Reason for Hope : A Spiritual Journey

by Jane Goodall

Paper Book, 1999




New York, NY : Warner Books, 1999.


"Dr. Jane Goodall's revolutionary study of chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe preserve forever altered the very, definition of "humanity." Now, in a poignant and insightful memoir, Jane Goodall explores her extraordinary life and personal spiritual odyssey, with observations as profound as the knowledge she has brought back from the forest." "It has been a life blessed with faith, resolve, and purpose, though not without its crises. Jane Goodall endured the horrors of the London blitz and World War II, postwar hardships, vicious rumors and "establishment" assaults on the integrity of her work, a terrorist attack and hostage taking in Africa, and her husband's slow, agonizing death. But throughout, her religious convictions, although tested, have helped her survive - and Jane Goodall's pursuit of science has enhanced, not eroded, her belief in God." "In this book she candidly shares her life - talking of the love and support of her mother, her son, her late husband, of friends and strangers - as well as the Gombe chimpanzees she introduced to the world nearly forty years ago. And she gives us convincing reasons why we can and must open ourselves to the saints within each of us."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
The book is by the famous anthropologist Jane Goodall, whose studies of chimpanzees revolutionized how we think of our closest relative among living species and thus how we define being human. Her title signals this book is about a lot more than that groundbreaking work. This was found in the Nature section of my neighborhood bookstore, but was recommended to me as "inspirational non-fiction" on the Ultimate Reading List. Her credited co-author Philip Berman is a theologian and the project was first conceived as "a book of interviews--questions from a theologian to an anthropologist."

Reading this I could have wished for a lot more of the anthropological and less of the spiritual. This memoir of her experiences had its pleasures and moving moments. I loved the story about how Louis Leakey recruited Goodall, who at the time had never attended a university, to go off to study chimpanzees in the wild. And I certainly found moving her story about the death of her husband from cancer. I thought she was at her best though in chapters such as "The Roots of Evil," "Precursors to War" and "Compassion and Love" when she spoke directly out of her study and observations of chimpanzees. But there's a lot in her moral, political and spiritual outlook I find antithetical to mine that made it hard at times to hear her out. Frequently I found myself irritated, and found myself skimming large parts of chapters. I frankly squirmed reading about her psychic experiences. Her style is lucid enough, but having recently read Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, Goodall's prose did strike me in comparison as prosaic--this isn't a memoir you read out of literary merit. And when it came to so many of her political and spiritual views, there was so little I felt I hadn't heard many times before--that didn't feel like boilerplate. It's because there was so much in the book I couldn't take seriously, things outside the scope of her expertise, that despite fascinating bits in the book I can't rate this higher.

Was there any point in her arguments on issues I disagreed with where she got through to me? Interestingly, yes. Primarily in the Chapter "On the Road to Damascus" regarding animal research. I think it's significant that this was an issue where I didn't feel she was just repeating what many others had said. Her experiences observing chimpanzees, and her discussion of the cruelty of how they're treated in laboratories--ones she actually visited--resonated. Precisely because she spoke with the authority of direct experience. She also deflected a lot of my defenses by admitting the good that animal research had done; her own mother is alive because of animal research and the pig valve implanted in her heart. Yes, Goodall would like to someday eliminate animal experimentation, but the thrust of her argument was for treating the animals in laboratories as humanely as possible, and looking for alternatives. She didn't give anything like the PETA line that "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." And she gained my respect because of how she related how she actually sat down with researchers and worked with them to better the conditions of research animals--she didn't just hurl rhetorical bricks from outside the walls. So besides the fascinating look here and there at the experiences of a pioneering women in the study of primates, I learned a little about what it is that can break down resistance to truly considering the other side of an argument. And despite my disagreements with Goodall, at the finish of her book she had my admiration, liking and respect.
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LibraryThing member wanderingeileen
I began reading this book late December 2009, so counting it as one of my 52 books of this year is cheating a little. However, I'm hoping to make it beyond 52 books this year, and another of my goals is finishing books that I put down prematurely.

