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Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram
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Becoming Animal Quotes (showing 1-30 of 32)
“Breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next...”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“Such reciprocity is the very structure of perception. We experience the sensuous world only by rendering ourselves vulnerable to that world. Sensory perception is this ongoing interweavement: the terrain enters into us only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be taken up within that terrain.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples who still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion.

Nor is this power restricted solely to animals. The whispered hush of the uncut grasses at dawn, the plaintive moan of trunks rubbing against one another in the deep woods, or the laughter of birch leaves as the wind gusts through their branches all bear a thicket of many-layered meanings for those who listen carefully. In the Pacific Northwest I met a man who had schooled himself in the speech of needled evergreens; on a breezy day you could drive him, blindfolded, to any patch of coastal forest and place him, still blind, beneath a particular tree -- after a few moments he would tell you, by listening, just what species of pine or spruce or fir stood above him (whether he stood beneath a Douglas fir or a grand fir, a Sitka spruce or a western red cedar). His ears were attuned, he said, to the different dialects of the trees.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“There are so many unsung heroines and heroes at this broken moment in our collective story, so many courageous persons who, unbeknownst to themselves, are holding together the world by their resolute love or contagious joy. Although I do not know your names, I can feel you out there.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“How monotonous our speaking becomes when we speak only to ourselves! And how insulting to the other beings – to foraging black bears and twisted old cypresses – that no longer sense us talking to them, but only about them, as though they were not present in our world…Small wonder that rivers and forests no longer compel our focus or our fierce devotion. For we walk about such entities only behind their backs, as though they were not participant in our lives. Yet if we no longer call out to the moon slipping between the clouds, or whisper to the spider setting the silken struts of her web, well, then the numerous powers of this world will no longer address us – and if they still try, we will not likely hear them.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth- our larger body- to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles. We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing earth. Sleep is the shadow of the earth as it seeps into our skin and spreads throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it- cells, tissues, and organs taking their prime directives now from gravity and the wind- as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wander the drifting landscape of our earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“Human language, for us moderns, has swung in on itself, turning its back on the beings around us. Language is a human property, suitable only for communication with other persons. We talk to people; we do not speak to the ground underfoot. We've largely forgotten the incantatory and invocational use of speech as a way of bringing ourselves into deeper rapport with the beings around us, or of calling the living land into resonance with us. It is a power we still brush up against whenever we use our words to bless and to curse, or to charm someone we're drawn to. But we wield such eloquence only to sway other people, and so we miss the greater magnetism, the gravitational power that lies within such speech. The beaver gliding across the pond, the fungus gripping a thick trunk, a boulder shattered by its tumble down a cliff or the rain splashing upon those granite fragments -- we talk about such beings, the weather and the weathered stones, but we do not talk to them.

Entranced by the denotative power of words to define, to order, to represent the things around us, we've overlooked the songful dimension of language so obvious to our oral [storytelling] ancestors. We've lost our ear for the music of language -- for the rhythmic, melodic layer of speech by which earthly things overhear us.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“It was a though we’d been living for a year in a dense grove of old trees, a cluster of firs, each with its own rhythm and character, from whom our bodies had drawn not just shelter but perhaps even a kind of guidance as we grew into a family.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“Other animals, in a constant and mostly unmediated relation with their sensory surroundings, think with the whole of their bodies.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“Our surmises regarding the subtle functions of neural processes within the brain are profoundly constrained by the fact that the brain did not evolve in order to understand itself. The complex organization of the brain evolved as a consequence of our sensorial and muscled engagement with the landscapes that surround us.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“Each thing organizes the space around it, rebuffing or sidling up against other things; each thing calls, gestures, beckons to other beings or battles them for our attention; things expose themselves to the sun or retreat among the shadows, shouting with their loud colors or whispering with their seeds; rocks snag lichen spores from the air and shelter spiders under their flanks; clouds converse with the fathomless blue and metamorphose into one another; they spill rain upon the land, which gathers in rivulets and carves out canyons…”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“All things have the capacity for speech -- all beings have the ability to communicate something of themselves to other beings. Indeed, what is perception if not the experience of this gregarious, communicative power of things, wherein even obstensibly 'inert' objects radiate out of themselves, conveying their shapes, hues, and rhythms to other beings and to us, influencing and informing our breathing bodies though we stand far apart from those things?

