other stuff, reviews

Wandering Scots

I’ve just been to a fascinating lecture by the writer and geopoet Kenneth White. His basic theme was that it is in the very nature of us Scots to up and wander off abroad at the slightest provocation.

To a certain extent I agree. For a small nation we have definitely travelled more than our fair share in both the physical and the intellectual worlds. He cited such luminaries as David Hume and (my hero) Robert Louis Stevenson among others. We may have produced hordes of great thinkers and adventurers but for each of those who soar there are very many who wallow in indolence and self pity, whining about being hard done by, blaming others but engaging in no independent action or thought. White himself has always been far better received abroad than at home.

I think coming from a nation of nay-sayers and stick-in-the-muds makes the achievements of White, and Wandering Scots like him, all the more glorious. Scotland is like a crucible in which some of the world’s best and brightest souls are forged. But, in order to shine they have to have sufficient strength of mind or character to haul themselves out of the quagmire of self-doubt and negativity. To escape the curse of “I kent his faither”. Once they’ve done that, there’s very little in the world that can stop them.

I enjoy Kenneth White’s work. He blends science, philosophy, poetry and travel writing into a style he calls geopoetics. He plays with language and is quite staggeringly well read. I went, by chance, to one of his lectures some years ago and was immediately drawn by the similarities between his various interests and my own. His admiration of RLS (after whom this blog is named) was a particular hook.

Tonight I was reminded what a unique thinker he is. Perhaps it’s time to write him that letter I’ve so often considered. Who knows? He might even write back!


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