Jane Goodall has been a hero of mine for nearly my entire life, so when I saw this book on my cousin's bookshelf, I had to ask to borrow it. (Thanks Carrell!) For those who are not familiar with her, you should know that Goodall is a scientist, a conservationist and, I feel, one of the most important women in the history of mankind.

Her work in the Gombe National Forest in Tanzania, Africa, called into question what it is that makes each of us "human," and what separates us from our closest relatives -- chimpanzees, with whom less than 1 percent of our DNA differs.

Reason for Hope details not only Goodall's life and accomplishments, but also her spiritual journey. The book stems from a PBS special and a series of interviews conducted with theologian Phillip Berman. It's clear from the reading that Goodall poured a lot of her heart and soul into this book. Her writing is seamless, skillful yet conversational.

To give you a taste, from the inside cover:

"As a toddler she was entranced by all living things, and over the years the little girl inspired by Tarzan and The Jungle Book became the woman who found herself working with famed paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey; accomplished scientific breakthroughs in Gombe; and ultimately, became a champion of the environment.
It has been a life blessed with faith, resolve and purpose, though not without its crises. Jane Goodall endured the horrors of the London blitz and World War II, postwar hardships, vicious rumors and "establishment" assaults on the integrity of her work, a terrorist attack and hostage taking in Africa, and her husband's slow, agonizing death. But throughout, her religious convictions, although tested, have helped her survive -- and Jane Goodall's pursuit of science has enhanced, not eroded, her belief in God."

In the book, Goodall tells her life story in the context of her spiritual life and awakenings. It is, as most tales of spiritual journeys are, a deeply personal look not just at the accomplishments of her life, but at her very soul. I think one of the keys of Goodall's success is her openness with others; it is very easy to feel as though you know her, we all know her, just by watching her films or reading her words.

This book definitely gave me a deeper glimpse into the life and mind of one of my heroes. Like Goodall, from an early age I've felt called to cherish and protect animals and the environment. My parents tell stories of me as a toddler in the Kentucky bluegrass fields of my grandaddy's farm, standing on the highest rung of a fence and hooking my arms around the neck of a young, green filly. My parents were terrified the horse would pull away, dragging me along with her, or that I would get hurt by her sharp hooves. Instead, my beloved friend hooked her nose around me, returning the embrace.

I do not think that Goodall or myself are alone in our love of animals, or in the feeling that this earth is something entrusted into our stewardship. There are so many in this world who think the Earth is ours to rape; but, in Goodall's words a diffrent message rings true: There is no unholy ground, only holy and desecrated.

"Reason for Hope" has the literary feel of sitting at Goodall's feet while she recounts her life's lessons and passes on that wisdom. The reader is with her through the horrors of World War II and the bombings that England endured; with her in the forests of Gombe, when the first chimpanzee, David Graybeard, holds her hand, communicating his trust; and the reader is with her through her two marriages -- one ending in divorce, the other ending when her husband is taken by cancer. Even after that devestating tragedy she lives on -- she learns again to thrive -- and in the words of the book a window to her inner peace, her strength, is open.

I would highly reccomend this book to anyone who is looking to go on a journey with Goodall, but I feel it especially poignant for those -- like me -- who are afraid of what the future of this earth holds. In a time of so much destruction, chaos, warfare and pollution, it is easy to feel lost. In the end, Goodall really does offer hope for mankind and the Earth our lives are linked to.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
Goodall's autobiography focuses on her life and her faith journey and why she finds reasons for hope even in a world full of cruelty, violence, and environmental destruction. The first part of the book tells her life story and is a good compliment to Dale Peterson's biography as it is both more intimate and less detailed. In the latter chapters Goodall comments on various issues such as animals in medical research, the environment, and remarkable people she's met through her work. These parts can get didactic and cliched but overall this is a good book by a remarkable woman. Through a Window is better if you wish to learn more about Goodall and the chimpanzees of Gombe… (more)
LibraryThing member mms
A spiritually-bent woman whom has spent most of her life in the wild with chimpanzees speaks of her history and her current spiritual journey.
LibraryThing member Nancylouu
I loved this uplifting book!
LibraryThing member MarkPlunkett
I enjoyed this book. Of course, I had heard of Jane Goodall and her foundation but didn't realize that her passion is driven from a spiritual base. The story of her life is amazing to me, especially as I learned that she really just ventured out to Africa to fulfill a dream with no real training to do what she hoped to do.

