Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Life, is our guide on a fascinating intellectual exploration of lifetime learning from experience and encountering the unfamiliar. Peripheral Visions begins with a sacrifice in a Persian garden, moving on to a Philippine village and then to the Sinai desert, and concludes with a description of a tour bus full of Tibetan monks. Bateson's reflections bring theses narratives homes, proposing surprising new vision of our own diverse and changing society and offering us the courage to participate even as we are still learning.
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Mary Catherine Bateson is Clarence J. Robinson Professor in Anthropology and English at George Mason University. She received an undergraduate degree from Radcliffe and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has written and coauthored numerous books on life history, lectures internationally, and is president of the Institute for Intercultural Studies in New York City. She divides her time between New Hampshire and Virginia.From Booklist:
In her earlier works, Bateson has written about "two intellectual pioneers," her parents Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and in her surprise best-seller, Composing a Life (1989), the elusive phenomenon of creativity. Here she turns the beam of her ardent, disciplined mind on the crucial and often misunderstood process of learning. Bateson believes that our educational system has many shortcomings, most of which are traceable to some basic misconceptions about how we learn, a lifelong process essential to survival. To live well and responsibly in a diverse and dynamic world, Bateson explains, we must learn not only to accept, but to treasure a multiplicity of viewpoints, the persistence of ambiguity, and the constancy of change. We must learn to see the big picture, be attentive to subtleties, absorb "peripheral visions," and excel at improvisation. To illustrate these sensible and versatile theories, Bateson relates intriguing stories from her culturally diverse life, especially her experiences living in Israel, Iran, and the Philippines. She considers learning within the contexts of parent-child relationships, ritual, the power of metaphor, the mutability of the self, the obsession with novelty, and the pitfalls of fundamentalism and other instances of "narrowed attention." She also frees "multiculturalism" from its superficial and political trappings and altogether invigorates her readers with her faith in our adaptive abilities. Donna Seaman
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