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The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,363 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? Anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the worldOCOs indigenous cultures.
In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In
ebook, 280 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by House of Anansi Press (first published October 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 27, 2009 BC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: massey-lectures
I found this book a little difficult to follow. It wasn't that it was poorly written, or that the individual parts didn't make sense. I found myself waiting for the kicker in his argument, the part where he told the reader why ancient wisdom really does matter.

The chapters all told very compelling stories about various indigenous cultures, and documented the decline of these same cultures in the face of "economic development". Davis talks about different ways of seeing the world, and various re
Jan 19, 2013 Caren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
There is a new book by Jared Diamond that is getting a lot of publicity, but it strikes me that Wade Davis lectured on a similar topic back in 2009 for the Canadian Massey Lecture Series, from which this book was taken.
(The Massey Lectures, a week-long annual series of lectures on a political, cultural, or philosophical topic, given by a scholar, have been around since 1961. The series is sponsored jointly by Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio, Anansi Press--which then publishes the lectures in b
Aug 09, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world is what Wade Davis wants us to understand. He points out universal attributes of indigenous peoples and how they are connected to the land and in tune with the natural world they inhabit. The early Polynesian navigators, or “Wayfinders”, could read the movement of the clouds, the stirring of the ocean currents and celestial movements. Long before European explorers like Captain Cook who claimed so many of the islands in the south Pacific to belong t ...more
Jul 16, 2015 Sinem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zamanın olmadığı bir yolculuğa çıkmak gibi...
Dana Larose
I picked this up on my recent Toronto trip. I'd heard one of the lectures (about the Polynesian wayfinders/navigators) on the CBC.

The lectures are an extended discussion about languages (and by extension their cultures) that are in danger of dying out, and why it's important for us to preserve them. Wade Davis has selected a variety of examples of cultures (usually aboriginal) that (1) have entirely different perspectives on the world than the Western cultures and (2) are threatened or still rec
Mar 24, 2014 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That different people from different cultures experience the world in radically different ways is neither new nor controversial. Frequently, however, the conversation ends there, and we might not have a sense of what a totally Other worldview can actually look like. In The Wayfinders, anthropologist Wade Davis brings the reader along as he explores numerous peoples he has lived amongst and traveled within, from Polynesian navigators "pulling islands out of the sea" to Australian Aborigines walki ...more
Brian Henderson
Mar 31, 2016 Brian Henderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An insightful, informative and often moving indictment of the nearly unimaginable cruelty of colonialism and it’s extractive industry heirs and plea for real action to save what Davis calls the “ethnosphere”(half of the languages spoken today are likely to become extinct in our lifetimes and all the wisdom and alternant ways of interacting with the world they display will vanish) — which of necessity entails action on behalf of the biosphere since, as Davis shows, in the world views of indigenou ...more
Thomas Armstrong
Jun 01, 2015 Thomas Armstrong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book to read alongside The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond. Both books affirm the value of indigenous cultures as repositories of wisdom and at the same time bewail their rapid disappearance in our time as a result of Western ''civilization'' (I use that term guardedly). This was a simpler book than Diamond's, coming as it did from a series of radio lectures made by an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, filmmaker, and photographer with extensive field experience in many remote ...more
Richard Reese
Mar 25, 2015 Richard Reese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Long, long ago, Teutonic storytellers told tales by the fire. Many of them mention a deity who was a wisdom seeker, singer, poet, and warrior. Odin had two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who daily flew out over the world, observed the events, and returned to report the news. The names of his birds meant “thought” and “memory.” Odin cherished these ravens. He knew that the loss of thought would be terrible, but that the loss of memory would be far worse. Thought is clever and useful, but memory is es ...more
Mar 15, 2013 Al rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The plague of the Aborigine populations in Australia is so shattering that it made me cry...

