Friday, June 07, 2013

Read This Book!

I have just begun David Abram's Becoming Animal. As is my deplorable habit, I've already jumped around a bit and for all you raven-maniacs (of which I am one) there is a fabulous account tucked away here. But for the full impact you have to read the whole book.

He also wrote The Spell of the Sensuous, which I have on order.

Thank you, Kevin in Connecticut, for putting me on to this book!!!

----------- Excerpt---------

'...corporeal life is indeed difficult. To identify with the sheer physicality of one's flesh may well seem lunatic...there are things out and about that can eat us and ultimate will. Small wonder, then, that we refer to abstract ourselves whenever we can, imagining ourselves into theoretical spaces less fraught with insecurity, conjuring [p. 7] more amenable to calculation and control.

'Even among ecologists and environmental activists, there's a tacit sense that we'd better not let our awareness come too close to our creaturely sensations, that we'd best keep our arguments girded with statistics and our thoughts buttressed with abstractions, lest we succumb to an overwhelming grief—a heartache born of our organism's instinctive empathy with the living land and its cascading losses. Lest we be bowled over and broken by our dismay at the relentless devastation of the biosphere.

'Thus do we shelter ourselves from the harrowing vulnerability of bodied existence. But by the same gesture, we also insulate ourselves from the deepest wellsprings of joy...

'...Only by welcoming uncertainty from the get-go can we acclimate ourselves eto the shattering wonder that enfolds us. This animal body, for all its susceptibility and vertigo, remains the primary instrument of all our knowing, as the capricious earth remains our primary cosmos.'


Blogger changeinthewind said...

Hi Maggie,

I am raven partial and love a good story of these amazing birds!

3:59 pm, June 07, 2013  
Blogger changeinthewind said...

The excerpt you include from this book strikes a chord.

Perhaps this innate need to have life in some manner abstracted, to be somehow in control, is why we like making so much.

I like art. Gardens. Books. Poems. Messing around with rocks. Walking with a dog. Providing a piece of another's happiness.

The last one offers really good shelter; making happiness for another offers an effective shield from much of what passes by these days. Does nothing to stop such passing by.

Why is that?

12:28 am, June 08, 2013  
Anonymous Hanna said...

Still waiting for the books to get here. The excerpt you posted is still on my mind.

I wonder how much of the cruelty and suffering we create and inflict on each other is because of this abstracting of life. Of turning living, breathing beings into objects and standing away from their suffering because objects can't suffer whether they be human, tree or insect.

Would we be able to stand by and watch without this abstraction or would we be compelled to stand in harm's way if necessary to prevent greater damage?

Is it even possible to wield power over others without first turning them into objects (and doing the same to ourselves in the process)?

10:04 am, June 16, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Right on, Hannah.

You might also like Buber's 'I and Thou' in the Kaufmann translation. It's a more abstract discussion (and he deliberately made it not easy to slow people's reading speed down—but it's hugely rewarding

10:26 am, June 16, 2013  
Anonymous Hanna said...

Thank you for the Buber recommendation. Still reading. Densely packed, containing worlds.

9:55 am, June 18, 2013  
Blogger Laura said...

Hello Maggie,
I read Becoming Animal last summer and was struck by how different it was from Spell of the Sensuous. Once I stopped more or less expecting BA to be the same kind of scholarly text Spell is, I found it rich with poetic insight. I am wondering if you have read Spell yet. I would be most interested in anything you might have to say about it.
Tangentially, I just devoured The Fountain and the Furnace while on retreat at Gethsemani. Thank you for writing it.

1:06 am, July 06, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Hi Laura,

I just received 'Spell of the Sensuous' and while I was taken with the beginning, I decided not to finish it right now because I know that phenomenology misses the boat.

Thank you for your kind words about 'Fountain'.



5:34 am, July 06, 2013  

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