An Ethics of Wild Mind … An Interview with David Hinton

David Hinton:

Winter is a kind of pregnant emptiness. Spring emerges out of that—it flourishes. And life flourishes in summer and then dies back into that emptiness of winter. And you realize, oh, my thoughts are doing the same thing that the ten thousand things do—they’re part of the same tissue…. And so that’s another radical reweaving of consciousness and wildness—what I mean by “wild mind.”

Listen to the Conversation


Photo by Phil Dera

February 7, 2023

In this conversation, poet, translator, and author David Hinton calls for a radical reweaving of mind and land. Tracing the shifts in human consciousness that distanced us from nature, he draws on Tao and Ch’an Buddhist philosophy in an effort to help us navigate the sixth extinction with an ethics tempered by love.


Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee David, I want to start our conversation today by asking you to read a poem. It’s a poem that underpins much of what you explore in your new book Wild Mind, Wild Earth—an ancient Chinese poem that you suggest holds within it an ethics that we so desperately need at this time of great ecological crisis. Could you read that poem for us?

David Hinton Sure. It’s called Egrets.

Robes of snow, crests of snow, and beaks of azure


they fish in shadowy streams. Then startling away


flight, they leave emerald mountains for lit distances.

Pear blossoms, a tree-full, tumble in the evening


EV So tell me about this poem.

DH It’s a pretty typical classical Chinese poem that’s short—four lines, five words per line—written in the ninth century. And what’s interesting about it is that it’s all images. There’s sort of no abstract, isolated self looking out on the world thinking about it; it’s all the immediacy of crystalline images. The interesting thing about this is that after we see the egrets leave, suddenly in the last line there’s something completely different that has nothing to do with the egrets. There’s this big leap from the egrets leaving emerald mountains to suddenly pear blossoms, a tree-full, tumble in the evening wind. There’s no kind of logical connection between those. There’s a kind of imagistic connection, because the egrets are small, fluttering white things going up; and pear blossoms are small, white things fluttering down. But why did we go from one to the other? That’s part of the magic. Because images have no kind of abstract intellectual content. And then that leap between the two has no content. They’re empty.

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~

One thought on “An Ethics of Wild Mind … An Interview with David Hinton

  1. Ah, this was great. I posted the article on Facebook and itki inspired a poem. Reminded me of things Dolores LaChapelle, Gary Snyder, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Graeber & Wengrow have been saying over the years. Nice to see itki from Hinton’s Buddhist perspective.

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