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Salvation by Geography


书名是“Who am I? An autobiography of emotion, mind, and spirit”, 1999年完成于威斯康斯。说到段义孚,国内学地理的学生可能也不知道他是何方神圣,得悉这么一位儒雅的老先生也是由于北师大的周教授在人文地理课上的介绍和她seminar进一步引导以至最后促成的讲座而至的。简而言之,段义孚先生是一位地理学家,人本地理学(Human Geography)的开创人,是一位院士,是一位华人,是一位“孤独”但”充实“的老人了。之所以说很多人不知道段先生,就在于他所研究的内容往往不认为是地理学,看看他书的题目,Segmented worlds and selfCosmos and HearthDominance and Affection,《道德和想象》(Morality and Imagination),Passing Strange and Wonderful,《逃避主义》(Escapism),很难有人认为这是地理学家而非哲学家的书。这里面可能只有《恋地情结》(Topophilia),空间和地方(Space and Place)是最”地理“感觉的名称,但真正的内容按先生的话是非”mainstream“的地理。


先说后者,按照段先生的话, A scholar wishes, above all, for intellectual fulfillment. 这本自传,横跨了段先生的少年到老年,也引出了他的十本人本地理学著作,写作的机缘和内容的主旨,这当然是一段值得骄傲的事情,至少在我看来(段先生可能很好的拿捏了这份骄傲感)。其中最吸引我的一段是问到为什么自己是地理学家的时候,之于我,特别共鸣。

为何这么说呢,因为每次当有人问我是学什么的时候,对于stranger,或者说我想引起戏剧性的效果,我总喜欢用地理来回答,往往对方都惊讶到现在还有人学白垩纪岩层这种东西,然后我们的对话就可以戛然而止。而对于真正知道的人,他往往会问我是做城市、遥感、找矿什么一类更具体的内容,这样我才有点兴致解释一下我是做什么的;对于真正的同行和对地理学有兴致的人,我才把我对地理的挚爱表现出来。这可能也是段先生书中”Most people have to hide their dislike in the interest of social harmony“的一种表现吧。


“My vocation in geography can be baffling to colleagues in other disciplines. At faculty socials, I have been asked “why are you a geographer, or why do you can yourself one?””

I respond in three ways, each geared to a different level of seriousness.

At social gathering, when people are not at their most attentive, I am likely to say, “As a child, I moved around a great deal with my family, and there is nothing like travel to stimulate one’s appetite for geography”

My second and more thoughtful response is “I have always had an inordinate fear of losing my way. Of course, no one likes to be lost, but my dread of it is excessive. I suspect that more than physical discomfort is at stake. To be lost is to be paralyzed, there being no reason to move one way rather than another. Even back and front cease to be meaningful. Life, with no sense of direction, is drained of purpose. So, even as a child, I concluded that I had to be a geographer so as to ensure that I should never be disoriented.” Geographers, I assume, always knew where they were. They always had a map somewhere — either in their backpack or in their head.

I sometimes say reasingly to environmentalists that, unlike them, I am a genuine lover of nature. But by “nature” I mean the planet Earth, not just its veneer — and of life, and the whole universe, which is overwhelmingly inorganic. This leads to my most serious reply to the question: I took up geography because I have always wondered, perhaps to a neurotic degree, about the meaning of existence: I want to know what we are doing here, what we want out of life.



段先生这本自传从小时候开始,而他自小辗转很多国家居住生活,国内的抗战和奔波在外的生活给了他开阔的视野,所以段先生说他的人生舞台跟一般人相反,是从一种world stage和public events(段先生曾是国内战争时期的中产阶级,其父居官位,段祺瑞是其远亲)到local stage和private events(越来越内省,喜欢非生命的物质的美丽,不喜交际等)的转变。这是书的第二和第三章的主要内容。


