All that could be heard was the shifting of the snow against the door, a sound so soothing that it made the quiet tangible, the way mountains at the edge of a prairie make it seem larger. Out of that silence came the words I read, spoken by a Caribou Inuit, a hundred years older than we. “All true wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of men, in the great solitudes; and it can only be attained through suffering.” I wondered if this shack qualified. Perhaps it did… but I doubted that I had ever suffered long enough, or that Lars had either, to attain the sort of wisdom the old hunter meant. In some ways what we were now doing—reading—disqualified us forever from that state of grace, for the literate person carries around with him a storehouse of experiences he has never had, a memory of places he has never set foot in—a world beyond his horizons where he can imagine assistance, no matter how tenuous, and a possible excape from his present, no matter how illusory. Those who have never read, or even seen a film, are wedded to the demands of the country in a much purer and inextricable way. Lars, without the means to leave northwestern Greenland, but with the knowledge of what lay beyond it, was one step removed from the old hunters’ union. I was most distant of all.

–Ted Kerasote

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