Saturday, April 16, 2005

Barry Lopez at Colorado College

Thursday night Rebekka, Natalie and I went to see Barry Lopez speak before a capacity crowd in the Gates Common Room at Colorado College. Barry Lopez has written a number of books on the natural world as well as many short stories and collections of stories. Among his works that particularly resonate with me are "Of Wolves and Men" and "Arctic Dreams". Barry Lopez is in my top ten favorite writers.

Mr. Lopez spoke intelligently, gracefully, eloquently on the theme of destruction...destruction of the world as it was in a generation or two, through heedless inattention to what the impacts are of extraction industries and our profligate dependence on oil. Global warming is real and well underway. We have probably turned the corner past our ability to prevent or avoid catastrophic climactic change.

He spoke of reverence--reverence as a core concept common to the religions of the world, and the only true means of communing with the "other" or the "mystery" of what we don't know or understand. He spoke of "elders" in cultures who transmit the knowledge of reverence to their communities. These elders are not elders because they have advanced to some chronological age, but rather they have listened to their elders who in turn have listened to their elders, going back hundreds of years. This knowledge gleaned from the earth is ignored and trampelled by the proselitizers and missionaries that our western culture has sent forth like a plague of locusts around the world. In a postulate that I had not heard before, he suggested that Merriweather Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition launched by our third president, Thomas Jefferson committed suicide when he realized that the world he had seen on his journey to the west would be transformed and destroyed by the likes of the rough-hewn men he met in St Louis. After the expedition Lewis drank himself to death over a period of three years.

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