The Firmament of Time – Loren Eiseley (1960)


“‘In all the activities of life,’ Aldous Huxley wrote in contemplating how we become who we are, ‘our whole effort must be to get out of our own light.’ Decades later, the novelist and memoirist Vivian Gornick described human creativity as ‘that rectangle of light and air inside, where thought clarifies and language grows and response is made intelligent.’ But what is the nature and origin of that peculiar inner light that makes us human? That’s what the great anthropologist, philosopher of science, poet, and natural history writer Loren Eiseley (September 3, 1907–July 9, 1977) explores with tremendous insight in a portion of his 1960 book The Firmament of Time (public library) — an uncommonly enchanting and penetrating inquiry into the sometimes fraught, sometimes transcendent, always profound relationship between nature and human nature. ‘There are few writers of English prose who move me as deeply,’ the great Rachel Carson wrote to Eiseley upon reading the book in 1960. Writing on the centenary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Eiseley considers why evolutionary theory so unsettled humanity — a disquietude which still reverberates through society’s most recalcitrant echelons of creationists, those living fossils of intellectual evolution. … Eiseley offers another instance of such visceral awareness of our creaturely nature. Reflecting on a remote region at the borderline of civilization near his hometown, where nightfall engulfs the uncultivated land in mystery, he writes. … A century after Emerson made his timeless case for upholding individual integrity amid the mindless masses, Eiseley considers the sole match that kindles that inner light of our humanity. … The Firmament of Time is a resplendent read in its totality. Complement this particular portion with Rachel Carson’s lyrical and revolutionary 1937 invitation to explore Earth from the perspective of other creatures and Henry Beston, another titan of nature writing, on how our relationship with the Earth reveals us to ourselves.”
The Inner Light That Makes Us Human: Legendary Science Writer Loren Eiseley on the Relationship Between Nature and Human Nature
8 Great Passages From Loren Eiseley’s “The Firmament Of Time”
W – Loren Eiseley
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About 1960s: Days of Rage

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