This year, I made a commitment to ditch my normal reading diet and pursue more exotic treasures. Sarah Wilson’s this one wild and precious life was a fit beginning. I finished a month ago, but I decided to step back before I reviewed it. At times, I felt like I was having a conversation with the author. It is a deeply ruminated and personal work with wonderfully relevant quotes from philosophers, writers, theologians, naturalists, etc. who have clearly had an impact upon her personal views. I do not share all of her views, but I agree with her on many. Her reiterated views on the “cult of capitalism” I believe speaks more to some of its adherents rather than the system itself.
This year has been trying for the world, but I can only speak for how I have witnessed it in the U.S. This year has tested our most valued assumptions, but they were always fragile and in need of assuaging. Sarah reminds us that the despotic emperors in Roman times used distraction to keep citizens from revolting (p. 74). The framers of the U.S. Constitution were well-versed in the history and thought of the Roman Republic. Our balance of powers is framed around an understanding of the Republic. The preamble to the Constitution is vitally important: We the People of the United States… It is us. It is especially not politicians or any other power brokers. We, together, are what animate our political system. As questionable as the morals and narratives are that surround first contact, invasion, conquest, and hook or crook, we got the political system right. The fact that we have succumbed to extreme individualism, special interests, and greed is symptomatic of a society that has matured and allowed itself to be distracted or entertained. Sarah is right. Technology only ever enables (p. 35) but it is not the fault of the technology any more than it is the fault of a political system or capitalism. They are tools. I think a lot of what Sarah talks about is grass roots. I’m a firm believer in grass roots which is why I often rail against both parties in the U.S. Their platforms have become contradictory. It is incumbent upon us to hold the parties to task, not vice versa. And the tasks at hand require us to become committed to grass roots efforts. Because special interests, big businesses, politicians, technocrats, and others have such a stranglehold on life now, it is more important than ever that we educate ourselves on the issues. Capitalism is not the problem. It is how we allow some to abuse and profit from it. Law is not the problem. How we allow it to be weaponized is the problem. We are the gatekeepers. Enlivened with the truth that we have one wild and precious life, it is that delicate evolutionary tension—between our self-interest and our need to belong to a community (p. 63)—that might carry us out of our acedia (p. 27). Between AI, quantum computing, climate change (the most pressing), widening income disparities, and rising international tensions combined with rising authoritarianism, the stakes are really high. Sarah herself acknowledged the facts (p. 341), “the statistics are stacked against us. I pay a solemn nod of respect to the spiritual truth—that death, and species extinction, are a part of life. And yet I am wholly and vibrantly motivated to fight for life in the meantime. Not my life. But Big Life.” It just might be time to pull on our big boy/girl panties and fight for life. We only get one and we can’t live it on the sidelines. It’s time to act.