WILLING TO LEARN: Passages of Personal Discovery

Mary Catherine Bateson, Author . Steerforth $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-58642-080-2

The daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, cultural anthropologist Bateson has long been fascinated by how humans understand, create and adapt to the world in which they live, and in this collection of writings, some previously unpublished, she chronicles her enduring quest for such knowledge. Dividing her rigorous inquiries into sections such as "Age and Gender," "Culture and Conviction" and "Ways of Knowing," Bateson juxtaposes academic articles with more personal reflections and op-eds with conference talks. The odd pairings are intentional, Bateson says, to highlight differences and illuminate connections between disparate investigations; this is in keeping with her "lifelong search for pattern and its recurrence in different contexts." Readers may find the transitions between meaty academic prose and more reflective memoir somewhat jarring, however. And while Bateson's recollections of her famous parents are especially compelling, readers may be most interested in "The Lessons of 9/11," an essay in which she develops a critique of a phrase often uttered in the tragedy's aftermath: "Everything is different." Using the phrase as a locus, Bateson considers the consequences of the terrorist attacks and the possibilities that such a large, traumatic event holds for understanding and knowledge, strongly asserting our need to tolerate, learn from and empathize with divergent views—especially in moments of trauma when learning is most threatened. Agent, John Brockman. (Oct. 12)

Reviewed on: 08/30/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-58642-190-8
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