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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Thoughts on reading “The Hold Life Has”

Hi all,

What strikes me immediately upon reflecting on the first chapter of The Hold Life Has is the incredible connection to place the community in which Allen is living has. In my culture and other cultures I have experienced, people have a very different relationship with the spaces they inhabit daily: unthinkingly moving through them, simply a setting for their lives. By comparison this Andean community incorporates their strong sense of place into their entire world view, acknowledging the importance their environment has in their lives. Living in an urban setting as I do, the tendency I have so often observed of letting one’s surroundings fall out of mind is made even easier. The city, a world almost entirely fabricated and unnatural, seems purpose built to promote a mindset that pushes aside the importance of one’s connection to place. For me, when I am in the wilderness is when I can relate, even if on a much much smaller scale, with the connection to place displayed by the Andean community Allen writes of. In the natural world, the role that my environment plays in my life is much more evident, and because of this I am more aware and appreciative of the places I inhabit.

The other major difference between the community Allen writes about and my own is the way they incorporate the natural world into their systems of belief and personify elements of nature. In my culture, people often assume that there is nothing more to the natural world than meets the eye. Although I don’t have a developed belief system centered around the natural world, I often find the analytical method of observing and interpreting nature in my culture to be lacking. It fails to convey the deep personal attachment I feel to specific mountains, valleys, streams and trees that I have returned to again and again, each time strengthening my attachment to them.

So to answer the prompt directly: these views of the world are different from my own and my culture’s in that they acknowledge the importance of the place and that they place so much spiritual significance and supernatural energy in the natural world. While these ways of viewing the world are very different than those of the culture I was raised in, I can relate to both these concepts through my experiences in the wilderness. This kind of worldview is unfamiliar to me personally in my daily life but I feel that I understand the roots of this connection from experiences I’ve had on windswept passes and in silent forests. For me, reading this chapter primarily evokes intrigue and desire. I would really appreciate living in a culture in which connection to and reverence for the environment played such a large role in systems of belief as well as daily life. I think the awareness that connections like this foster leads to a much healthier coexistence between humans and the rest of the natural world.

Can’t wait to hear what you all thought of this reading!