For the Birds Radio Program: Book Review: The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life

Original Air Date: Sept. 9, 1996 Rerun Dates: July 7, 1997

Today Laura Erickson reviews Thomas Moore’s new book, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life. 3:54

Audio missing


Now and then I meet somebody who tells me that it’s impossible to find a good book nowadays-­ that modern bookstores are filled with trash, so why even bother to visit them? That’s sort of a rude thing to say to any author. I personally wouldn’t have minded missing out on Howard Stern flaunting his Private Parts over the bestseller racks, but there are real gems sitting right there on the same shelves. I’m especially taken with one book came out last year—Thomas Moore ‘ s The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, which serves in some ways as a companion to Moore’s Care of the Soul and Soul Mates. Moore understands the deep dissatisfactions that many of us feel with modern life, and encourages us to return to the simple , lovely sources of enchantment that filled us with wonder as children. He writes, in the introduction:

Enchantment is an ascendancy of the soul, a condition that allows us to connect, for the most part lovingly and intimately, with the world we inhabit and the people who make up our families and communities. Without enchantment we try rationally to forge those intimacies and make those connections, but our efforts are futile. Just consider the common complaints voiced against modern culture: the modern family is falling apart, marriages can’t hold, neighborhoods are disappearing, and nature is being ravaged. We’re not holding together, and that is a problem of love and attachment. But if we were to live in an enchanted world, we’d be motivated toward intimacy and closeness.

Moore spends the rest of the book explaining how to restore that intimacy and closeness as we relate to nature , our home, our habitat, and our world. He opens the book with a discussion of the importance of nature to the human soul, writing:

All lessons in enchantment begin with nature: with animals that exhibit “pure soul,” as Robert Sardello once remarked; with day and night, season and tide—natural rhythms; with our own instincts and sensations, our own nature, part of and reflective of the natural world around us. It’s easy to speak philosophically and abstractly about being part of nature, but the important thing is to live that realization, to make local nature a concrete element in daily life. This is a necessary initial step in the re-enchantment of our individual lives , although it will take a while for society as a whole to discover that it can’t survive humanely without surrendering some authority and initiative to nature.

Although Moore makes no particular reference to birds, it’s easy to seeing how our awareness of and interactions with the birds around us may enrich and enchant our everyday lives. I’ve had many momentary encounters with birds that were filled with wonder and enchantment, and Moore’s exquisite book, as rich with feeling and emotion as with intelligence and ideas, explains the importance and loveliness of those experiences, and why it’s so important for all of us to seek out enchanted moments to stay connected with the world and our place in it. The Re­ enchantment of Everyday Life is a great book–the kind I was glad to pay for in hardbound rather than waiting for the paperback.