Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Wayfinders

My sister just moved to Manchester, UK, for the next 13 months to get her Master's Degree in Visual Anthropology with an emphasis in ethnographic filmmaking. It sounds complicated but it's very closely related to the idea of making documentaries. Just think about it from the point of view of a cultural Anthropologist. It's pretty awesome, and I know she's going to do some amazing work, because she's someone who is constantly invigorated by people and knowledge. It's something that runs in the family.

As soon as she left, of course, I happened to be at the library and I picked up a book called "The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World" by Wade Davis. By reading the back, I knew it was related to Anthropology. Now in the middle of it, it's clear that it's completely anthropological, and closely related to my sister's field. Davis is actually a documentarian too, and has traveled the world to discover the different forms of genius that exist in cultures that still are often thought of as savage or uncivilized. The reading is fascinating. It's full of historical accounts, personal journeys, and fantastic descriptions of ways of life that are vastly different from ours yet incredibly complex and in many cases more egalitarian, efficient, thriving. The reason cultural diversity is important, Davis reasons, is the same reason biodiversity is. We have so much to learn from all different cultures and yet often the predominant or colonizing forces outlaw those things they don't understand. That idea has been taught to us since we were small, and so it gets tired, but it's still relevant, and Davis puts it in a fresh perspective.

So I've recommended the book to my sis and I'll recommend it to you, too. Another thing I'll recommend is to go to your local Public Library, walk without paying any attention through the non-fiction aisles, and blindly pick out five books. Many might be duds, but you'll get to learn about something you wouldn't normally seek out.

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