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The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (CBC Massey Lecture) The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis
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“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.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“Culture is not trivial. It is not a decoration or artifice, the songs we sing or even the prayers we chant. It is a blanket of comfort that gives meaning to lives. It is a body of knowledge that allows the individual to make sense out of the infinite sensations of consciousness, to find meaning and order in a universe that ultimately has neither. Culture is a body of laws and traditions, a moral and ethical code that insulates a people from the barbaric heart that lies just beneath the surface of all human societies and indeed all human beings. Culture alone allows us to reach, as Abraham Lincoln said, for the better angels of our nature.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“The world can only appear monochromatic to those who persist in interpreting what they experience through the lens of a single cultural paradigm, their own. For those with the eyes to see and the heart to feel, it remains a rich and complex topography of the spirit.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“The full measure of a culture embraces both the actions of a people and the quality of their aspirations, the nature of the metaphors that propel their lives. And no description of a people can be complete without reference to the character of their homeland, the ecological and geographical matrix in which they have determined to live out their destiny. Just as a landscape defines character, culture springs from a spirit of place.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“What is even more astonishing is that the entire science of wayfinding is based on dead reckoning. You only know where you are by knowing precisely where you have been and how you got to where you are.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“Every effort should be made, he argued, to understand the perspective of the other, to learn the way they perceive the world, and if at all possible, the very nature of their thoughts. This demanded, by definition, a willingness to step back from the constraints of one’s own prejudices and preconceptions. This”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“Without doubt, images of comfort and wealth, of technological sophistication, have a magnetic allure. Any job in the city may seem better than back-breaking labour in sun-scorched fields. Entranced by the promise of the new, people throughout the world have in many instances voluntarily and in great earnest turned their backs on the old. The consequences, as we have seen in Kenya, can be profoundly disappointing. The fate of the vast majority of those who sever their ties with their traditions will not be to attain the prosperity of the West, but to join the legions of urban poor, trapped in squalor, struggling to survive. As cultures wither away, individuals remain, often shadows of their former selves, caught in time, unable to return to the past, yet denied any real possibility of securing a place in a world whose values they seek to emulate and whose wealth they long to acquire. This creates a dangerous and explosive situation, which is precisely why the plight of diverse cultures is not a simple matter of nostalgia or even of human rights alone, but a serious issue of geopolitical stability and survival.

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Outside of the major industrial nations, globalization has not brought integration and harmony, but rather a firestorm of change that has swept away languages and cultures, ancient skills and visionary wisdom.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“Evolutionary theory, distilled from the study of bird beaks, beetles, and barnacles, slipped into social theory in a manner that proved useful to the age. It was anthropologist Herbert Spencer who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.” At a time when the United States was being built by the labour of African slaves, and the British class system was so stratified that children of the wealthy were on average 6 inches taller than those of the poor, a theory that provided a scientific rationale for differences in race and class was a welcome convenience. Evolution”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“They have no illusions of permanence,” she explains. “There is no time for regret. Despair is a sin against the imagination. Their grocery store is out there on the land and this creates an emotional life that’s so much bigger than that of those who live in cities. They deal with death every day. To live they must kill the things they most love. Blood on ice is not a sign of death but an affirmation of life. Eating meat becomes a sacramental experience.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
“Our economic models are projections and arrows when they should be circles. To define perpetual growth on a finite planet as the sole measure of economic well-being is to engage in a form of slow collective suicide. To deny or exclude from the calculus of governance and economy the costs of violating the biological support systems of life is the logic of delusion.”
Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World