David Abram

A Quote by David Abram on technology, civilization, earth, humanity, economy, ecology, and diversity

We align ourselves not with the ever-expanding human monoculture, nor with the abstract vision of a global economy, but with the far more sustainable prospect of a regionally diverse and interdependent web of largely self-sufficient communities – a multiplicity of technologically sophisticated, vernacular cultures tuned to the structure and pulse of particular places. We know well that if humankind is to flourish without destroying the living world that sustains us, then we must grow out of our adolescent aspiration to encompass and control all that is. Sooner or later, we know, our technological ambition will begin to scale itself down, allowing itself to be oriented by the distinct needs of specific bioregions. Sooner or later, that is, technological civilization will accept the invitation of gravity and settle back into the land, its political and economic structures diversifying into the varied contours and rhythms of a more-than-human earth.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 272

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on reality, nature, earth, land, ecology, sensuality, and senses

The practice of realignment with reality can hardly afford to be utopian. It cannot base itself upon a vision hatched in our heads and then projected into the future. Any approach to current problems that aims us toward a mentally envisioned future implicitly holds us within the oblivion of linear time. It holds us, that is, within the same illusory dimension that enabled us to neglect and finally to forget the land around us. By projecting the solution somewhere outside of the perceivable present, it invites our attention away from the sensuous surroundings, induces us to dull our senses, yet again, on behalf of a mental ideal.

A genuinely ecological approach does not work to attain a mentally envisioned future, but strives to enter, ever more deeply, into the sensorial present. It strives to become ever more awake to the other lives, the other forms of sentience and sensibility that surround us in the open field of the present moment. For the other animals and the gathering clouds do not exist in linear time. We meet them only when the thrust of historical time begins to open itself outward, when we walk out of our heads into the cycling life of the land around us. This wild expanse has its own timing, its rhythms of dawning and dusk, its seasons of gestation and bud and blossom. It is here, and not in linear history, that the ravens reside.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 272-273

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on language, people, human beings, earth, community, ecology, and environment

For those of us who care for an earth not encompassed by machines, a world of textures, tastes and sounds other than those that we have engineered, there can be no question of simply abandoning literacy, of turning away from all writing. Our task, rather, is that of taking up the written word, with all of its potency, and patiently, carefully, writing language back into the land. Our craft is that of releasing the budded, earthly intelligence of our words, freeing them to respond to the speech of the things themselves – to the green uttering forth of leaves from the spring branches. It is the practice of spinning stories that have the rhythm and lilt of the local soundscape, tales for the tongue, tales that want to be told, again and again sliding off the digital screen and slipping off the lettered page in inhabit these coastal forests, those desert canyons, those whispering grasslands and valleys and swamps. Finding phrases that lace us in contact with the trembling neck-muscles of a deer holding its antlers high as it swims toward the mainland, or with the ant dragging a scavenged rice-grain through the grasses. Planting words, like seeds, under rocks and fallen logs – letting language take root, once again, in the earthen silence of shadow and bone and leaf.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 274

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on earth, bodies, senses, sensuailty, region, place, touching, and touch

There is an intimate reciprocity to the senses; as we touch the bark of a tree, we feel the tree touching us; as we lend our ears to the local sounds and ally our nose to the seasonal scents, the terrain gradually tunes us in turn. The senses, that is, are the primary way that the earth has of informing our thoughts and of guiding our actions. Huge centralized programs, global initiatives, and other ‘top down” solutions will never suffice to restore and protect the health of the animate earth. For it is only at the scale of our direct, sensorial interactions with the land around us that we can appropriately notice and respond to the immediate needs of the living world.

Yet at the scale of our sensing bodies the earth is astonishingly, irreducibly diverse. It discloses itself to our senses not as a uniform planet inviting global principles, but as this forested realm embraced by water, or a windswept prairie, or a desert silence. We can know the needs of any particular region only by participating in its specificity – by becoming familiar with its cycles and styles, awake and attentive to its other inhabitants.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 268

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on writing, environment, and language

Only as the written text began to speak would the voices of the forest, and of the river, begin to fade. And only then would language loosen its ancient association with the invisible breath, the spirit sever itself from the wind, the psyche dissociate itself from the environing air.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 254

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on earth, place, location, beings, locality, mind, physiology, interbeing, and senses

The human mind is not some otherworldly essence that comes to house itself inside our physiology. Rather it is instilled and provoked by the sensorial field itself, induced by the tensions and participations between the human body and the animate earth. The invisible shapes of smells, rhythms of cricketsong, and the movement of shadows all, in a sense, provide the subtle body of our thoughts. Our own reflections, we might say, are a part of the play of light and its reflections.

