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An Earthly Cosmology

by David Abram

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-375-42171-6
Publisher: Pantheon

Cultural ecologist Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, 1996) connects with the grandness of Earth through a series of sensuous engagements.

The author writes that our distancing from nature may be the result of technological innovations, the evolution of our thinking or the rise of the written word, but it has severely narrowed our perspective, thwarting our instinctive empathy with the living land and allowing for “the spreading consequences of our disregard.” Abram is a prestidigitator as well as an environmental philosopher, and he brings the magician’s sense of mystery and playful surprise to these experimental and improvisational forays into an unfolding Earth. In writing both energetic and lapidary, he relates his own elemental engagements with various places. These encounters are strange and gladdening, participatory moments when the spontaneity and sentience of every aspect in the perceptual field is given due respect: “one cannot anticipate the shifting mood of a winter sky if one denies that the sky has moods.” Pure enthusiasm drives Abram to explore the yearning of our body for the larger body of Earth, the exigent art of place-sensing, or the curious zone between the shadow and shadow-maker, and the biggest 3-D shadow of all, night. This is not a unified theory of the experiential, and there is no need to take Abram wholesale; these are personal revelations with splendid nuggets to pick and choose among. Readers may not relate to synergisms like “I stepped closer to better inhale their color with my eyes,” but his celebratory embrace of all that surrounds him is refreshing in the extreme.

The author is an inspired force who invites the neglected yet ever-present serendipities of the natural world to show themselves.