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The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness Paperback – December 15, 2010
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“The wolf . . . is the clearing in the human soul. The wolf uncovers what is hidden.” A philosophy professor and author (Body Language, 2006), Rowlands grew up with dogs, big dogs, so when he saw an advertisement for wolf cubs, he went to have a look. When he saw the soft, fluffy cubs and their imposing parents, he took one home that day. Since his new pup, called Brenin, could not be at home alone without leaving utter destruction in his wake, Rowlands begain to take him everywhere. By training the wolf to take his lead, Rowlands taught Brenin how to be comfortable with all sorts of circumstances. Their remarkable closeness, both physical and mental, led to this book—a sort of autobiography mixed with wolf philosophy, human philosophy, and an exploration of the bonds between human and animal. Discussing what humans can learn from wolves, Rowlands elevates the run-of-the-mill memoir about life with an exotic pet into something more, a treatise on the meaning of true companionship. This one moves well beyond the Rascal mode. --Nancy Bent --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Not everyone can blend wildlife lore and Wittgenstein in an entertaining manner, but Rowlands has no trouble. Delightful and eye-opening.”
- Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
“A snarly misanthrope, Rowlands recovered his own humanity by loving a noble beast and (with a little help from Aristotle, Descartes, and Jack Daniel's) learning to howl at the moon.”
- O, The Oprah Magazine
“One of the most intense reading experiences of my life. It is a profound and beautiful book.”
- Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals
“This moving account will be recognized as a seminal work of philosophy that forces us to re-evaluate our view of the human animal.”
- John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
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But a funny thing happened about midway through the book. Rowlands and Brenin won me over with their special bond. Oh sure, there were still times when Rowlands' actions made me roll my eyes and wonder 'what the hell were you thinking?' But beneath it all, this is a story about two very different souls who have much to teach each other - and us. Or maybe, as a middle-aged man and a bit of a misanthrope myself, I could just relate to Rowlands and his bond with Brenin which seems so close to my bond with my more conventional four-legged family.
I suppose I could still quibble about how I'd rather see wolves running free in their natural environment rather than turned into pets, but once I got over my prejudices it made for fascinating reading. I know of no other book where you can find an account of a wolf tearing up an apartment only a few lines away from philosophical musings on time and life's meaning. But being a misanthrope myself I feel obligated to criticize Rowlands for something; thus let me state unequivocally that his writing style can get a bit pedantic when he starts loading up his sentences with too many independent clauses.
I was encouraged to read this "wolf book" (actually a hybrid wolf-dog most likely, but no matter) as I am engaged in writing my own book about a wolf I lived with in England, New York, Oregon and Nova Scotia, where he died. In this book, Lupey Journals: Lessons From The Heart Of A Wolf (see lupeywolf.com), I attempt to weave three themes together, the journals and my initial reflections upon what I observed, a brief summary of what science can tell us about nature, and the deep mysteries that experience and science open up to us.
The task is not easy, as I need to speak in different voices, and thus deeply admire Rowlands skills as a powerful thinker and literary craftsman. His experiences with his animal are deeply moving and insightful. I have much to learn from his writings and explorations of what makes us tick, as will all readers who have any compassion for the diversity of life with which we share this planet.
I am delighted my friend suggested I give the book a re-read. Even better on the second read. It is a treasure.
John C. Fentress, PhD
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This book was torture to read.Read more