I was challenged by the way she weaves together her spiritual understanding of creation with her scientific understanding of evolution ... not just physical, but also social and moral.

The purpose of her book can be summed up by a quote toward the end where she says … "every human, every unique being, plays some role in the shaping of progress, though only some get into history books. Throughout every second of every day there is change abroad in the world, change due to the impact of mind on mind; teacher and pupil, parent and child, world leader and citizen, writer or actor and the general public. Each one of us carries seeds for change. Seeds that need nurturing to realize their potential." (p. 203)
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LibraryThing member mirrani
I listened to the audio format of this book and had a pleasurable experience. I felt as if the balance between science, memoir, and reflection on spiritual matters had a fairly good balance. This wasn't a grand experience filled with relation and growth for me as a reader, but it was a good look into life, emotion, and feeling of someone I respect very much. Readers who know something of Goodall's life probably won't be surprised by the events mentioned here, but will likely enjoy the glimpse into her life events and the emotions those things brought to her life.… (more)
LibraryThing member juniperSun
Another British author. Another book checked off the list. What a sad thing to say about a book, especially when the author says she has "laid bare a lot of my mind, heart, and soul" (p. 276). Being a good person doesn't mean one can express their life and motivations in an interesting manner. There are some gems here, mixed in with the pedantry and polemics. My God, so many chapters dragging us thru all the ways humans are destroying the world and harming animals. Well, since people are still doing it, I guess it needs to be said.
Her stated reason for writing, tho, is to answer the question "where do you find hope?" And that, despite her rambling about the importance to her of Jesus, seems to be "from nature". Which is the same message now being promoted by Louv as the cure for Nature Deficit Disorder. I am glad for this message to be spread however it can. Additionally she finds that "Herein lies the real hope for our future--we are moving toward the ultimate destiny of our species--a state of compassion and love." (p. 251) She was stongly influenced by having lived through WWII, in Britain, and by what she heard about the horrors of the concentration camps. These are the horrors which forced her to ponder our humanity, and search out glimmers of hope.
She does her best to show how evolutionary theory fits with Christianity. In some of the chapters it is apparent Goodall is disputing some other labels: Dawkins' selfish gene theory, Erikson's Pseudospeciation (which she relabels cultural speciation).
With her discovery of tool use by chimpanzees, scientists have had to redefine what it means to be humans. Her definition seems to be that we are the language users. "the uniquely human ability to talk about that which is not present, share events of the distant past, plan for the far-off future, and, most important, discuss ideas, bouncing them back and forth to share the accumulated wisdom of an entire aritculate feelings of awe, feelings that would lead to religious belief..." (p.188)
Just as important, I feel, are her observations on parenting by chimpanzees, which meshes with what is experienced by humans. "a secure childhood was likely to lead to self-reliance and independence in adulthood while a disturbed early life might well result in an insecure adult...Mothers whe were...playful, affectionate, tolerant, and above all supportive, seemed to raise offspriing who, as adults, had good relaxed relationships with community members." (p.88-89)
Goodall ends with a challenge for us to each "take responsibility for our own lives" because "Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference" (p.266)
What are some other of the gems in this book?
"How sad it would be...if we humans ultimately were to lose all sense of mystery, all sense of awe. If our left brains were utterly to dominate the right so that logic and reason triumphed over intuition and alienated us absolutely from our innermost being, from our hearts, our souls." (p.177)
"That which is loved...can grow. We had to learn to understand and love this Spirit within in order to find peace within. And only then could we reach out beyond the narrow prison of our own lives..." (p.199)
"We cannot live through a day without impacting the world around us--and we have a choice: What sort of impact do we want to make?" (p.242)
This gem is a quote she used from Schweitzer: "A man who possesses a veneration of life will not simply say his prayers. He will throw himself into the battle to preserve life..." (p.251)
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