Saturday, May 7, 2016

Daniel Capper's "Learning Love from a Tiger"

Daniel Capper is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Southern Mississippi and the author of Guru Devotion and the American Buddhist Experience.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Learning Love from a Tiger: Religious Experiences with Nature, and reported the following:
Page 99 does not really highlight the overall quality of Learning Love from a Tiger: Religious Experiences with Nature, although it offers a start. Page 99 is a half-page that begins a chapter by telling about how the ancient literary hero Gilgamesh nearly married the Babylonian lion-goddess Ishtar. This story creates the ambience for discussing religious relationships with nature that occur following family-relations templates, as the bulk of the chapter presents my field work at a Hindu center where cows, holy basil plants, and rivers are venerated as sacred mothers. I study the contours, limits, and outcomes of these Hindu intimate religious relationships with nature, as I do with the religions found throughout the rest of the book, including chapters on Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Mayan, folk Tibetan, and folk Chinese religiosities, as well as the religious life of the American naturalist John Muir. While we commonly think of human approaches to nature in terms of economics, politics, or the physical sciences, I show that the effects of religions must be considered, too, as human experiences with the natural world both shape and are shaped by religions, with some powerful real-world results. Along the path of this interdisciplinary exploration, which employs original field work at a Buddhist monastery and a Christian pet blessing ceremony in addition to my field experience at the Hindu ashram, I offer copious stories of religious encounters with nature, like the story of Gilgamesh and Ishtar. Drawing on traditions from around the world, this storytelling makes the narrative lively, vivid, and inviting for all readers, not just academic ones. In the end I gently ask readers to reconsider the long-held, easy-answer myth of human supremacy to nonhumans, as this culturally-shaped worldview can limit the beneficial functioning of religion, the positive pursuit of knowledge, and the wholesome treatment of nonhuman entities in the natural world.
Learn more about Learning Love from a Tiger at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue