Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Wilderness Society

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Wilderness Society

Article excerpt

All revival begins with narrative. Narrative offers the way through the wilderness of just about everything from a political campaign to organizational and individual challenge.

Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole is shedding the familiar skin of Senate leader for the role of the war-tested man from Russell, Kan. This has its immediate risks, but, trailing, Dole is reaching back to his life story to help define his campaign. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, his past more open to attack, is attempting to create a new persona, a new story about himself, through the very acts of governing.

It is critical to evaluate properly the stories we tell about about ourselves and others. To tell a wrong story about someone or to alter or deny a history is an aggressive act. Politics can be reduced to the battle to control the story. Whose history shall possess the society?

Recently I've been researching the theme of wilderness and cultural renewal. The thesis with which this column began was put to me by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner at the end of a three-hour conversation. "All spiritual revival begins with narrative," Mr. Kushner said. Next month Kushner, the leader of a Sudbury, Mass., congregation, will publish a new book, "Invisible Lines of Connection" (Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vt.). It is a memoir in which the stories Kushner tells about himself, his family, and others, although of seemingly ordinary consequence, are shown to have deeper significance and linkage to "one great, luminous organism."

Kushner begins his narrative with a humorous anecdote about the prospect of encountering bears while camping in Montana: "You can walk where things are predictable - or you can enter the wilderness. Without the wilderness, there can be neither reverence nor revelation."

Max Oelschlaeger writes in his recent book "The Idea of Wilderness" (Yale University Press) about exploring "a forbidden place . …

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