Wade Davis in Calgary

By Eric Mathison

This Friday Canadian-born anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis will be speaking at the University of Calgary. The talk is called “Why Ancient Wisdoms Matter in the Modern World.”

The goal of the talk is “to encourage people to think about a central revelation of anthropology, and that’s the idea that other peoples of the world aren’t failed attempts at being you. They are unique answers to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive,” he said.

Davis, who was educated at Harvard, gave the Massey Lectures in 2009. His book The Wayfinders was based on those lectures and his upcoming talk will draw on many of those themes. His rich use of stories brings different cultures to life.

“In many ways, I think of myself as more of a storyteller than an anthropologist,” he said. “All cultures are traditionally myopic, are fiercely loyal to their own interpretations of reality. It’s not just modern culture.”

Davis emphasized that culture is important for each particular group who practice it, but also that other societies have much to learn in order to deal with current problems.

“We really have to find a way to live in pluralistic, multicultural societies, where we don’t in any way keep the brilliance of modernity from the grasp of anybody. Culture is the glue that holds civilization together.”

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