By acknowledging such links between the inner, psychological world and the perceptual terrain that surrounds us, we begin to turn inside-out, loosening the psyche from its confinement within a strictly human sphere, freeing sentience to return to the sensible world that contains us. Intelligence is no longer ours alone but is a property of the earth; we are in it, of it, immersed in its depths. And indeed each terrain, each bioregion, seems to have its own particular intelligence, its unique vernacular of soil and leaf and sky.

Each place its own mind, its own psyche! Oak, Madrone, Douglas fir, red-tailed hawk, serpentine in the sandstone, a certain scale to the topography, drenching rains in the winters, fog off-shore in the summers, salmon surging up the streams – all these together make up a particular state of mind, a place-specific intelligence shared by all the humans that dwell therein, but also by the coyotes yapping in those valleys, by the bobcats and the ferns and the spiders, by all beings who live and make their way in that zone. Each place its own psyche. Each sky its own blue.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 262

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on environment, speaking, civilization, life, earth, language, mind, truth, and community

Ecologically considered, it is not primarily our verbal statements that are “true” or “false,” but rather the kind of relations that we sustain with the rest of nature. A human community that lives in a mutually beneficial relation with the surrounding earth is a community, we might say, that lives in truth. The ways of speaking common to that community – the claims and beliefs that enable such reciprocity to perpetuate itself – are, in this important sense, true. They are in accord with a right relation between these people and their world. Statements and beliefs, meanwhile, that foster violence toward the land, ways of speaking that enable the impairment or ruination of the surrounding field of beings, can be described as false ways of speaking – ways that encourage an unsustainable relation with the encompassing earth. A civilization that relentlessly destroys the living land it inhabits is not well acquainted with truth, regardless of how many supposed facts it has amassed regarding the calculable properties of its world.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 264

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on bodies, earth, language, environment, rhythms, stillness, creativity, sensuality, and senses

Humans, like other animals, are shaped by the places they inhabit, both individually and collectively. Our bodily rhythms, our moods, cycles of creativity and stillness, even our thoughts are readily engaged and influenced by seasonal patterns in the land. Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain. Human awareness folds in upon itself, and the senses – once the crucial site of our engagement with the wild and animate earth – become mere adjuncts of an isolate and abstract mind bent on overcoming an organic reality that now seems disturbingly aloof and arbitrary.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 267

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on language, writing, earth, land, intellect, and mind

The alphabetized intellect stakes its claim to the earth by staking it down, extends its dominion by drawing a grid of straight lines and right angles across the body of a continent – across north America, across Africa, across Australia – defining states and provinces, counties and countries with scant regard for the oral peoples that already live there, according to a calculative logic utterly impervious to the life of the land.

If I say that I live in the “United States” or in “Canada,” in “British Colombia” or in “New Mexico,” I situate myself within a purely human set of coordinates. I say little or nothing about the earthly place that I inhabit, but simply establish my temporary location within a shifting matrix of political, economic, and civilizational forces struggling to maintain themselves, today, largely at the expense of the animate earth. The great danger is that I, and many other good persons, may come to believe that our breathing bodies really inhabit these abstractions, and that we will lend our lives more to consolidating, defending, or bewailing the fate of these ephemeral entities than to nurturing and defending the actual places that physically sustain us.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 267

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on stories, earth, environment, ceremony, place, land, speech, and language

The telling of stories, like singing and praying, would seem to be an almost ceremonial act, an ancient and necessary mode of speech that tends the earthly rootedness of human language. For narrated events always happen somewhere. And for an oral culture, that location is never merely incidental to those occurrences. The events belong, as it were, to the place, and to tell the story of those events is to let the place itself speak through the telling.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 163

Contributed by: Siona

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