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Philosophy General

Learning to Die

Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis

by (author) Robert Bringhurst & Jan Zwicky

University of Regina Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2018
General, Metaphysics
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
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    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
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"Truth-filled meditations about grace in the face of mortality." —Margaret Atwood

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.

About the authors

Robert Bringhurst is a poet, typographer and linguist, well known for his award-winning translations of the Haida storytellers Skaay and Ghandl, and for his translations of the early Greek philosopher-poet Parmenides. His manual The Elements of Typographic Style has itself been translated into ten languages and is now one of the world’s most influential texts on typographic design. Among his most recent publications is a pair of essay collections, The Tree of Meaning (GP, 2006) and Everywhere Being is Dancing (GP, 2007). Bringhurst lives on Quadra Island, off the British Columbia coast.

Robert Bringhurst's profile page

Jan Zwicky is an accomplished poet, philosopher and musician whose intense and vivid lyricism imbues her poetry with music and passion. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Zwicky studied at the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto before undertaking an academic career teaching philosophy at a number of North American institutions. She is also a professional musician, with an active interest in baroque performance technique. Zwicky is a prolific essayist, as well as the author of a dozen books. Her works have won her the Governor General's Award (Songs For Relinquishing the Earth, 1998) and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (Robinson's Crossing, 2004) as well as many other accolades and shortlist nominations. Zwicky lives on Quadra Island, British Columbia.

Jan Zwicky's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Guides us towards ways to live and know the situation of climate change." —Annie Proulx, The Guardian

"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

Other titles by Robert Bringhurst

Other titles by Jan Zwicky