for which he won a National Book Award).

He said,

“The Enlightenment ideals of an educated mind and just relations among differing people have become problematic in our era because the process of formal education in the West has consistently abjured or condemned non-Western ways of knowing, and because the quest for just relations still strains at the barriers of race, gender and class.

If we truly believe in the wisdom of Enlightenment thought and achievement — and certainly, like Bach’s B-Minor Mass, Goethe’s theory of light or Darwin’s voyage, that philosophy is among the best we have to offer — then we should consider encouraging the educated mind to wander beyond the comfort of its own solipsisms, and we should extend the principle of justice to include everything that touches our lives.

I do not know how to achieve these things in the small valley where I live except through apprenticeship and the dismantling of assumptions I grew up with.

The change, to a more gracious and courteous and wondrous awareness of the world, will not come in my lifetime, and knowing what I know of the modern plagues — loss of biodiversity, global warming, and the individual quest for material wealth — I am fearful.

But I believe I have come to whatever I understand by listening to companions and by trying to erase the lines that establish hierarchies of knowledge among them.

My sense is that the divine knowledge we yearn for is social; it is not in the province of a genius any more than it is in the province of a particular culture. It lies within our definition of community.

Our blessing, it seems to me, is not what we know, but that we know each other.”

at resurgence

And Lopez also said this:

“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.”