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The Way of the Human Being Hardcover – April 10, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having spent a summer on a Navajo reservation and having lived among Yup'ik Eskimos in Alaska for two years, Martin has written a searching exploration of Native American ways of being and seeing. The Navajo, reports this former Rutgers history professor, "see man and woman intertwined, yin and yang, between them accomplishing the purposes of the earth, housing the powerful events of the landscape and firmament surrounding them." Traditional Eskimos don't talk about "nature," "conservation" or "environment," he surmises, "because they are nature; they are coterminous with the mind, the spirit, the being of it all. This is being a real person." Yet Native cultures, in his assessment, have been grievously fragmented. The Eskimos, for example, a people who once synthesized the cosmos through their music and dance, their clothing, homes and tools, even their names, have been psychologically devastated by the impact of Western civilization, with its "severed intellect" detached from nature. From Winnebago Trickster tales, Martin teases out lessons on the need for equilibrium and modesty. Blending insights from N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko and Loren Eiseley, and quoting liberally from early European explorers' journals, he plumbs the perceptual divide that he has found between natives and non-natives. He intriguingly speculates that the outlook of quantum physics, while starkly different from our controlled, materialist reality, is in some ways congruent with the Native American relativistic and sentient cosmos. These deeply personal essays represent an engaging departure from Martin's more academic books on Native America.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A former professor of history at Rutgers University, Martin spent a summer on a Navajo reservation and lived for two years with Yupik Eskimos in southwestern Alaska. Here he looks at Native Americans, their myths, and the philosophical challenge of their way of thinking, wrestling with ontological and ideological ways of interpreting the Native American world. Martin discusses the Native American belief that no true accidents can occur, a belief that springs from the conviction that there are no true bondaries. He also addresses the despiritualization of present-day Native Americans. Adopting an Emersonian approach to history, he tries to take a deeper view of the expansion of the human narrative in both space and time. In one of the books best chapters, Einsteins Beaver, Martin writes that Paleolithic mythology, being the language of native philosophy, understands the universe very differently than the Newtonian mechanical model does. A fresh viewpoint on Native American landscape and legend. Recommended for public and academic libraries.Vicki L. Toy Smith, Univ. of Nevada, Reno
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (April 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300074689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300074680
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By William Kowinski on April 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Calvin Luther Martin is a non-Native writing about Native American knowledge--a delicate and dicey thing to do, considering that the history of accuracy, respect, understanding and justice is not good. It's essential for non-Natives to read contemporary Native authors, but it's also important for non-Native writers to help other non-Natives build their own bridges of understanding. Martin has lived among Indigenous Americans in the southwest and far north, and learned from them as well as teaching there on subjects as various as quantum physics and alcoholism, in places like a seminary and a prison. He writes well, and often eloquently. A philosophical view builds and winds through the chapters. This is not New Age mush. It is scholarly and personal at the same time. It's intellectually sophisticated, and will bear repeated readings. But it's not obscure. It's down to earth. Martin dares to see that the most advanced quantum view of reality, and the oldest indigenous view of reality are basically the same. He writes movingly of the leap that Einstein and famed ecologist Loren Eiseley couldn't make: that fear creates a fearsome universe, and that compassion, courtesy and trust in relation to all things are the way of the human being in the world. Martin brings together the voices of contemporary American Indians, explorers and ethnologists of past centuries; he weaves threads of Native and non-Native writing. As readers we find not just an important and mind-expanding philosophy beautifully developed, but sharp scenes that inform us on why the pain in Native America persists today--and why that pain is different but real. Martin pulls together ideas that have solid support from others and takes them his own step further. We get some feeling for him as a person, too, a very interesting one, with a wonderful partner. I am grateful to him for this book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By opinion8 on July 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
i don't know what i expected when i bought this
but i know i didn't expect quantum physics
a very nice surprise
instead of just getting the same old romantic notions of indians as proto-hippies, we get an introduction into some seriously challenging and exciting concepts and experiences of existence and reality
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By GregJS on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
There are many books out there that argue persuasively for the value of aboriginal peoples' worldviews - that demonstrate how aboriginal worldviews and lifeways could help us modern, civilized people restore our relationship to the planet, to each other, and to our own selves. But there are very few books that have given me the sense that I am actually entering into that worldview myself - or that I am at least grasping what it would truly mean to enter into it. This book is one of those very few.

The big surprise is that the doorway Martin constructs for us moderns to pass though is...modern quantum physics. Actually, that is one half of the doorway. The other half is aboriginal stories. Martin's genius and gift is to show how aboriginal stories and ways of living express a quantum view of reality. But unlike scientists, who study the world objectively and who only understand quantum principles on a mental-conceptual level (and who, I would suppose, then go home from their labs and act exactly like any other dysfunctional, planet-destroying civilized person), aboriginal peoples seem to have felt and lived quantum principles in their inner beings and in their day-to-day lives. If you have any idea what quantum principles are, you will realize that this is an extraordinary thing.

Martin's language is equal to his message: vivid, evocative, and solidly grounded in concrete experience. About ten years after first reading it, this remains one of the most rewarding, enriching, and beautiful books I know of.
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By Edward Slack on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Way of the Human Being - Calvin Luther Martin - Yale University Press

This deeply thoughtful book brings us closer to understanding the human condition and our connection to the natural world. Through his study of and interactions with the native peoples of North America, Calvin Martin illustrates the disconnectedness of our times both factually and poetically. Rich with personal anecdote and academic acumen, this is an essential masterwork for anyone who wishes to know what it means to be a fully alive human being.

Dr. Ed Slack - Author - Two Legged Snakes: Understanding and Handling Manipulative People
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