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Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journeys.

The other book that affected me a lot this year was Scott Russell Sanders's Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journeys (Beacon Press, 1998). It's a book I'll be giving away to half a dozen friends this season.

In this beautiful, sweet, loving account, Sanders tries to find a way out of the despair of our political and ecological condition. He's prompted to do so while camping in the Rocky Mountains with his seventeen-year-old son, Jesse, who has grown weary of his dad's doom and gloom.

"Your view of things is totally dark," Jesse tells his dad. "It bums me out. You make me feel the planet's dying and people are to blame and nothing can be done about it. There's no room for hope. Maybe you can get by without hope, but I can't. I've got a lot of living still to do. I have to believe there's a way we can get out of this mess. Otherwise what's the point? Why study, why work--why do anything if it's all going to hell?"

The question hits home for Sanders (as it does for me). He proceeds to draw up a list in his journal on that trip and for two years afterwards--a list of hope. In reflections and introspections, and above all, in epiphanies "drawn from the muddle of ordinary life," he lays out his claims.

"I have gathered here my own medicine bundle, tokens made of words instead of bark or bone, to honor the powers in nature, in culture, in community, in my depths and in yours, that nourish and heal," he writes.

His periodic table of hope consists of wildness (the wonders of nature), body bright (the limitless capacities of body and mind), family, fidelity, skill, simplicity, beauty, and the way of things (God).

Sanders is a writer, and so he tells finely crafted stories to illustrate each of these elements, and he weaves his relationship with Jesse throughout the chapters. But while it is a profoundly personal work, it is also highly literate, with references to Thoreau, Einstein, Blake, Dickinson, Wendell Berry, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and Adrienne Rich.

I don't accept everything Sanders offers but I agree with him on a lot of things, and especially on this: We need hope. And it's up to us to carry around medicine bundles of our own making.

Matthew Rothschild is the Editor of The Progressive.
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Rothschild, Matthew
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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