#2 B. More background.
The root of this goes back three decades. I was in a writing workshop led by that great Montana writer and teacher and friend, William Kittredge. He said, “my job is to help my students find that one story they’ll tell over and over again the rest of their life.” “How boring is that?” I recall thinking. Now looking back, I realize that’s exactly what I’ve done. As long as I’ve written, I’ve told basically one story, this story: We moderns are living in bodies that remain physically unchanged since the Pleistocene. Most of our problems may stem from trying to make these old bodies work in a world that is vastly different from that for which evolution designed us. For much of my life, I responded to this story by writing about how wildness contributes to our own evolution, wild places as the site of our evolution. How more time in wild places must keep us tapped into our evolutionary powers, which have guaranteed our species’ success for 250K years. “Re-Enchantment” aligns with “my story” in that it is, I believe, an element in our evolutionary body, an important dimension of our evolutionary success.
I’m in the office writing this and I glance at the books at eye level on the shelf. There, as if trying to fall off of the shelf is “Taking Care—Thoughts on Storytelling and Belief” by William Kittredge. It is still in the cellophane, unopened, brand new. It is one of two copies we have of this book, the other many shelves above this one with all of his other books. In the enchanted world there are no coincidences, only synchronicities. I’ll sit for a minute, then open it randomly (?) and point. In the Chapter “Learning to Think” Kittredge writes about a mentor warning him about writers who teach and the “prospect of uttering halfway non-sensical abstractions and watching students copy them down.” And “the possibility of coming to believe your own bullshit.” Kittredge must have listened. I sense, however, that he always ‘knew’. I always felt that what Kittredge said—and wrote—came from a deep place in the ground. He listened to his mentor and I listened to mine. But I’m well aware that the mentor’s advice might, right now, be meant for me.