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A Place in Space
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A Place in Space

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A Place in Space: New and Selected Prose

Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds

Gary Snyder 

1995 First Edition.  Counterpoint Press, Washington, D.C.

Inscribed by the Pulitzer Prize winning poet on the title page

NEAR FINE in a NEAR FINE dust jacket protected in a clear Brodart dust jacket cover.  Colored endpapers.  263pp.  "...we do not easily know nature, or even ourselves.  Whatever it actually is, it will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions.  It will dodge our expectations and theoretical models.  There is no single or set 'nature' either as 'the natural world' or 'the nature of things.'  The greatest respect we can pay to nature is not to trap it, but to acknowledge that it eludes us and that our own nature is also fluid, open and conditional.  Hakuin Zenji puts it 'self-nature that is no nature...far beyond mere doctrine.'  An open space to move in, with the whole body, the whole mind.  My gesture has been with language."

In his introductory note, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder writes, "The ancient Buddhist precept 'Cause the least possible harm' and the implicit ecological call to 'Let nature flourish' join in a reverence for human life and then go beyond that to include the rest of civilization.  These essays are Buddhist, poetic, and environmental calls to complex moral thought and action.... Art, beauty, and craft have always drawn on the self-organizing 'wild' side of language and mind."

This new collection brings together twenty-nine essays spanning nearly forty years of Snyder's career, with thirteen essays written since the publication of The Practice of the Wild in 1990.  Displaying his playful and subtle intellect, these pieces explore our place on earth.  Snyder argues that nature is not something apart from us, but intrinsic: our societies and civilizations are "natural constructs."  Whether through common language or shared geographical watershed, we are united in community.  We must go beyond racial, ethnic, and religious identities to find a shared concern for the same ground that benefits humans and nonhumans alike.  Snyder argues that this thinking will not make people provincial, but will lead to a new kind of planetary and ecological cosmopolitanism. 

Twenty-five years ago, at the first Earth Day, Gary Snyder's speech in Colorado and his manifesto "Four Changes," included here with a new postscript, helped set the tone for our developing attitudes toward the environment.  In A Place in Space, he continues his analysis, refining our role on this planet and calling for an ethic that gives moral standing to all beings.