language

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

A Quote by David Abram on language, ecology, expression, earth, speech, and place

For the Amahuaca, the Koyukon, the Apache, and the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Australia – as for numerous other indigenous peoples – the coherence of human language is inseparable from the coherence of the surrounding ecology, from the expressive vitality of the more-than-human terrain. It is the animate earth that speaks; human speech is but a part of that vaster discourse.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 179

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on earth, intelligence, language, place, gods, ecology, magic, and space

The singular magic of a place is evident from what happens there, from what befalls oneself or others when in its vicinity. The songs proper to a specific site will share a common style, a rhythm that matches the pulse of the place, attuned to the way things happen there – to the sharpness of the shadows or the rippling speech of water bubbling up from the ground. In traditional Ireland, a country person might journey to one distant spring in order to cure her insomnia, to another for strengthening her ailing eyesight, and to yet another to receive insight and protection from thieves. For each spring has its own powers, its own blessings, and its own curses. Different gods dwell in different places, and different demons. Each place has its own dynamism, its own patterns of movement, and these patterns engage the senses and relate them in particular ways, instilling particular moods and modes of awareness, so that unlettered, oral people will rightly say that each place has its own mind, its own personality, its own intelligence.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 182

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on space, place, earth, land, ecology, environment, writing, and language

Once the stories are written down, the visible text becomes the primary mnemonic activator of the spoken stories – the inked traces left by the pen as it traverses the page replacing the earthly tracks left by the animals, and by one’s animal ancestors, as they moved across the land. The places themselves are no longer necessary to the remembrance of the stories, and often come to seem wholly incidental to the tales, the arbitrary backdrops for human events that might just as well have happened elsewhere. The transhuman, ecological determinants of the originally oral stories are no longer emphasized, and often are written out of the tales entirely. In this manner the stories and myths, as they lose their oral, performative character, forfeit as well their intimate links to the more-than-human earth. And the land itself, stripped of the particularizing stories that once sprouted from every cave and streambed and cluster of trees, begins to lose its multiplicitous power. The human senses, intercepted by the written word, are no longer gripped and fascinated by the expressive shapes and sounds of particular places. The spirits fall silent. Gradually the felt primacy of place is forgotten, superceded by a new, abstract notion of “space” as a homogenous and placeless void.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 183-184

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on earth, magic, life, living, aliveness, relationship, landscape, and language

In truth, the human experience of magic – our ancestral, animistic awareness of the world as alive and expressive – was never really lost. Our senses simply shifted their animistic participation from the depths of the surrounding landscape toward the letters written on pages and, today, on screens. Only thus could the letters begin to come alive and to speak. As a Zuni elder focuses her eyes upon a cactus and abruptly hears the cactus begin to speak, so we focus our eyes upon these printed marks and immediately hear voices. We hear spoken words, witness strange scenes or visions, even experience other lives. As nonhuman animals, plants, and even “inanimate” rivers once spoke to our oral ancestors, so the ostensibly “inert” letters on the page now speak to us! This is a form of animism that we take for granted, but it is animism nonetheless – as mysterious as a talking stone.

And indeed, it is only when a culture shifts its participation to these printed letters that the stones fall silent. Only as our senses transfer their animating magic to the written word do the trees become mute, the other animals fall dumb.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 131

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on speech, environment, writing, discourse, language, and land

In the absence of any written analogue to speech, the sensible, natural environment remains the primary visual counterpart of spoken utterance, the palpable site, or matrix wherein meaning occurs and proliferates. In the absence of writing, we find ourselves situated in the field of discourse as we are embedded in the natural landscape; indeed, the two matrices are not separable. We can no more stabilize the language and render its meanings determinate than we can freeze all motion and metamorphosis within the land.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 140

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on meaning, language, speech, world, mystery, and environment

No event for the Koyukon – or for most other indigenous peoples – is ever entirely meaningless or accidental, but neither is any event entirely predetermined or fated. Rather like the trickster, Raven, who first gave it its current form, the sensuous world is a spontaneous, playful and dangerous mystery in which we participate, an articulate and improvisational field of powers ever responsive to human actions and spoken words.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 153

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by David Abram on civilization, diversity, language, connection, relationship, extinction, and earth

As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of the rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.

David Abram

Source: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage), Pages: 86

Contributed by: Siona

A Quote by Paul Richards on language, creation, women, feminine, female, honor, valor, herosim, and heroine

All the way around, when we consider the absolute number of defining negative terms or the ratio of negative to positive word use for each gender, women lose out when it comes to positive, defining language. I mean, they really lose out. My search for definitions of chivalry or gallantry that apply specifically to women has so far come up with nothing. Consider the terms honor, steadfastness, and valor. Though not overtly gender-specific, they are male-tilted by broad context and long-established patterns of use. And these words, even though they can be applied to women, don't imply what gallantry and chivalry imply, which is a mixture of kindness, confidence, and power as specifically linked to one gender…

Lastly, of course, I must comment on the feminine version of the word hero, which of course is heroine. This term describes a woman's role in a story but does not specifically refer to character or nobility. Heroine is probably the most frequently used positive word for a woman in common vocabulary, but almost nobody I know would use it to describe a real, ordinary person. By our language's glaring lack of gender-specific terms for female nobility of character, and the ongoing presence of specialized male terms such as gallantry, we can infer that a bias against celebrating the feminine exists in Western culture much as it does in places like New Guinea, even if it takes a less physically brutal form. This language anomaly in no way reflects the actual nature of women as I have experienced them. Many women I know have shown chivalry equal to a man's in harrowing circumstances, including, in Patty's case, a brush with war in the jungles of New Guinea and making life-or-death decisions as a nurse midwife at the bedsides off hundreds of women in labor. The emotional heroism of women, in my opinion, far surpasses that of men, on a daily basis. By emotional heroism I mean the complex choices women often make, setting aside their own needs or supressing strong feelings, in the service of a greater good.

Paul Richards

Source: Wild Attraction, a Ruthlessly Practical Guide to Extraordinary Relationship, Pages: 181-183

Contributed by: Siona

Syndicate content