When timeless moments solicit you, accept the invitation. Go deep within it, until you find yourself in your absence.
~ Jean Klein
Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils — all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness. This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and antlers and tumbling streams — these breathing shapes are our family, the beings with whom we are engaged, with whom we struggle and suffer and celebrate. For the largest part of our species’ existence, humans have negotiated relationships with every aspect of the sensuous surroundings, exchanging possibilities with every flapping form, with every textured surface and shivering entity that we happened to focus upon.
All could speak, articulating in gesture and whistle and sigh a shifting web of meanings that we felt on our skin or inhaled through our nostrils or focused with our listening ears, and to which we replied — whether with sounds, or through movements, or minute shifts of mood.
The color of sky, the rush of wave — every aspect of the earthly sensuous could draw us into relationship, fed with curiosity and spiced with danger. Every sound was a voice, every scrape or blunder was a meeting — with Thunder, with Oak, with Dragonfly. And from all of these relationships our collective sensibilities were nourished.
~ David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
I am currently reading the book The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years, waiting for me to be ready to read it. It’s the only explanation I can come up with for why I haven’t read it before now. I’m only three chapters in because it’s the kind of book I tend to savor, reading slowly, taking time to reflect on and explore what I read. It is also a bit dense with philosophy in the beginning.
Today we participate almost exclusively with other humans and with our own human-made technologies. It is a precarious situation, given our age-old reciprocity with the many-voiced landscape. We still need that which is other than ourselves and our own creations. The simple premise of this book is that we are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.
~ David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
The opening paragraphs of the book, quoted above, grabbed me immediately. Relationship and reciprocity with nature, with earth, with all that we live with, is something I think we’ve lost, to our detriment. Somewhere along the way, arrogant humans decided that we are above nature, that the natural world is ours to plunder and use. There are, of course, still many who believe otherwise, who recognize the connections between us and the land, the sky, and the other beings we share these things with.
There is another piece to this puzzle of disconnection and our use of technology. We humans are disconnecting from each other. I could be wrong but I think that it is the overuse of technology that has made the polarization of our society so extreme. I was going to write “possible,” but history would probably prove me wrong on that. I suspect that politics has always caused some sort of separation between people of different beliefs. Because that’s what it boils down to, in my opinion. Beliefs. Or values. Or both. Probably both.
Technology separates us from each other in ways other than what we’re observing on social media. Do you use the self-checkout line in the grocery store? Order online? Those are just two examples of ways in which other humans are cut out of our lives. You don’t have to interact with the cashier/clerk at the grocery store. The way things are going, there won’t be a cashier/clerk for much longer. As someone who has worked as a cashier, as someone knowing how little the job pays but how very much people who work as cashiers need every penny of what they earn, I never use self-checkouts unless I’m forced to it (and by “forced” I mean there are no humans working as cashiers). That’s happened to me once. The store did have an employee available to help with the self-checkout, in case something goes wrong or the customer is confused by it all. Rather than pay four or five or more people, they were able to reduce that part of their workforce to one. It should be noted that I’ve sometimes convinced other people who are in the store to avoid the self-checkouts by reminding them they are not only helping to take away a job, they are spending money to do that job for which nobody is getting paid.
(I am stepping down from my soapbox now, probably much to everyone’s relief.)
Reading The Spell of the Sensuous has made me more aware of my own senses and sensory experiences when I’m out on my walks and strolls. I’m paying attention to not just the sights and sounds, but the light and shadows, the scents, the textures, and even the tastes. Did you know that the air sometimes not only smells like rain or snow, but tastes like it, too?
More than that, this paying attention has me wondering who or what might also be paying attention to me. The birds, of course, and the other critters living on our little sanctuary. That is obvious by the way they fly or run off, or call to each other to warn that is a human is present.
Do the trees and other plants know when we’re nearby? When we’re out and about in the woods, we interact with the trees in ways other than the exchange of breath (the changing of carbon dioxide to oxygen, etc.). Trees emit an essential oil called phytoncide which strengthens our immune system. Tree are alert and communicate with each other and are, in fact, communal (see this article from the Smithsonian Magazine). Trees (and plants) interact with birds and insects and other creatures. Why not with humans?
I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’
… That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf because it is not afraid-it knew nothing can be born and nothing can die.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
On another note, I was sorry to see Marianne Williamson is dropping out of the presidential race. Honestly, I never expected her to make it to the nomination, much less to the presidency. I realize many people think she’s a nutcase. I get that, I truly do. However, I’m a little bit of a nutcase, too, and I think that Ms. Williamson brought some interesting ideas to the table and to the conversation. If you haven’t read her platform, perhaps you should take a look at it before the website is gone (you can find it here). It is ambitious, over the top, and necessary to the conversations I think we should be having about reform (in politics, in healthcare, in many things). I hope more and more people will start thinking and talking about these ideas.
We should participate in politics with the same level of consciousness as that which we bring to all of our most important and meaningful pursuits. We should bring all of ourselves to it. We should bring our hearts and minds and deepest dedication to something bigger than ourselves.
Politics is very, very serious business in a country as big and powerful as ours. When we get it right, it can be beautiful; but when we get it wrong it can be a terrible thing. We are all responsible for that. With every election, with every campaign, we are deciding something extremely important. We are deciding what is possibly the fate of millions, the fate of the earth, even perhaps the fate of humanity. And if that is not a sacred charge, I cannot imagine what is.
This is a new time, and we must bring forth something new within ourselves in order to deal with it. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
~ Marianne Williamson, from her campaign website
That is probably enough from me for today. Thank you so much for stopping by and joining me on some of my walks from the past week. I have been spending more time in an area of the woods where I don’t normally go. The reason I often avoid it is because I can easily find my way in, but have trouble finding my way back. Once I pass between the guardian oak trees and walk to the great-grandmother cedar, things get all mixed up. I sometimes wonder if the cedar tree is projecting some kind of magic to pull me farther into the woods. (There are no real worries about getting lost. I could follow the deer trails and eventually end up in the farm field next door or somewhere near a road.)
Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset this evening. The clouds are presenting interesting possibilities if they don’t get too heavy and take over. Sunset this evening is scheduled for 5:02 PM. It’s warm today (in the 60’s), but it will probably cool off fast so you’ll need at least a jacket or coat.
Be good, be kind, be love. ♥ And have a great weekend!
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,221) Unicorns that comes to visit in the early morning hours. Yes, I know. It’s white-tailed deer who lost an antler. They shed them between the months of December and March, usually one at a time. Or he could have lost it in a fight with another male during the rutting season. 1,222) Morning clouds dancing in the sky with the moon. 1,223) M, always. 1,224) Evenings when we’re warmed by a fire in the woodstove. 1,225) Watching GOAT Jeopardy! this week. It’s been entertaining.
A note on my One Million Step challenge: Today is day 12 of the 100 day challenge. My total, as of last night, was 115,549 step (that’s 5,549 over goal). Today has been kind of a rest day. I’ll make up for it tomorrow with a long hike.