Not just animals and plants, then, but tumbling waterfalls and dry riverbeds, gusts of wind, compost piles and cumulus clouds, freshly painted houses (as well as houses abandoned and sometimes haunted), rusting automobiles, feathers, granite cliffs and grains of sand, tax forms, dormant volcanoes, bays and bayous made wretched by pollutants, snowdrifts, shed antlers, diamonds, and daikon radishes, all are expressive, sometimes eloquent and hence participant in the mystery of language. Our own chatter erupts in response to the abundant articulations of the world: human speech is simply our part of a much broader conversation.

It follows that the myriad things are also listening, or attending, to various signs and gestures around them. Indeed, when we are at ease in our animal flesh, we will sometimes feel we are being listened to, or sensed, by the earthly surroundings. And so we take deeper care with our speaking, mindful that our sounds may carry more than a merely human meaning and resonance. This care -- this full-bodied alertness -- is the ancient, ancestral source of all word magic. It is the practice of attention to the uncanny power that lives in our spoken phrases to touch and sometimes transform the tenor of the world's unfolding.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“Fiercely intelligent, yet bearing a sensibility far more porous than most, Van Gogh was unable, or unwilling, to abstract his intellect from his body's reality, unwilling to abandon the myriad things, to tame his senses and so stifle the steady eros between his flesh and the flesh of the earth.

"Again and again he slides out of himself, through his eyes, to feel the hunkard silence of the olive groves, and to taste the spreading ecstasy of the leaves as they're slowly lit by the climbing sun. And again and again he is invaded, in turn, by the visible -- penetrated by the midday langor of the rolling wheat fields, or by the sullen mood of a neighbor's face. Although he writes often to his brother and a few friends (letters of luminous candor and kindness), it is only in the act of drawing and painting that he is able to give expression to this ongoing intercourse, by offering back to the visible a trace of what the visible steadily pours into his chest.