One of the central question entrenched throughout the book is why people in Western societies can’t seem to have the same appreciation for nature as the indigenous populations he shows us. Why are many Canadians so egoistic towards the natural world, as opposed to the indigenous societies living in harmony with it, that Canadian firms would even go as far as only see profit in a beautiful land in northern
Jun 30, 2012 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Wayfinders existed first as a series of lectures and the lecture format clearly informs the book. The prose -- which is graceful, evocative, and slightly formal -- has the cadence of spoken language. The downside of the lecture format, however, is that the depth of each segment is limited. Davis's scope is broad and I found myself repeatedly wishing he would delve deeper into the topics he discusses. This is not a criticism. Rather, it is a tribute to Davis's ability to provoke interest in a ...more
Apr 17, 2010 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With the converging crises of imminent energy scarcity, environmental degradation, resource depletion and economic insolvency, suddenly I’m recognizing the apogee of our modern civilization may have passed us by a few decades ago. Being on the slope of globalization’s decline as opposed to its ascent or plateau is a precarious position, mainly because the evidence increasingly indicates an ever more bleak definition of the future. But that’s precisely why I found Wade Davis’ 2009 CBC Massey Lect ...more
Katlyn Twidle
Nov 27, 2015 Katlyn Twidle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily the best book I've read in awhile, if not ever. I picked it up with no expectations and minimal interest and was immediately sucked into his story telling. He takes you on a journey through science, history, human genius, our natural relationship with the earth, the mistakes we've made and the conquences we are facing now and going forward. Having just finished the book, I feel as though I have a responsibility to the planet and a new respect for the diverse cultures in it. Wade is an exc ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Iz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this little book up not expecting much, and was blown away by it. A times I couldn't put it down, at times I had to take a break from it because it was devastating. I never had a huge interest in history, but this is one of those books that awakens a need to learn more about something. I can say as well that as a non-believer it made me have a greater amount of empathy for religious culture.

I would say this book is really about how humanity has found meaning, understanding, and purpose
Sharon Roy
Jan 25, 2015 Sharon Roy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I finished this on the bus in to work this morning, and only now have been able to grab a few minutes to write this review. This was a fascinating read that has, along with _The God Issue_ of New Scientist (published on 19 March 2012), confirmed some of what I already thought I knew about the role of religion in our lives, and has challenged some of my other assumptions, especially beliefs that up until now I tended to label as "superstition". I'll be reading both this book and the New Scientist ...more
Dan Russell
May 24, 2016 Dan Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the written-out version of the Canadian Broadcast Company’s Massey Lectures, a series of invited lectures, in this case by Wade Davis, the famed Candadian explorer, ethnologist, and ethnobotanist. Fragments of the book have been seen before (most of Chapter 1 is recycled from his earlier writings). But no matter, the topic is profound: Why DO the diversities of different cultures matter?

In the end, Davis warns us about the loss of cultural and linguistic diversity, mostly by giving
Arash Kamangir
Jan 09, 2016 Arash Kamangir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
درباره ی انکار دیگری.
Apr 12, 2016 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
jesus what a slog.
Razi Shaikh
May 30, 2016 Razi Shaikh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wade Davis is a delightful writer. He challenges your notions, your ideas, the basic philosophies we tend to take as the norm. He takes you to the First Nations, the indigenous tribe groups around the world, in Borneo, in the Amazon, in the Tundra region. Davis sees these cultures as "not failed attempts of mankind" but a unique facet of the human imagination. Every two weeks, a language dies, out of the 6000 languages, half of them are in danger of being lost forever. This book is an urgent ple ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Annette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply-felt, intimate, adventuring and evenhanded. A wellspring of resonant facts and lyrical minutae in a beautifully structured greater context.
Jun 01, 2016 Julianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
{3.5 stars}
Feb 20, 2016 Sancho rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knowledge evolves, just as nature does. It is undoubtedly sad to lose knowledge that has taken so long to achieve, but what I think is even sadder is that the new knowledge that is being created, is ending up in a few people's hands. Before, knowledge was transmitted, it was publicly shared. Today, it is a matter of competitive advantages. We actually base our economic models on "perfect information" assumptions, but reality works in a different way: corporate secrets actually fuel capitalism an ...more
Joe Q.
Jul 20, 2015 Joe Q. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"The Wayfinders" is based on public lectures delivered by Wade Davis as part of the 2009 Massey Lecture Series, and it does reflect its original format. In light of this, readers should not go in expecting a lot of depth, focus, or scholarly analysis -- it is more of a polemic than anything else.

