I was born in 1938 on the South Side of Chicago. Before the age of ten I roamed the city by street car, the "El" and bicycle. My father, a German-Jewish merchant from New York, taught himself Spanish and German and traveled the world buying and selling the innards of animals. As an adolescent I worked on the floor of a meat packing plant in the Stockyards. My mother was born in the stettl in the Ukraine from which Trotsky came. A revolutionary uncle was arrested carrying a pistol after the 1905 uprising and escaped from prison to Canada. The family followed. My grandfather was a store keeper and Indian trader. An uncle spoke Cree. My parents met in Baghdad.
With some interruptions I was educated from kindergarten through a Masterís degree at the University of Chicago. There I imbibed the Great Books and studied mathematics. In the waning days of McCarthy, consensus society, and the gray flannel suit I aspired to live as a bohemian intellectual. At the University of Chicago, it was taken as a matter of course that one could be both a scientist and humanist.
In 1960 I went to Berkeley where I got a Ph.D. in mathematics, was involved in the civil rights and free speech movements and opposed the Vietnam War. In 1964, I began doing research on the history of science and went to Princeton at the invitation of Thomas Kuhn, author of "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions."
In 1967 I was hired by the Sociology Department at Brandeis University where I taught for 30 years. At Brandeis my courses ranged from the Sociology of Science to the study of crowds, social movements and community organizing. My students and I actively opposed the war in Vietnam.
My life dramatically changed in 1969. I accompanied my brother on a canoe trip from the middle of the Canadian Northwest Territories down the Coppermine River to the Arctic Ocean. There I encountered raw nature which shook me to the core. For the next eight years I split my time between being a professor, exploring nature and working with my hands. I helped homestead in northern Canada, worked as a migrant laborer, counted trees in the jungles of British Honduras, and wandered around Mexico and central America.
Another turn in my life came in 1977 when I began meditating. At the time I was living in an old mill house thirty miles west of Boston. I continued to teach university but also grew vegetables for the Cambridge Food Co-op, and did a series of meditation retreats at the Insight Meditation Society which lay thirty miles further west. For the next twenty years my life followed the same pattern: teaching, meditating, and connecting to nature. I studied some biology, helped build meditation centers, and lived in communities. My teaching was drawn from my life. For some 17 years, I taught my students to meditate in classes on the social psychology of consciousness. I also developed a series of courses exploring humansí relationship to nature as we moved from being hunter-gatherers to denizens of modern civilization
Around 1993 I began work on the two books, Dismantling Discontent and Meditation in the Wilds: Recluses, Hermits and Forest Monks. In 1997 I moved to California where I now live under redwood trees north of San Francisco. I have taken First Nationís youth on field trips in northern British Columbia and acted as "old man of the woods" for kids' nature camps. I teach meditation, am an associate of a financial planning firm, Abacus Wealth Partners, assist elderly women, care for grandchildren, write, teach natural history and spend time meditating and looking at birds, flowers, and insects.
Copyright © 2007 Dr. Charles S. Fisher
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