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Sam Wright - Edge of Tomorrow: An Arctic Year

People have been aware of the moon's orbit since ancient times. Tonight I saw the way I used to see as a child. One of the delights of the wild is to find the lost child again. (p. 133)
Adventurer, biologist, anthropologist, theologian, and Unitarian Universalist minister Sam Wright takes readers on a twelve month adventure in a remote section of Alaska known as the Brooks Range. Each chapter-month is very different and very fresh--sort of like a well-lived life I suppose.

The change of seasons is wonderful to read about. The reader gets the feeling of actually being there and experiencing life in one of the most seasonally diverse locations on the planet. I even drifted off into fantasy land imagining myself retired and living in a different part of the world every year to experience the uniqueness of differing regions with each set of changing seasons.

The chapters of Edge of Tomorrow include more than just a travel log though. They also include poetry, allegories, parables, and Sam's philosophical musings. While Sam's philosophy is generally one of the book's finest themes, when theology gets mixed in, it can become the book's largest weak point. His degrees in the sciences are sometimes overridden by his later graduate degree in theology. Occasional scientific lapses are apparent from the beginning as we find in the introduction a misuse of quantum physics to include "new consciousness". Things don't really get ugly until the last few months though when we read misquotes of Einstein (p. 137), 'proof' (not cited) of the soul, and "carefully controlled experiments" which 'prove' paranormal phenomena. (p. 153) One wonders why these often called upon experiments are never demonstrated for skeptics. After all, there is big money to be had. This whole discussion disintegrates into pseudoscience by page 155.

"Today, the old materialistic view of reality is no longer supportable by the weight of evidence."
I'm still waiting for any of this non-material 'evidence'.

On a somewhat similar note, misleading facts are presented regarding chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on page 45. Certainly, human activities and populations are doing damage to the environment. In many cases, this damage is severe. Wright fails to mention, however, that CFCs were completely phased out of production by 1996 and measurable decreases in their existence in our stratosphere have been measured yearly since 1994. (See Chapter 10 in Billions and Billions for a more complete picture.)

Despite these shortcomings, Edge of Tomorrow still offers much. For those just beginning to wake up to life, more than a few gems will be found.

"So here we are at a time in our journey when the myths by which we have lived and the premises we have held may no longer fit. It is time to become explorers again in a new age rising all about us. It is a time for a renewed search." (p. 8)
Becoming a 'mystical new ager' probably isn't the best methodology to renewing this search, but looking at life from new vantage points never hurts if reason is one of your guides. Edge of Tomorrow doesn't measure up to say Walden. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. Like the seasons themselves, the spring and summer chapters were my favorites.
"...the ideas and beliefs revealed by intuitions are the fruit of previous experience and are hypotheses to be tested by further experience. For the truth of any conception or idea is not the intensity of the feeling which it induces but its correspondence to the facts of existence." (p. 119)

from the publisher:
From the last great wilderness, in the Brooks Range of Alaska, one hundred miles inside the Arctic Circle, Sam Wright speaks to an emerging view of nature as an interconnected, dynamic whole. Living in a hand-built, twelve-by-twelve cabin, Wright records seasonal changes and his own thoughts as he and his wife live a year in isolation and contemplation. Here, nature truly seems to be a part of the emotion of daily life. With humor and insight, philosopher-ecologist Wright details an almanac of human experience and arctic allegories that uncover many of life's paradoxes.

Sam Wright and his wife, Donna Lee, currently live in Sparks, Nevada. He is interim minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada for 1998-99.

"Wright has a place in the canon of the sourdough, in the legacy of the Alaskan writer of the wilderness...but there is one way he is different. He is less concerned with how he built his cabin or how he killed a caribou than in what it means." -- Anchorage Press
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