Most readers would agree with Davis that the Western or Europeanized world would do well to check our cultural egos at the door and treat indigenous and traditional culture, language, and land with more
Dec 24, 2009 Jacquelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've followed Wade Davis for some time - not obsessively, just periodically checking in with his books or lectures to see what he's up to. This is his lecture series for CBC radio's Massey Lectures. He explores the value of other ways of seeing and knowing, concepts of time and beauty and value and meaning. His perspective is always anchored in the need to maintain the diversity of cultures, not as static antiques to be studied but as ways of life that should be permitted to evolve along their o ...more
May 16, 2012 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, philosophy
This is the book version of the 2009 CBC Massey Lecture (the "pinnacle" of Canadian intellectualism, if you will). There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in these lectures, but there's a lot of problems as well. Davis' basic argument is this: there is a multiplicity of cultural expressions which humans have formed throughout their collective history; these expressions will take the form of a specific language; these specific languages each reflect a singular manner of interpreting, interact ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book, by a great Canadian anthropologist/botanist writer from the Massey Lectures series about the importance of recognizing the value of individual cultures from Polynesian to Inuit. I was inspired to read this book after watching Wade Davis' talk on culture and one of his earlier articles in National Geographic on vanishing cultures. This book is written in an engaging narrative form and encourages readers to look beyond their own ethnocentric views of the Western world being ...more
As my reading list grows I find more and more books that I feel are essential for -all- people to read.

These books are important because they teach people about the world that they live in, and most importantly, teach them about the mistakes that humans have made in the past. These books are the ones that make readers gasp at their own ignorance to the bloody history that belongs to us all.
Now, while this book isn't specifically a history book, it's a wonderful introduction to Athropology. Davi
Oct 18, 2013 Dorum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is really a beautiful book. It applies to a lot of things currently happening. I don't know how to write a good enough review of this book.

First of all, I believe that the reason why people are unhappy is because they don't live according to their nature. This book provides a glimpse into how other people devised clever ways to live in accordance to their nature.

Some cool features:

1) Learn about the navigational skills of the Polynesians. People who didn't use a compass to travel the Pacif
Leonie Starnawski
Jun 24, 2013 Leonie Starnawski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the San people of the Kalahari desert and their survival in a forbidding desert landscape, to the skills of the Polynesian navigators who absorb the rhythms of the sea as infants and have an entire map of the night sky in their minds, this collection of essays by National Geographic's Explorer-in-Residence reveal a fascinating array of ancient skills and techniques, which we are much the lesser for losing.

Read this and you'll learn how ancient cultures lived in harmony with the environment
Jul 22, 2010 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The essays in this wonderful collection were written for the celebrated Massy Series for CBC. Davis looks to the San tribe who live in the Kalahari desert, as how our ancestors lived before they migrated out of Africa and spread out over the world. The Kahari is one of the most hostile environments in the world. "In English we have 31 sounds. The San have 141, a cacaphony of clicks and cadence that many linguists believe echos the very birth of our language."

In Australia: "Knowing the extraordin
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Edmund Wade Davis has been described as "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet, and passionate defender of all of life's diversity."

An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent more than three years in the Amazon an
More about Wade Davis...

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“Cultural survival is not about preservation, sequestering indigenous peoples in enclaves like some sort of zoological specimens. Change itself does note destroy a culture. All societies are constantly evolving. Indeed a culture survives when it has enough confidence in its past and enough say in its future to maintain its spirit and essence through all the changes it will inevitably undergo. ” 25 likes
“If diversity is a source of wonder, its opposite - the ubiquitous condensation to some blandly amorphous and singulary generic modern culture that takes for granted an impoverished environment - is a source of dismay. There is, indeed, a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, cultures, languages, ancient skills and visionary wisdom. Quelling this flame, and re-inventing the poetry of diversity is perhaps the most importent challenge of our times.” 25 likes
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