'Navigating Tides': Science and spirituality

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Juneau author David La Chapelle has drawn upon the insights of scientists and philosophers, the faith of saints and mystics and the courage of revolutionaries and explorers for his new book, "Navigating the Tides of Change."

"People today are confronted with issues from global warming and environmental pollution to economics," La Chapelle said. The stress, distractions and pressures of American lifestyles further complicate and confuse people. La Chapelle said "Navigating the Tides of Change" offers ways to deal with these issues.

Hearthside Books in Nugget Mall will host a book-signing and performance at 5 p.m. Friday with La Chapelle. Jane Roodenburg and Julie Pigott will provide musical accompaniment.

La Chapelle has lived in Juneau for 13 years, and serves as a consultant with a variety of organizations involved with social change and consciousness research. He is a research associate with The Institute for Noetic Sciences based in the San Francisco Bay area. He spends about three weeks every two or three months traveling, he said.

"It's not so much a reading," La Chapelle said of Friday's presentation. "I'll be retelling some of the stories from the book. I'll also talk about the book and highlight some of the basic ideas."

The book addresses personal growth and social growth. La Chapelle contends that solutions to personal and global issues are often apparent in the problems themselves.

"I have spent a good part of my life listening to the stories of individuals who are in the midst of some sort of crisis. I have never yet heard a story that was not imbedded in a larger context," La Chapelle writes. "When a person's story is connected to a larger field of meaning, those same problems and difficulties become indicators of the deepest truths."

La Chapelle studied philosophy and yoga in America and India and has worked primarily as a teacher and writer. He has led wilderness quests and retreats in Colorado and Alaska.

Julie Pigott has attended La Chapelle's retreats and read his work. She collaborated with him several years ago for a series of performances he wrote on the lives of saints and mystics.

"He's really compassionately insightful," Pigott said. "He has an ability to look past the surface. He has a gift for knowing how to help people to uncover the pain and the barriers that get in the way of them growing."

She said in "Navigating the Tides of Change," La Chapelle weaves together a variety of perspectives.

"He's reaching across all different viewing points, the scientific and those who are less cerebral and more heart oriented," she said.

The book includes 14 interludes, short sections that close each chapter by offering fictional first person vignettes from the lives of historical figures. Scientists Robert Oppenheimer and Dmitri Mendeleyev, mystics Milarepa and Rumi, and American social revolutionaries Harriet Tubman and Jane Addams are among the characters.

La Chapelle used imagination and research to create the scenes, which balance the discussions of ideas.

"I find in any of the teaching workshops I do, it is important to balance the intellectual ideas with a little more heartful offerings," he said.

British explorer Ernest Shackleton is featured in one passage.

"I wanted somebody that was European, from this culture, and who embodied the height of that exploration (era)," La Chapelle said. "Now the challenge is to explore the inner world."

La Chapelle has self-published six books, including "Mountains of Light" in 1994, which he called his most successful book to date. "Navigating the Tides of Change" is published in Canada by New Society Publishers.

La Chapelle has three other books and a play in progress. This year he also contributed a chapter to a book titled, "Arctic Refuge: A Circle of Testimony," edited by Hank Lentfer and Carolyn Servid, which was released earlier this month.

"Navigating the Tides of Change" is available at Hearthside Books.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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