Review: “The Wayfinders” by Wade Davis

“Imagine for a moment if all the genius and intellect of all generations that have come before you had been concentrated on a single set of tasks, focused exclusively on knowing a particular piece of ground, not only plants and animals but every ecological, climatic, geographic detail, the pulse of every sentient creature, the rhythm of every breath of wind, the patterns of every season. This was the norm in Aboriginal Australia.”

-Wade Davis
The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World

There are many ways to know a place and live ones life within it. The Wayfinders, by Wade Davis, makes a very strong case for what everyone stands to gain from both learning and exploring the different ways that cultures around the globe understand themselves and their relationships to the earth and the universe.

Wade is an astonishing writer – there are many gorgeous paragraphs in this book and it often reads like poetry. He’s also a remarkable communicator. His point of view is clearly stated and yet he does not assume that you will agree with him. Sometimes he even spars with the reader, which makes it an even more engaging read, as he senses your doubts and cynicism and responds to them directly.

The book introduced me to cultures I knew little to nothing about. I found the chapter on Polynesian sea navigation the most captivating:

“The navigator must process an endless flow of data, intuitions and insights derived from observation and the dynamic rhythms and interactions of wind, waves, clouds, stars, sun, moon, the flight of birds, a bed of kelp, the constantly changing world of weather and the sea.”

The above is just a snippet of this 249 paged book. I often found myself  just reading a few pages per sitting.  The subject matter was so rich, I chose to take my time with it, to let it all sink in.

As an artist who explores how people and nature negotiate, I found this book a thrilling and educational read – refreshing, inspiring and humbling. I highly recommend it. I would loan you my copy if only I could part with it – I can’t.

The Wayfinders on

Seminars on Long-Term Thinking with the Long Now Foundation. Wade Davis talk. Video.