Eco-ethics from the mountain to the city

I guess everyone spends a few years after undergrad wondering if they should go back to school. I haven’t ruled it out yet. But I have realise one very important thing. Studying doesn’t have to be something I do in school—it can be a hobby.

I earned a humanities degree and it was truly invaluable—for the connections, the critical thinking, the confidence to learn independently, and the research skills. But the substance of what I studied—east asian religions and english literature—my current interest in those subjects is not enough to carry a career in academia. It’s certainly not deep enough that I want to spend two years learning Classical Chinese, a prerequisite for just starting a Master’s degree.

It’s all still fascinating of course. I just don’t think I’ll get past the point of simply learning to the point where I could do original research. So at this point, learning is my hobby.

There’s another possibility, of course. I can help those who are doing the original research share their findings with the world. Help find new ways to bring these fascinating stories to audiences outside the academy. That’s what I hope I’m doing with stories like this.

Mark McGuire is one of the hip, young professors I met in Montreal that inspired me to learn so much about east asian religions. A professor at John Abbott College on the West Island, his teaching interests are world religions, applied sustainability research, and world cinema. This all crystalized in his film project Shugendo Now, a uniquely poetic documentary focusing on Japanese mountain asceticism in modern times. I had the privilege of seeing an early cut while in school, and it’s wonderful to see what he and Jean-Marc Abela have accomplished in the final product.

When Terra Informa was planning a live show focused on spirituality and the environment, I immediately thought of shugendo. In this story, hosted with Nicole Wiart, I’ve enlisted Mark’s help to explore the eco-ethics arising out of this little-known Japanese spiritual practice.

This story originally aired on Terra Informa in August, 2013.