Culture and Society
A special section featuring Michelle Alexander, Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky, Ram Dass, Ani DiFranco, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ross Gay, Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, and others.
An Interview With David Budbill
There are many different uses of language. There’s the politician’s use of language, which is too often an outright lie. There’s the diplomat’s use of language, which is carefully worded so as not to anger or offend, yet calculated to achieve the intended goal. The supreme diplomat these days is UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. And then there’s the poet’s use of language. Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” I think she meant that the truth, like the sun, is too bright to look at directly. Allegory, for example, is a way of telling the truth but telling it slant. In my own poems, though, most of the time, I try to tell it blunt and straight.
Between the ages of four and nine I lived in a California desert community called Anza, a gathering of burnouts, hermits, and rejects where I had come with my mom and little brother, Eli, after my parents’ divorce.
In our culture, when you have a medical problem, you visit a doctor, who writes you a prescription; then you drive to a pharmacy and pay thirty-two dollars for a medication. There are few surprises or slip-ups. But if you decide to single-handedly reconnect with a lost ancient lineage of herbal wisdom, you may end up with a short spear of garlic bearing down on your eardrum.
As the class winds down, I go over the answers to the quiz: Thoreau moved into his ten-by-fifteen-foot cabin on July 4, Independence Day, 1845. He chose that day to make the point that political independence is just the beginning. We’re not completely free until we also throw off our inner masters: greed, laziness, ignorance.
An Interview With Stephen Gaskin
We’re becoming so bland now, and I really pray that we get to see another burst of energy. When the sixties happened, it lifted me up and blew my mind and informed my consciousness in a way that was a million times heavier and more interesting than anything I’d experienced before. I think it did that for many people. And now, knowing that such a thing can happen, I can just sit here and wait for it — like “Yeah, here it comes again!”