★ ★ ★ ★
Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey by Jane Goodall and Phillip Berman | September 1999 | Warner Books | Hardcover $32.00
Her revolutionary studies of Tanzania’s chimpanzees forever altered our definition of humanity. Now, intriguing as always, Jane Goodall explores her deepest convictions in a heartfelt memoir that takes her from the London Blitz to Louis Leaky’s famous excavations in Africa and then into the forests of Gombe. From the unforgettable moment when a wild chimpanzee gently grasps her hand to the terror of a hostage-taking and the sorrow of her husband’s death. Here, thoughtfully exploring the challenges of both science and the soul, she offers an inspiring, optimistic message as profound as the knowledge she brought back from the forests, and that gives us all… reason for hope.
This book was quite lovely. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in a contrast to the ultra-logical atheism of scientists like Richard Dawkins.
In this memoir, Jane Goodall describes the events in her life that led her current spiritual beliefs: her childhood in England during WWII, her adventures with the chimpanzees and scientists in Africa, the birth of her beloved son, and the deaths of people she loved deeply. Goodall has lived a simply incredible life and she has a way of writing that makes the reader feel as though she’s engaging in a personal conversation, not just telling a story.
It was fascinating to read about the religious philosophy and spiritual experiences of this intelligent, humanitarian, admirable woman. I believe that we should never stop learning and searching for truth, and I think both science and theology can be valid ways of pursuing personal growth. I also worry that scientists who do profess a faith in any particular religion or even just a higher being or planes of existence don’t often speak up for fear of being accused of irrationality, so it’s refreshing to read about the intimate, carefully considered faith of a highly respected biologist. I don’t particularly feel the need to detail my own beliefs here, but I did identify heavily with some of Goodall’s personal experiences and conclusions.
The book isn’t just about spirituality, or one person’s religiously significant experiences though. Goodall spends the last portion of the book on the topic of humanity’s future, of our place in the world and what we can do to reduce the suffering of other species as well as our own. She also shares some of her own poetry throughout the book, which I thought was nice enough — but I know next to nothing about poetry.
That said, I found myself drawn more to the stories about her time spent among the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. I started reading her book on the subject, In the Shadow of Man, ages ago… and I can’t for the life of me remember why I put it down, as I really remember nothing but good feelings and enjoyment of it. I think I may need to pick it up again!
Publication information: Goodall, Jane. Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey. New York: Warner Books, 1999. Print.
Source: Personal purchase or gift, provenance unknown.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.