When I read the title via a post on The Marginalian, I thought it was a self-help book rather than an account of an acclaimed writer’s life. However, what propelled me to read the book was this quote within its pages: “The effort to know a place deeply is, ultimately, an expression of the human desire to belong, to fit somewhere.” I always had an issue fitting in and never stayed anywhere long enough to understand it deeply.
I thought fitting in was paramount to one’s disappearance or death while alive, so reading Lopez’s quote hit a sore spot initially, but I also wondered what he meant by fitting in as an avid traveler myself. I am glad I gave Embrace Fearlessly The Burning World and myself a chance because it altered how I think about traveling and being in pursuit of meaning.
What is the book about?
Travel writer and essayist Barry Lopez won numerous awards for his work, which was primarily focused on the field of environmental writing. He traveled to over eighty countries for fifty years, wrote for magazines such as National Geographic, and published twenty books. Embrace Fearlessly The Burning World is an essay collection and Lopez’s last work.
Barry Lopez travels to some of the world’s most inaccessible places: from Antarctica to the deserts of Australia, confronting his fears and past with utmost honesty. His essays not only describe the local life, geography, and climate of the places he visits but also go into sensitive details about his childhood. Thus, an unprecedented book of recollections emerges.
Why do I like it?
I love Lopez’s candid and understated language. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself; rather, he embraces the changes around him and appreciates his deteriorating body. He’s mindful of his surroundings but also sees the bigger picture while offering heartwarming advice to his readers on coping with life, changes, and mortality.
I also like that Barry Lopez is aware of the privileges that being a white American male brings and chooses to listen to the locals on his travels rather than trying to be their voice. In addition, he’s involved with environmental advocacy and passionate about defending this world’s being our only home.
What question does it raise for me?
Is there a better place beyond our fears? Do our fears stem from not wanting to commit?
“The question for me really isn’t whether I’m afraid: it’s whether I wish to commit… Yes, I know. But please, come with me. What we are about to see is greater than the thing you’re running from” is the original quote that made me ask these questions—and it is the most meaningful one for me for personal reasons.
While reading Barry Lopez, I ended up with more questions than answers. And then I circled back to what originally attracted me to the book and realized: my urge to ask all those questions was nothing but fragile attempts to express a human desire: to belong.
You can also read my first review here.
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