Befriending Culture Warriors

CW Yaak.jpg
Befriending Culture Warriors

I first met Rick Bass personally in Chicago when I interviewed him on his novel “Where the Sea Used to Be.” Dubbed “Nature Writer” by bookstores and critics, Rick Bass’s works are concerned with the nature of the human heart and the heart of nature. He currently lives and works in the Yaak Valley in Montana (Photo above). Actually the first time I interviewed him was a few years earlier on his book, “Winter: Notes from Montana.” I was one of only a handful of interviews on that one because he did not go on tour and you had to arrange for him to call the radio station from a pay phone in a tavern in the nearest town. He lived in a cabin with no phone, or electricity for that matter.

I am attracted to his personal sojourn from civilization to the wild, because I love the out-of-doors, a quality nurtured early on when in my fourth year of life I lived in a logging town in Southern Oregon with one paved road and a lot of open fields and woods. I don’t consider environmentalists the enemy because I am one.

Today, Orion magazine took out a full-page ad in the NYT excerpting Rick’s concerns about the Bush Administration’s policies on the environment (Whatever it Takes: The Battle for the heart of America). The tone is harsh and his posture quasi-messianic, but I believe it is from Rick’s heart, and I believe I could conduct a reasoned conversation with him because I’ve taken the measure of the man in personal conversation.

It is easier to demonize someone if you don’t actually meet and converse with them. A few years ago Deborah Tannen wrote “The Argument Culture” in which she documented the loss of civility, reason and intent of American debate, attributable largely to the electronic media. We no longer seek dialogue towards a more reasonable conclusion; we argue from extremes, posturing & exaggerating instead of seeking the best resolution to a societal problem. Constructive dialogue requires good will, willingness to compromise, and the belief that there is a good and true outcome to be achieved. It also grows out of relationship.

Whether the environment or any other issue, better solutions will emerge when people of good will meet, converse, and then encumbered only by the desire for the good, the true and the beautiful, reach the best available conclusion.

The institutional inability to operate in this manner, exemplified by government and the media, is symptomatic of the erosion of individual skills and will. Unless something changes radically we may reach the place where “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, can’t put civilization together again.” That evangelicals and other religious factions are part of the problem serves only to hasten the shattering of this union.

On another more positive note, read the interview with my son
about his new project, The Mantis Parable.”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in August 31, 2004 by | No Comments »

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