书的第五章题目我借来作为本篇的题目,以其创作的各个著作为线,介绍了自己的创作缘由。这也为我列了一份书单,让我可以挑选想看的。比如cosmos and hearth
涉及到了欧洲人际关系关于从公众到私密的变化,以及这种变化反映在房屋戏院的建造格局(越来越需要私密空间)上的区别;又比如space and place第一次将place的概念用到了人身上,比如母亲就是你的避风港,而移动的物体,比如游艇飞机,仍然能在短时间内达到一种归属感;Dominance and Affection里面最早介绍的被驯化的不是物体,而是水(Water),比如为了审美目的的喷泉,当然还有我们听过的例子盆景,这已经脱离我们一般认为的宠物(pets)的范畴。所以说,先生的孤独给了他更多的时间思考,也给了他更多的独特的观点。其中有一段讲到为什么这些也算地理的时候,说地理学不过是研究人地关系,自然地理学家想的是生物、物理等等的关系,而人文地理学家重视的是经济人口的压力,而人本地理学家往往从审美的情感的和精神的(aesthetic, emotional, spiritual)角度切入

随着内省的一步步深入,对于真理,对于世界美好的思考,引向了最后一章的good life。段先生用了一个问号,对什么是good life进行了质问。也将这份孤独感推向了高潮。这一章有三个故事特别值得回味,一个是先生感觉不适之后打电话求助最后非常辗转得救但是再也不敢在公共场合和同事吃饭的故事,一个是生日的时候约好的庆生的两人得病不能来而跟一位9岁的小孩在在附近一起吃饭的故事,最后一个是他的一位学生在发现他住在他家对面之后他们一起在咖啡店的聚会。这一份冷漠,先生能如此平和的面对,我还是不得不佩服。先生也说这一份不成熟,其实每个人都有的不成熟,就是原创的灵感。可能在外人看来,这是一个古怪的老头,但是其内心的挣扎和孤寂却是我无法用言语描述的,虽不能说有戚戚焉,但我能很感动,一种抽离的距离感的感动。


I was alone, driving west late — well past midnight — across the sparely settled landscapes of Nebraska. My car and another one ahead were the only two on the narrow highway. We kept each other company. I was never a confident driver, least of all in the dark, so I appreciated the front car’s twilights, which guided me and made me feel safe. Just when I was beginning to take my companion for granted, his right-turn signal started to flicker. A friendly gesture, I thought, but also regrettable, because I was going to be left to myself. The car turned into a country lane. Henceforth, I had only my own headlights to show me the way. They illuminated a short stretch of the road and were then absorbed by a wall of darkness.


这是第一次看完一部英文著作(哈利波特除外),特别是段先生这种几乎是native speaker的作者,曾经周教授说他比native writer还native,就在于其深厚的文学和哲学修养,很多词汇都是其原创(原话应该是凭空创造的),所以读起来难免被无数的修辞和生僻的形容打断,但是幸运的是,段先生真的是很好的作者,或者说诉说者,自传里面,对于情感和精神的描述虽然看起来很累,但是穿插的大大小小的故事却引人入胜的使得这些道理看起来那么浅显易懂。


Posted on January 3rd, 2009 by Registered Commenterhedgehog in Academic | 学海无涯, Bookshelf | 书山有路 | CommentsPost a comment

Reader Comments (8)


January 3rd, 2009 | Registered Commenterrainbowrain

isolation injustice

January 3rd, 2009 | Registered Commenterrainbowrain

I remembered that when I was in senior middle school, we always wrote articles about expectation of living in a isolated and quiet world, in the mountain or somewhere like this, out of secular crowded life, and enjoying of solitary life there. However, when we grew up and made more friends. The bonds, ranging from affection, friendship to love, made us fear of solitude, isolation and alienation. However, we have to face it and adapt with it. I think, this is so-called growth-up pains. To me, I am alone in Canada. But as you said, at least, we have internet. So I appreciate all the relationships with you all, guys, which continue to give me courage and guts to face the solitude and involve in the life, either academic or social, here.

January 3rd, 2009 | Registered Commenterhedgehog


January 3rd, 2009 | Registered CommenterTao


January 3rd, 2009 | Registered Commenterhedgehog



January 4th, 2009 | Registered Commenter大豆


January 14th, 2009 | Registered Commenter


January 14th, 2009 | Registered Commenterhedgehog