Not too many authors get asked to do this, but Jonathan Lear, author of Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, has written an original essay for the Powells.com site. It's called "Philosophy and Bear Mace"--go read it and find out why.
Radical Hope is a book about how we would (should) act if our civilization were to suddenly collapse. Couldn't happen, you say? Well, the historical record begs to differ. Lear has chosen as his template a civilization that did collapse, and right here on our very soil--the Crow Nation, a Native American tribe traditionally based in Montana. He's found a hero in Plenty Coups, the last Crow chief, whose words, first heard by Lear at a lecture twenty years ago, have resonated in the philosopher's mind ever since:
After the buffalo went away, the hearts of my people fell to the ground and we could not lift them up again. After this, nothing happened.
It is this "nothing happened" from which Lear's inquiry takes off. Where, exactly, do we go from "nothing?" In an age of facile comfort, it's easy to forget that people have faced this question before and will face it again. Radical Hope is an unconventional reflection on a sobering topic, and it will deserve every last bit of attention it gets.
||| Read an excerpt from Radical Hope.