They were tomorrow's children surely, born by error into a lion country of spears and sand.
-- Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey.
This was required reading in the early nineties for a creative writing class I took. I was at first confused; Eiseley is an anthropologist and naturalist, a scientist at heart. What was a book of his essays on the history of man doing on the reading list for a creative writing course?
Over the years, I've picked up and re-read parts of this over and over, more than any other book I own. And each and every time, I've come away with a new perspective or new inspirations or simply a feeling of gratitude and awe. Often times, it's just the writing alone that sends me back to the computer to write again. The man may have been a scientist, but he was an artist as well, a poet, a dreamer. The most romantic aspect of anthropology must, I have always felt, been those moments when one picks up a bone, a basket, a spear head, and one sees with all vividness the person who held it, smells the air of a millenia past, feels the ancient ground beneath one's feet and realizes that this person stood here as well. And Eiseley brings you along on that journey back and then props you up again in today, and it has a sense of renewal about it.
I must warn you that the book was first published in 1946, and their are certain politically incorrect aspects to his writing. If you can forgive him this for being a product of his time, then let the language flow over you and new ideas seep into your brain like primordial ooze. Also, for a book written in 1946, it is remarkably fresh.
I am re-reading this today as I embark on a new project. As I had mentioned before, the first six months of this year were spent doing one thing, and I am dedicating the second six months to doing them another way. It's exhilarating in a different way, and if you know me, you know I don't like stale. Move, move, move. Explore new territory. This often means learning new things about yourself, and that, frankly, is scary. But for the moment, I'll take Mr. Eiseley's hand and drop into the pit, and maybe we'll dig side by side for a while.