Being In Your Body

Becoming Animal – An Earthly Cosmology, by David Abram

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This is an important book. I’ve long held, upon viewing social practices of the last thirty years or so, as well as the tack of intellectual disciplines over that time, that we’re entering an era in which our right brain activities predominate. That is, we’re more prone to passionate, emotional responses. We see things not discretely but in relationship to other observed phenomena. We demand rapid responses to everything; consequently change in our world is moving at an accelerating pace. We’re more prone – and here’s where Abram’s book comes in – to be more aware of the natural world, i.e., to be in our bodies.

By that, I mean we’re not the intellectual creatures we once were, in which we saw everything in abstracions, from our family structure to philosophy and religion to the natural world around us. Instead, we’re more involved with sensory input; we’re once again developing a collective take on reality in terms of what our senses tell us.

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Abram is a philosopher by education. And when he takes on  philosophers from Descartes to our present ones, who seem to be drowning in brain studies and the like, he doesn’t dispute them. Instead, he embraces them as parallels to his more body-centric outlook.

The older philosophers have sought reality “out there,” in some unreachable, transcendental province our body mechanisms can only reach via mind and its inductive and deductive abilities. Abrams, however, accepts reality as the body knows it. He sees form’s discreteness, but he also sees its inter-linkage with all other forms of matter and energy, from angels to rocks. Sort of an interactive web of mutual experience.

The sort of thing that delights this reader/writer is that he not only states his bodily case, he gives us extended examples from his own far-flung experiences. His writing here is readable, enjoyable, with a flair of voice that tells one that he’s not only at home in his body, he’s at home with the elegance of words.

He does get a bit carried away with some of his examples, particularly his experience with shamans of various cultures, and he tarries too long in his summation. But his experiences and the stories they yield – which in turn underscore his developing philosophy – are as powerful a read as thosee by adventurers such as Jon Krakauer.  As with most groundbreaking thought that’s been reduced to writing, Abram’s tales are essentially about him. But he knows as much about the world of rocks and the world of mind as he does about his own body and senses.


My rating: 18 of 20 stars





2 thoughts on “Being In Your Body

  1. I tend to agree with his conclusion, but the ability to respond to one’s environment is a function of society’s response to such perspective. Americans have much less social (peer) pressure and greater financial freedom than did the generations preceding us that we are compared to. I think I’ll get the book and see if my hypothesis holds up…

  2. Ahhh, that’s what blog book reviews are for – getting people to buy books.
    The reason I say the book is important has little to do with the paradigm of survival within one’s environment or society (isn’t that what you’re ultimately getting at?) and a lot to do with an inner perceptual urge that leads one to see one’s relationship within the environment (or society) in a different way. Otherwise, one could say that nature is harmless now that we have all this wonderful technology and money to spend to ameliorate nature’s ways – that we’ve “Biblically conquered” it.
    As a sailor, you know we certainly haven’t conquered the wind and seas. And even in my quarter acre Edenic plot, I still grapple with copperheads, brown recluse and black widow spiders, summertime heat, poison ivy, and on and on.
    What he’s talking about is in a sense a rebuttal of the scientific method, i.e., we isolate phenomena in order to study them. His perceptions have more to do with the linkages within nature that make it act as an organic whole – and that includes humans.
    But then I should let you read the book….

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