When you love what you do, the hope is that you will do it indefinitely. E.O. Wilson shows little sign of slowing down any time soon, and his new book is the best evidence to date. Not exactly light weekend reading, nor summer beach fare, but from the sound of this review, worth the effort:
LOOKING FOR ETERNITY? LOOK TO NATURE
A Review of “A Window on Eternity” by E.O. Wilson
By Bill Chameides
To say that E.O. Wilson, arguably the greatest living biologist, is prolific is a bit of an understatement. At 84, Wilson continues to churn out books at a rate of one to two each year. Yesterday, Earth Day 2014, marks the release of his latest book, A Window on Eternity: A Biologist’s Walk Through Gorongosa National Park (Simon and Schuster), and a DVD companion titled “The Guide.”
The book is ostensibly a travelogue of Wilson’s visits to Gorongosa National Park, a 4,000-square-mile, protected reserve situated along the Great Rift Valley in Mozambique that was decimated by a 16-year civil war and rampant poaching. Brought back to life through enlightened stewardship, the park’s rebirth is a fascinating story and well worth the read. But for me the real delight of the book was the feeling after I finished it that I had spent a couple of days strolling and chatting with Wilson as he pointed out the sites and waxed nostalgic about his own life and philosophical about the planet’s.
Big Picture and Little Picture
Many of Wilson’s books are works that look at the big picture, works that advance broad and often revolutionary concepts about nature and humanity. His The Social Conquest of Earth, which proposed a new, highly controversial theory of human evolution based on group selection, is but one example of these “big picture” books. Others tend to be of a class I’d call anecdotal, books that use narrative and a focus on setting to entertain and charm while also instructing. For example, consider Why We Are Here, an ode by Wilson and co-author Alex Harris to Wilson’s childhood home of Mobile, Alabama — a book that gently and subtly reminds us of our profound connection to the land.
Oblivion and Eternity
Wilson’s new book does not fit neatly into either category alone but rather belongs to both. With “A Window on Eternity” as a title it seems a pretty safe bet that Wilson has some very “big picture” issues in store for us readers. Indeed, the opening chapter, “The Search For Eternity,” does not disappoint. It begins:
“Oblivion, absolute oblivion, is the one image the human mind cannot accept or even fully conceive. Deeper than despair, more terrifying than death, is the thought that everything in time will disappear.”
How then to avoid the “dismal thought,” he asks rhetorically. In these genomic-centric times, we often think that the propagation of our DNA is the key, that we assure our “place” on the planet past our own demise by passing the bits of our own DNA code to succeeding progeny.
Not really, Wilson argues. Within a few centuries the DNA carried in our progeny will have been diluted by the codes of thousands of others, and in any event, like all other earthly species, extinction of Homo sapiens is inevitable.
Instead, Wilson argues the answer lies in nature:
“It resides in the remnants of the natural world we have not yet destroyed. The rest of life is a parallel world. It could exist and continue evolving for what to the human mind is an eternity.”…
Read the whole review here.