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In this powerful little book, two leading intellectuals illuminate the truth about where our environmental crisis is taking us. Writing from an island on Canada's Northwest coast, Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky weigh in on the death of the planet versus the death of the individual. For Zwicky, awareness and humility are the foundation of the equanimity with which Socrates faced his death: he makes a good model when facing the death of the planet, as well as facing our own mortality. Bringhurst urges readers to tune their minds to the wild. The wild has healed the world before, and it is the only thing that stands any chance of healing the world now – though it is unlikely to save Homo sapiens in the process.
Jan Zwicky 's books of poetry include Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, which won the Governor General's Award, Robinson's Crossing, which won the Dorothy Livesay Prize, and, most recently, Forge, which was short-listed for the Griffin Prize. Her books of philosophy include Wisdom & Metaphor, Lyric Philosophy, and Alkibiades' Love.
"The project of Learning to Die is simple, but harrowing. Bringhurst and Zwicky ponder an all-but-unthinkable question: how should we live in the end times? They don't discount our attempts to stave off environmental catastrophe. But they believe, on the evidence, that it's too little too late. And they go on to ask, How should we face our coming fate? Can we learn, as members of a species run amok, how to perish with a modicum of responsibility and grace? These are artist-thinkers of commanding stature, and the specific answers they give deserve our attention. But what makes Learning to Die indispensable goes even deeper: the example it sets of unblinking courage. It opens a space for human beings to reckon with ultimate things."
– Dennis Lee, poet and editor
"Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky are two of the wisest and most learned animals living among us, poet-creatures who regularly calibrate their awareness by immersing themselves in wild nature and listening quietly for what it has to teach. As feelingful animals, they care deeply for other species, and for their fellow humans as a part of – not apart from – the many-voiced earth. In Learning to Die, they offer a kind of piercing wisdom-literature for our time, generous insight for an age of ecological calamity. An essay at the heart of this humble book, entitled A Ship from Delos, has cut me to the core; I can feel it altering my own way in the world."
– David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal
"Truth-filled meditations about grace in the face of mortality."
– Margaret Atwood