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David Abram’s first book, The Spell of the Sensuous has become a classic of environmental literature. Now he returns with a startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature.As the climate veers toward catastrophe, the innumerable losses cascading through the biosphere make vividly evident the need for a metamorphosis in our relation to the living land. For too long we’ve ignored the wild intelligence of our bodies, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance. Abram’s writing subverts this distance, drawing readers ever closer to their animal senses in order to explore, from within, the elemental kinship between the human body and the breathing Earth. The shape-shifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in this book.
Ecologists and environmental theorists have paid little attention to our direct, sensory experience of the enveloping world. In this paper I discuss the importance of such experience for ecological philosophy. Merleau-Ponty’s careful phenomenology of perceptual experience shows perception to be an inherently creative, participatory activity-a sort of conversation, carried on underneath our spoken discourse, between the living body and its world. His later work discloses the character of language itself as a medium born of the body’s participation with a world experienced as alive. That living world is none other than the Earth
In The Spell of the Sensuous David Abram draws on sources as diverse as the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Balinese shamanism, Apache storytelling, and his own experience as an accomplished sleight-of-hand of magician to reveal the subtle dependence of human cognition on the natural environment. He explores the character of perception and excavates the sensual foundations of language, which–even at its most abstract–echoes the calls and cries of the earth. On every page of this lyrical work, Abram weaves his arguments with a passion, a precision, and an intellectual daring that recall such writers as Loren Eisleley, Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez.