The explorer, environmentalist and treasured author Peter Matthiessen was the first on filmmaker Rebecca Dreyfus’ wish list to feature in On Meditation, a series of personal shorts exploring the subject alongside other notable deep-thought practitioners including David Lynch. Matthiessen passed away earlier this month, leaving behind the legacy of a large life as a one-time CIA employee turned co-founder of The Paris Review. He will be remembered most as the author of the cherished natural-world travelogue The Snow Leopard, which was awarded two National Book Awards in the US. Below, Dreyfus recollects her time with Matthiessen for NOWNESS.
It’s inspiring to see someone who treated life as a relentless search for new places and ideas, with a general hunger for meaning. Few have lives that include that much adventure. I’ve met a lot of very accomplished people but Peter really lived beautifully.
I don’t think you can separate his life from his writing. He stood up for what he believed in. Whether it was for American-Indian people or animals or his very last novel In Paradise that takes place at a meditation retreat at Auschwitz, he never stopped thinking about the bigger picture.
Peter once said to me: “You can have meaning or you can have rest but you can’t have both.” I’m still trying to figure that out.