A cultural odyssey enthrals students
Posted 18 April 2011
The first guest speaker arranged by the Public Question Societies at both St Kilda Road and Glen Waverley in March was a winner in every way. A noted Canadian anthropologist, film-maker, author, geographer, and passionate evangelist of different ways of knowing, Harvard graduate Wade Davis held senior students captivated by his stories of a rich life lived comprehensively, and with great perspicacity, amongst some of the world’s most ancient cultures. Describing himself as essentially an adventurer and story-teller, his talk showed him to be a lot more besides, as he took his willing audience on an extraordinary and instructive journey into the mysteries and wonders of cultures where ancient wisdom truly matters. His message was simple; while not advocating a return to the pre-industrial world, or abandoning the Enlightenment and what he called the “genius of modernity”, he nonetheless was insistent that our present world needed to grow further, through its embracing of the different ways of understanding offered by exotic cultures too often thought of as primitive and irrelevant. He made us feel the pathos of loss – of languages, cultures, the old ways, even the old gods. To hear him was to be moved to another level of awareness.
The good news is that the students felt so too, and the level of sympathy he generated was everywhere apparent. Holding adolescents spellbound for 75 minutes, in a stuffy hall, and in the afternoon (at St Kilda Road), was for Wade an adventure in itself. But he did it with ease, and the young audience clearly found the message compelling; the applause was generous and sustained. Wade Davis may well have been gratified too that the future looks bright, if the Wesley audience was anything to go by. And we should be proud of the willingness of the bulk of our students to embrace important global issues.
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