Twelve visionary thinkers discuss the relationship between humans and nature in this enlightening and moving book that focuses on our deep connection with the earth, and how as a species we suffer when that connection is severed.
Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld, princess of the Netherlands and a social reformer and leading thinker in her own right, teamed with journalist Van Tijn to talk with such luminaries as Jane Goodall, Rupert Sheldrake, Masaru Emoto, Arne Nass, Denise Linn and James Wolfensohn. From all over the globe, the twelve chosen individuals represent a wide range of experience and insight into the relationship between humans and the natural world. Each was asked a series of questions about nature, about their own personal relationship with nature, even about the nature of love, revealing a global vision made up of individuals devoted to caring for the planet and empowering others to do the same.
All of the interviews are interesting and inspiring, but two that stand out are with Gareth Patterson, author of To Walk With Lions, and oral historian and traditional Zulu healer Credo Mutwa. These two most capture the close bonds of humans and animals and the natural environment. Their experiences in Africa, a land still tied deeply to its surroundings, are stunning and deeply moving. Denise Linn also proves to be a deeply moving interviewee, sharing her story of abuse and her growing awareness of her own healing powers.
The views of these sharp minds and deep souls echo those we all share on a level that few of us have ever truly dared experience. The lessons they learned, by living with wild animals or amid poverty and disease, or by studying the tiny drops of water that keep us alive, all converge into a beautiful song of survival - but also into a warning of sorts: a warning that compels us to stop abusing nature and learn to live with, and love, her gifts instead.
Riding on the accomplishments at Los Alamos, Oppie became America’s scientific darling and administrator of the think tank at Princeton, the Institute for Advanced Study, as well as the head of the newly formed Atomic Energy Commission. However, there were forces aligned against him. Possibly because he was, as far as human relationships were concerned, extraordinarily naïve, or perhaps because as one of the most prodigious intellects of his time he was extraordinarily arrogant in assuming that he could handle any puny questioning he might face, Oppenheimer went head to head with Lewis Strauss and J. Edgar Hoover, swept up in the maelstrom of the McCarthy era.
There was never any credible evidence that Oppie had participated knowingly in an active way with the Soviet Communists, though he did “fellow travel” with hard leftists in the 1930s, when his ideals demanded it. He made no secret of these associations, even to the point of confessing to an extramarital affair with a young firebrand female. His lifetime partner, Kitty, testified stolidly in his defense despite the obvious humiliation that the hearings engendered for her. Ultimately Oppie lost his position at the AEC and was hounded by the FBI for the rest of his life.
In this exhaustively researched biography, Oppie comes across as heroic and generous at times, and yet not quite human, idolized by his students in his early days as a professor at Cal Tech in Berkeley, vilified by colleagues who probably found him far too otherworldly and innately snobbish. Though he was an inclusive administrator, he had few real peers. No doubt his Jewishness and intellectual superiority played a role in the attacks on his character. Oppie once tried to give his infant daughter to her caregivers, believing that they were capable of providing her the loving home that he and Kitty couldn’t. Kitty, an alcoholic, never bonded with her two children, leaving each of them for several months shortly after they were born. Oppie tried to make them into a family but was just not father material. His son lives in anonymity near the Los Alamos test site, and his daughter committed suicide.
Albert Einstein, who doddered around Princeton and was often in disagreement with Oppie about quantum physics (Oppie once called his theories “completely cuckoo”), said something to the younger genius that perhaps explains best the phenomenon that was Robert Oppenheimer, spoken from his own life experience: “One evening in March 1950, on the occasion of Einstein’s seventy-first birthday, Oppenheimer walked him back to his house on Mercer Street. ‘You know,’ Einstein remarked, ‘when it’s once been given to a man to do something sensible, afterward life is a little strange.’”