Indeed one of the most essential bodily skills that every child has to master before being able to make his or her way in a boot-clad society such as our own, is the art of tying shoelaces — Tim Ingold, Being Alive
We started The Alpine Review under the assumption that we were at a unique moment in time. That we stood at a point of radical transition and transformation. That the world, in short, was changing. The magazine was our way of observing, tracking, and understanding those changes: you climb to the summit, take a moment to pause, and take in the view.
Since then we’ve come to see the world, not so much as changing, but more simply as moving. We stand at a singular turning point in history, it’s true. And yet at a more fundamental level, we have always been at such a “point.” Turning and turning as it always has, the world has forever been complicated, intriguing, mysterious to human beings. The result, for us, has been to take greater interest in understanding how that fundamental movement works.
The pitfall of thinking that the world is changing now more than ever— what we’ve been calling the egoism of the present—is that it gives us permission to make drastic decisions, celebrate innovation for innovation’s sake, and fetishize disruption without much consideration for the collateral damage it causes in the meantime. By holding fast to some idea of the world—of unprecedented sophistication and technological progress—we lose track of the way it really is.
Alan Watts warned us decades ago that by focusing on rigid abstractions rather than organic situations, we are starving ourselves to death by “eating menus.” Robert Rowland Smith similarly cautions us that by relying too much on ideas, we make the world look too clean. A bit like Velcro, ideas are useful for latching onto something but don’t snag the fullness of life.
Tim Ingold, in a wonderful exploration of movement, offers us another metaphor: by focusing on the banks of the river and the bridges that connect points between them, we lose sight of the river itself—the whole reason everything else is there. Beneath every system of fixed points, beneath every network of plotted nodes, lies the movement of nature from which all else arises. If we are to understand this movement, we have to give up our position and move along with it.
It was in this spirit that we tied our shoes and did a considerable amount of walking after we launched the second issue almost three years ago. The issue you’re holding was created by a new team led by Patrick Pittman. Call it movement in our little world.
We’ve also experimented with a variety of different projects, offline and online, animated by the same editorial mission that we call “strategies of understanding.” You can read more about those at the end of the book.
And so, here we are. Back again to trace the movements of the serpentine twenty-first century, sometimes strolling, sometimes racing along. Thanks for joining us. Make sure your shoes are tied.
— Louis-Jacques Darveau, fall 2016