Reading, Writing, and Revolution
by Derrick Jensen
I’d like to think this was the kind of book that would have given me hope had I read it when I was in high school (a crappy, rundown, stagnant place) afraid I’d be unable to get out and off to college. I’m not sure it would have made me feel better, or honestly that I’d have been able to appreciate Jensen’s work, but I like to think I would have. Seeing an adult — someone who had published books, no less! — advocating thinking for myself and giving encouragement to create my own path would have been so important.
It’s not, as Jensen clearly and convincingly argues, what most kids experience when they are sent off to school every morning. It wouldn’t, after all, prepare us to be pliable wage slaves, now would it? No. This is the end result most education is aiming for:
“Far better for them to believe they’re free, because if then they are unhappy the fault lies not with you but with themselves.”
Jensen believes that “the only real job of any teacher, especially a writing teacher, is to help students find themselves.” He believes this is his purpose in the classroom, whether that room is on a college campus or in a prison. Walking on Water can be read as a manifesto, but it can also be read as a collection of real stories, a testament to the power of stories. So a manifesto, but fun as well as inspiring.
If you write or wish you were writing, you’ll probably appreciate Jensen’s book. If you teach, I bet you’ll find something valuable in Walking on Water. If you never write anything, or never teach anyone anything… why not?
Jensen asks great questions, tells good stories, and pushes folks outside their comfort zones:
Who are you? Who are you, really? Beneath the trappings and traumas that clutter and characterize our lives, who are you, and what do you want to do with the so-short life you’ve been given? We could not live the the way we do unless we avoided that question, trained ourselves and others to avoid that question, forced others to avoid placing that question in front of us, and in fact attempted to destroy those who do.