THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- JULY 8, 2017
Dirk Dunbar was perhaps the greatest basketball player in the history of Cadillac High School. He scored 65 points in one game (in the days before the three-point shot). Those exploits and more were detailed in his book “Confessions of a Basketball Junkie.”
“Confessions” was much more than a basketball book, however. I said in my review: “The bedrock of “Confessions” is the the evolution of Dunbar as a scholar and the discussions of a variety of philosophies. You don't read Dirk Dunbar but rather you absorb Dirk Dunbar.” (https://www.neffzone.com/cadillacnews/2016february6/)
In his latest book, “Renewing The Balance,” Dunbar the scholar is center court. Now a humanities professor at Northwest Florida State College and a two-time grant recipient from the Center of Theology and Natural Sciences, he challenges readers to deeply consider how “many of us are out of balance with the world inside and around us.”
As I read “Balance,” I could not help but recall the words of Brother JC Crawford as he introduced the Michigan heavy metal band, The MC5, at a 1968 concert in Detroit. (Hang with me here; this may be a stretch.) “The time has come for each and every one of you to decide whether you are going to be the problem or whether you are going to be the solution. It takes five seconds. Five seconds of decision. Five seconds to realize your purpose on the planet.”
Indeed, what Dunbar seeks to accomplish is stated early in the book. “My theme is straightforward. I will trace the evolution of nature's polarities as they are conveyed in three paradigms: the balance expressed in Earth wisdom traditions of ancient China, India, Greece, and Native America, the lack of balance in the West's logocentric value system, and the renewal of balance via the 1960s revolution. My goal is to show how the feminine, ecological impulse of Earth wisdom is being reintegrated into the West's patriarchal, progress-oriented worldview.”
Considering Dunbar's theme, needless to say this may not be the type of book you take to the beach for a few hours of mindless escapism. However, if you like books that make you think, “Balance” is such an experience. Expect to underline passages, make notes in the margins, and put the book on your lap during periods of contemplation.
Dunbar takes the reader on an adventure spanning much of human experience, thought, and philosophy spanning from BCE (Before Common Era) to the present day. Explorations of Chinese concepts (yin and yang), Native-American traditions, Greek philosophy, Christian theology, Romantic and Beat writers, rock artists, and even filmmakers.
Each section is interesting, but Cadillacans might particularly enjoy Dunbar's observations about Native American philosophies. He relates how he was introduced to this lore at Camp Torenta on Lake Mitchell and later at local Indian sites and museums. Some of my favorite parts of “Balance” are quotes by Black Elk. “Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the world always works in circles and everything tries to be round...The wind, in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nests in circles...The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle...Even the seasons form a great circle and always come back again to where they were.”
At the core of “Balance” is the assertion that we residents of this planet have lost our sense of “balance” and Dunbar asserts that there is a way to restore our equilibrium. He lays out an ecocentric paradigm. “Ecocentrism is a worldview and value system that honors nature, seeks sustainability, and pursues egalitarian relations between humans, other species, and ecosystems.”
This view stresses ecological wisdom. “Ecological wisdom centers on creating and sustaining the ways and means for healthy cohabitation with all of the planet's life forms.” This view also encompasses the fields of ecophilosophy and ecotheology.
“The lessons are clear and practical: we belong to Earth's body; our species is merely a strand in life's web; and what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves.”
Near the end of the book, Dunbar proclaims: “We need to recognize that Earth, with help from cosmic forces, has mothered us into existence and our purpose for being here is to celebrate her abundance with one another. That is the ecocentric vision, and balance is the key to realizing it.”
This includes a rethinking of what we are doing as Americans: “Along with its citizens, U.S. leadership has to recognize that the American way of life must be open to negotiation.”
The final sentence of “Balance” succinctly professes Dunbar's theme: “I believe we are meant to evolve, to see ever clearer that we share a journey blessed by the mindfulness that guides nature.”
Whether you agree or disagree with Dunbar, he realizes that honest, respectful debate is part of scholarship. As he notes: “The more you learn the less you know.” For any thoughtful reader, “Restoring the Balance” is a valuable enterprise. (https://dirkdunbar.com/2015/08/27/renewing-the-balance/)
MEET THE AUTHOR: Dirk Dunbar will be doing a presentation followed by a Q and A on Friday, July 14, from 6:00-7:00 PM in the Cadillac High School auditorium. He will doing a book signing for both “Renewing The Balance” and “Confessions of a Basketball Junkie” before and after the presentation. The public is invited.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read NeffZone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.