"His paintings, then, are windows through which we look onto an earth no less alive and intelligent than ourselves”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“It’s weird, you know, the way so many people accept the notion that stone is inanimate, that rock doesn’t move. I mean, really, this here cliff moves me every time that I see it.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“We are by now so accustomed to the cult of expertise that the very notion of honoring and paying heed to our directly felt experience of things—of insects and wooden floors, of broken-down cars and bird-pecked apples and the scents rising from the soil—seems odd and somewhat misguided as a way to find out what’s worth knowing.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“When we speak of the human animal's spontaneous interchange with the animate landscape, we acknowledge a felt relation to the mysterious that was active long before any formal or priestly religions. The instinctive rapport with an enigmatic cosmos at once both nourishing and dangerous lies at the ancient heart of all we have come to call "the sacred". Temporarily forgotten, paved over yet never eradicated, this old reciprocity with the breathing earth was here long before all our formal religions, and it will likely outlast all our formal religions. For it has always been operative underneath our various religions, nourishing them from below like a subterranean river.
There is no disdain for religion in such a statement. We can honor the awesome eloquence of each religion while acknowledging the precarious nature of church-based faiths in today's crowded and crisis-ridden world, where people of divergent scriptures must somehow learn to get along. Our greatest hope for the future rests not in the triumph of any single set of beliefs, but in the acknowledgment of a felt mystery that underlies all our doctrines. It rests in the remembering of that corporeal faith that flows underneath all mere beliefs: the human body's implicit faith in the steady sustenance of the air and the renewal of light every dawn, its faith in mountains and rivers and the enduring support of the ground, in the silent germination of seeds and the cyclical return of the salmon. There are no priests needed in such a faith, no intermediaries or experts necessary to effect our contact with the sacred, since - carnally immersed as we are in the thick of this breathing planet - we each have our own intimate access to the big mystery.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
tags: nature
“If we speak of things as inert or inanimate objects, we deny their ability to actively engage and interact with us—we foreclose their capacity to reciprocate our attentions, to draw us into silent dialogue, to inform and instruct us.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“For too long we’ve closed ourselves to the participatory life of our senses, inured ourselves to the felt intelligence of our muscled flesh and its manifold solidarities. We’ve taken our primary truths from technologies that hold the world at a distance. Such tools can be mighty useful, and beneficial as well, as long as the insights that they yield are carried carefully back to the lived world, and placed in service to the more-than-human matrix of corporeal encounter and experience. But technology can also, and easily, be used as a way to avoid direct encounter, as a shield—etched”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“The friendship between my hand and this stone enacts an ancient and irrefutable eros, the kindredness of matter with itself.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“We are too frightened of shadows. We cannot abide our vulnerability, our utter dependence upon a world that can eat us. Vast in its analytic and inventive power, modern humanity is crippled by a fear of its own animality, and of the animate earth that sustains us.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“it’s natural that we associate language with such verbal intercourse. Unfortunately, this association has led many to assume that language is an exclusive attribute of our species—we, after all, are the only creatures that use words—and to conclude that all other organisms are entirely bereft of meaningful speech. It is an exceedingly self-serving assumption. Other animals, commonly possessed of senses far more acute than ours, may have much less need for a purely conventional set of signs to communicate with others of their species, or even to glean precise information from members of other species.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“Is it the shadow itself that looks out through our eyes at midday? Small wonder that so many traditional peoples give themselves over to siesta, and sleep, for an hour or two at this time, letting their tissues and organs respond to this interior visitation by the night, allowing the many cells or souls within them to be tutored by the darkness that has taken temporary refuge within their flesh.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“is the mountain that lends its gregarious power to the multiple elements of this place.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“Magic doesn't sweep you away; it gathers you up into the body of the present moment so thoroughly that all your explanations fall away: the ordinary, in all its plain and simple outrageousness, begins to shine -- to become luminously, impossibly so. Every facet of the world is awake, and you within it.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
“One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. If I am strolling along a street on a cloudless afternoon and I notice a shapeshifting patch of darkness accompanying me as I walk, splayed out on the road perpendicular to my upright self, its appendages stretching and shrinking with the swinging of my limbs, I instantly identify this horizontal swath as my shadow. As though a shadow was merely this flatness, this kinetic pancake, this creature of two dimensions whom one might peel off the street and drape over the nearest telephone wire. We identify our shadow, in other words, with that visible shape we see projected on the pavement or the whitewashed wall. Since what we glimpse there is a being without depth, we naturally assume that shadows themselves are basically flat—and if we are asked, by a curious child, about the life of shadows we are apt to reply that their lives exist only in two dimensions. Suppose,”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“Yet few are as deep-rooted and damaging as the habitual tendency to view the sensuous earth as a subordinate space—whether as a sinful plane, riddled with temptation, needing to be transcended and left behind; or a menacing region needing to be beaten and bent to our will; or simply a vaguely disturbing dimension to be avoided, superseded, and explained away.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“No matter how long I linger with any being, I cannot exhaust the dynamic enigma of its presence.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“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.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“While persons brought up within literate culture often speak about the natural world, indigenous, oral peoples sometimes speak directly to that world, acknowledging certain animals, plants, and even landforms as expressive subjects with whom they might find themselves in conversation.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal
“For the timbre of a human voice singing a single sustained note carries an abundance of information for those whose ears are tuned to such clues—information about the internal state of various organs in the singer’s body, and the relative tension or ease in that person, the level of aggression or peaceful intent.”
David Abram, Becoming Animal

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