Friday, October 21, 2005

Eyes turned inward

So I'm currently reading David Abram Spell of the Sensuous and I've got to say what a brilliant book. The guys writing is beautiful, lucid enough to explain a complex subject without over romanticism and wild conjecture, yet poetic enough to conjure his spell over you and drag you right into his worldview.

His basic premise is that we as a species have lost touch with nature and our surroundings, that our comodification and exploitation of the natural world comes from our philosophical tendency to separate our-selves from the world around us. Our mind/body or spirit/mind dichotomy alienates from our surrounding and turns us into observers rather than participators of reality.

For example when I look at another object, say a blackbird, I see an object labelled blackbird rather than another intelligent entity that's sharing the experience of reality with me. Or if I rest my back against a tree, I consider only that I feel the tree against my back not that the tree can also feel me.

This was especially poignant for me because I had started reading the book while waiting at Paddington station for a train up to Wales to visit my girlfriend. As I stood there, surrounded by an edifice of steel and glass, overflowing with of hundreds of people about to travel all across the country crammed in little wheeled boxes. I was struck by the overwhelming sense of dislocation cities confer on their inhabitants.

Within nature our senses are encouraged to turn outwards for our own survival. In order to find food and shelter we have to be aware of the subtle changes in our surrounds and engage them in a dialogue. Here nature is capacious, dangerous and awe-inspiring and living in it one must be aware of it's moods and fancies like a volatile lover, one moment soft and gentle the next flinging the plates across the room.

Contrast this with the man made space of cities, nature here is tamed and paved over by the accretions of our own consciousness. I believe with our senses barraged by constant stimulation and surrounded by thousands of tribes all forced to live in one village, we have been forced to turn our attention inwards for our own survival. Constructing mental spaces as a barrier to maintain our sanity against the press of strangers around us, inhabiting the space between our ears and pushing nature away to only be experienced in safe areas of parkland and woods. As I've mentioned before I've come to see cities as objectifications of our own collective consciousness, so it's no wonder that surrounded by our own mental space we've forgotten where that space ends and nature begins, choosing to mistake the earth as an object to own instead of a shared space to live.

2 Comments:

Anonymous paul said...

Dude, you're like so wasted in this decade - you belong back in the 60's!

Actually, nah, stuff that - let's start our own hippy revolution in the noughties instead! ;o)

3:42 am, October 25, 2005  
Blogger Adam said...

Let's all like eat granola, and learn to love one another and you know just get along man. Excuse me I'm just off to hug a tree.

It must be coz I'm growing my hair..:-)

3:50 am, October 25, 2005  

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