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Peripheral visions

Mary Catherine Bateson

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Peripheral Visions begins with a sacrifice in a Persian garden, moving on to a Philippine village and then to the Sinai desert, and concludes with a description of a tour bus full of Tibetan monks. Mary Catherine Bateson is our guide on a fascinating and surprising intellectual journey that offers a pattern for lifetime growth through learning from experience. In our rapidly changing and interdependent world the tasks of learning are never complete. Mary Catherine Bateson encourages the reader to cast aside familiar habits of learning and interacting so as to engage more successfully with the unexpected and participate in the diverse world which surrounds us. The key to her vision of learning is the discovery of pattern in the unfamiliar, treating it as a resource rather than a threat. Every new situation we encounter is laden with meanings - some immediately obvious, and others lying at the edge of awareness that are only visible later or out of the corner of the eye, through peripheral vision. Mary Catherine Bateson tells a multitude of stories, drawing on her experience of living in other cultures - Israel, the Philippines, and Iran - as well as on family life and the American scene, showing the wealth of meaning and interconnection that can be found in transitory experience. She asserts that we do not need to understand other people and their customs fully to interact with them and learn in the process; it is making the effort to interact without knowing all the rules, improvising in uncertain situations, that allows us to grow. Through continual reflection and exploratory interaction with others, we learn to look with new eyes at many contemporary issues, from multiculturalism andthe rise of fundamentalism to information overload and the role of the sacred. Indeed, Mary Catherine Bateson sheds light on problems as large as nationalism and the environment and as personal as the echoes of childhood.

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