UP THE CREEK:
Photo by Angie Brenner
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”
Jelaluddin Rumi, the last line from Stephen Kinzer’s latest book, RESET.
In the hearth in front of me, a fire has been burning for five hours, the flames almost singing as they rise from the well-seasoned wood. The cat, sprawled on a kilim pilllow I purchased in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, turns his face toward the flames. A sterling silver pitcher of purple-white lilies rests on a slate table, the cupped petals releasing a narcotic scent. Outside, the roads are quiet and snow drifts over the trees.
How rare, how perfect. But perhaps this safe, quiet space can be accepted as a gift allowing us the opportunity to break out of old patterns, to think generously and create dangerously.
In this issue, Wild River Review features writers, artists, and scientists who have dared to change the world through meticulous research, observation, fieldwork and stories.
On the second anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 315,000 people, injured another 300,000 and left 1 million homeless, in their interview Create Dangerously, Kim Nagy and Lauren McConnel profile Haitian writer, Edwidge Danticat, author of Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (Princeton University Press, 2010), that sheds light into the lives, stories and creative works of immigrant artists from Haiti--artists who created (and consumed) censored works “despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them.”
Adds Danticat, who used part of her $500,000 MacArthur Genius grant to aid earthquake victims in her homeland, “Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them…maybe years in the future, we may also save someone’s life, because they have given us a passport, making us honorary citizens of their culture.”
For Resetting the Future an interview with the journalist, Stephen Kinzer, Angie Brenner travels to Boston, "In today's fifteen-second, sound-bite news cycle," says Brenner. "It's refreshing to meet Stephen Kinzer, a storyteller who brings humanity and solutions in his reporting."
Kinzer, who was the first New York Times Bureau Chief in Istanbul, fearlessly reimagines diplomacy in the Middle and Near East. "I’m envisioning a 'power triangle' between America, Iran, and Turkey suggesting that peace in the Middle East could be possible as these countries have the means to achieve it. Using negotiations, not punishment, in this volatile climate is a long-term solution, perhaps many generations from now. But it will take real vision and leadership."
On our Homepage we introduce the Lindisfarne Cafe', an outgrowth of the Lindisfarne Association, founded in 1972 by poet and cultural philosopher William Irwin Thompson as an alternative way for the humanities to develop in a scientific and technical civilization.
Lindisfarne Fellow, Lynn Margulis, biologist and Distinguished Professor of Geosciences at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, died suddenly on November 21, 2011. In his essay, Lean Forward, Stand Back, the Worldview of Lynn Margulis, Andre Khalil, profiles his mentor: "a fearless spirit and thinker who composed a grand and powerful view of the living and the non-living...her vision was wider in scope and more profound in depth than any other coherent scientific world view."
Lauren McConnell reviews Nora Bateson's film, An Ecology of Mind, Nora Bateson's examination of the life of her father, anthropologist, philosopher, and systems theorist Gregory Bateson.
To understand her father, Nora Bateson uses rare, previously unreleased footage including clips from her father's lectures. A witty and engaging speaker, Gregory Bateson believed that our analytical, left-brained predisposition to divide and dissect is at the root of the destructive tendencies exhibited by humanity. He said, “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”
In With Gregory Bateson's Mind in Nature, a chapter from William Irwin Thompson's forthcoming memoir about the founding of the Lindisfarne Association, Thompson meditates on Bateson's legacy. Like Lynn Margulis, Bateson was a trailblazer. Unlike Margulis who grew up in working class Chicago, Bateson was the son of the eminent geneticist William Bateson who was the first person to use the term genetics to describe the study of heredity.
"I sensed," says Thompson, "that Bateson felt his book, Mind and Nature to be his intellectual last will and testament, and in summing up a life's work, he had also summoned up the ghost of his famous father...and the shadow of inferiority it had cast across his life. Gregory had resolved to prove himself to the scientific patriarchy; it was not enough for him to rest easy with the hero-worship of such fringe institutions as Lindisfarne, Naropa, Esalen, or Zen Center in San Francisco; no, he wanted both Cambridges to admit that he knew something that they didn't."
For her interview with Alessio Assonitis, Director of The Medici Archive Project, MAP, Katherine Schimmel Baki travels to Florence. Perhaps the most famous banking family in the world, the Medicis built their fortune on what was outlawed in the 15th century by the Catholic Church - usury, lending money at interest.
"The truth of the matter," says Assonitis, "is that the archives hold astounding quantities of information that can explode our pale and feeble received ideas of the past, and everyday more of these archives—of all typologies and periods—are becoming available online. We at MAP want to promote an intellectual culture—and new modes of inquiry—that can exploit this sudden bounty of information. We want younger generations to understand the past better, so that they will be better equipped to build their future."
John Ivan Palmer's Above It All, an equally beautiful and disturbing story, echoes the themes Edwidge Danticat addresses and the subject of "othering" often inherent in the immigrant experience, particularly when he introduces us to the world of the traveling aerialist Mirko Pindar.
"Pindar, like most 'high acts,' never thought about falling from his platform any more than the usual person thinks about tumbling down stairs. He never worked with a net because it was too much to haul around in his van. He felt, like many aerialists, that nets gave you a false sense of security and made you careless. Once, in Cuba, the Wallenda family walked a wire over the giant blades of a grinding machine. To the audience it looked gruesomely dangerous. To Wallenda it made the stunt safer, because it made concentration more total."
In My Inheritence, the first story in Fran Metzman's collection, The Hungry Heart, a middle aged woman cares for a dying mother in a desperate attempt to earn her love.
"My mother is dying. There are shuffling noises overhead coming from her bedroom. She has cancer, and her death is imminent. I am her only child. We never liked each other."
On the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens's birth (February 7, 1812) and with fond memory of Lynn Margulis - whom we at Wild River Review counted as a mentor - and who combined the gifts of brilliance, generosity, fearlessness and a keen sense of humor, we bring Interviews with the Famously Departed:
WRR: So Mr. Dickens, are you having a dickens of a time in the afterworld?
Ha. Ha. Very funny. At least you didn’t ask if the afterworld is the best of times or the worst of times like the chuckleheads at the Times of London.