Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Barry Lopez Reflects on Nature, Horror, and Beauty with Bill Moyers

As he prepared to retire after four decades in broadcast journalism, Bill Moyers thought long and hard about whom to invite as his guest on the last broadcast of his Bill Moyers Journal. In the end, he decided that the honor should go to author Barry Lopez, whom he described as "someone whose curiosity about the world, and pursuit of it, have set the gold standard for all of us whose work it is to explain those things we don't understand."

During the thirty-five-minute interview Lopez, the award-winning author of many books of fiction and non-fiction, spoke eloquently about nature as what he called "the full expression of life," the whole picture of the earth and its inhabitants, not simply a collection of majestic landscapes like those that appear on the pages of calendars.

Despite the fact that the phenomena of the natural world play the starring role in all his books, Lopez insisted that "I'm not writing about nature. I'm writing about humanity. And if I have a subject, it is justice. And the rediscovery of the manifold way in which our lives can be shaped by the recovery of a sense of reverence for life."

Moyers and Lopez also talked about the relationship of beauty and horror. Lopez began by saying that, even though he has lived for forty years in the Oregon wilderness, he loves New York City, especially when the sky is a particular shade of blue, as it was on this April day in 2010 when Moyers was conducting the interview.

Moyers replied that the sky in New York was that very color on the morning of September 11, 2001, when the two airliners were crashed into the World Trade Towers. What does that do to any idea of beauty? Moyers asked his guest.

Lopez responded: "Real beauty is so deep you have to move into darkness in order to understand what beauty is.... What you must do is build a system of civilization that is as aware of darkness as it is of beauty."

Click here to watch the complete broadcast of Bill Moyers's interview with Barry Lopez.

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