Two Books – Real Gifts

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source : Possibilitator,  December 19, 2018

I have a pile of about 10 books I’m wading through, but two are of special note as I write this. As I noted in my last blog of 2017 I have the privilege of reading, and especially of reading books. For the past few years I’ve read on average between 20-30 nonfiction works cover-to-cover per year. With our world moving more quickly, our attention spans shorter, much of the reading that is done by the many of us is short, sometimes limited to 140 characters. Complexity is avoided. These two books offer a reason for exploring depth through thoughtful analysis.

I picked up Ben Fountain’s Beautiful Country Born Again based upon a couple of high recommendations like the one from Bill Moyers –

But here, too, is a finely spun analysis of how the two major parties lost their way, opening for an outlier like Trump the opportunity of a lifetime. Fountain has given us an original, informed and deeply felt take on the forces and stresses bearing down on America.”

We lived through this period, but reading this page turner, by a truly gifted writer (and teacher of writing) had me see and feel it a little deeper than I had. The downside and a possible reason to skip it, is that he offers no direction from here. Thus we may understand as Moyers notes, but what do we do?

This is not the case with the second book, and perhaps the most important one. Charles Eisenstein, who has the uncanny ability to look at the world with fresh eyes has penned an urgent read in my mind, Climate – A New Story (North Atlantic Books 2018). As author David Abram writes,

“What a blast of sanity! Eisenstein’s corrective is a bracing piece of work, dazzlingly thought through and eloquent in its articulation. He writes from within an uncannily woke worldview, enacting a full-bodies way of thinking that discerns and feels into the complex entanglement of our lives with every facet of this breathing biosphere. This book is visionary and prophetic, achingly grounded and useful to the max.”

I’ll be honest, I’m only 116 pages into this 300 pager, but as Abrams suggests, it is packed with perspective you just won’t find anywhere else. I stumbled upon Eisenstein when he was speaking at a conference I attended in 2012 where he spoke on “We Are Relationship: The Transition to a Collaborative Society”. I was stunned at the wisdom oozing out of this guy and immediately ordered a book, Sacred Economics that he had just published. It was indeed, like his talk, transformative.

This book has a similar feel but comes to us from concerns with the climate as the North Star for thinking about how we might address about our human predicament. He begins with a look at the spectrum of how folks think about climate change –from what he labels “Climate catastrophism” = ‘we’re doomed and it’s too late, to the other end “climate skepticism” = that it’s not happening, or that if it is happening it has little to do with human activity, or if it is attributable to human activity, it isn’t dangerous. Eisenstein looks under the covers of all of these points of view. What he suggests is truly eye opening.

I won’t say more until I finish the book. But I believe there is enough wisdom regardless of which arguments you may choose to accept or reject within it, that we would each benefit from sitting with those ideas and seriously pondering them. I have even ordered a second copy of the book to lend out to nearby friends because I suspect most bookstores and libraries will not have this book available. That is a huge lost for us all.

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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