Monday, November 27, 2006

Aside: Henry Beston (via Karsten Heuer)

I've just finished Karsten Heuer's excellent Being Caribou, an account of his 2003 epic journey with his wife Leanne Allison to follow the Porcupine caribou herd from its winter range in the Yukon to the calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and back. It's a marvellous book (and film, by they way, although the latter is a bit hard to find in the states), one that provides those of us in "animal studies" (and Americans in general, of course, although they'll likely be less receptive) with provocative food for thought. How can you not love a book that begins with this insight from Henry Beston's 1928 classic The Outermost House:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of wild animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creatures through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken a form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and the travail of the earth.


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