Other animals, in a constant and mostly unmediated relation with their sensory surroundings, think with the whole of their bodies.— David Abram
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There are so many unsung heroines and heroes at this broken moment in our collective story, so many courageous persons who, unbeknownst to themselves, are holding together the world by their resolute love or contagious joy. Although I do not know your names, I can feel you out there.
What is magic? In the deepest sense, magic is an experience.
It's the experience of finding oneself alive within a world that is itself alive. It is the experience of contact and communication between oneself and something that is profoundly different from oneself: a swallow, a frog, a spider weaving its web.
Such reciprocity is the very structure of perception.
We experience the sensuous world only by rendering ourselves vulnerable to that world. Sensory perception is this ongoing interweavement: the terrain enters into us only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be taken up within that terrain.
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.
We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth - our larger body - to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours , stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles.
It was a though we’d been living for a year in a dense grove of old trees, a cluster of firs, each with its own rhythm and character, from whom our bodies had drawn not just shelter but perhaps even a kind of guidance as we grew into a family.
Sensory perception is the silken web that binds our separate nervous systems into the encompassing ecosystem.
Entranced by the denotative power of words to define, to order, to represent the things around us, weve overlooked the songful dimension of language so obvious to our oral [storytelling] ancestors. Weve lost our ear for the music of language -- for the rhythmic, melodic layer of speech by which earthly things overhear us.
Only by affirming the animateness of perceived things do we allow our words to emerge directly from the depths of our ongoing reciprocity with the world.
To describe the animate life of particular things is simply the most precise and parsimonious way to articulate the things as we spontaneously experience them, prior to all our conceptualizations and definitions.
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.
...along with the other animals, the stones, the trees, and the clouds, we ourselves are characters within a huge story that is visibly unfolding all around us, participants within the vast imagination, or Dreaming, of the world.
A particular place in the land is never, for an oral culture, just a passive or inert setting for the human events that occur there. It is an active participant in those occurrences. Indeed, by virtue of its underlying and enveloping presence, the place may even be felt to be the source, the primary power that expresses itself through the various events that unfold there.
The world we experience with our unaided senses is fluid and animate, shifting and transforming in response to our own shifts of position and of mood.
Does the human intellect, or "reason," really spring us free from our inherence in the depths of this wild proliferation of forms? Or on the contrary, is the human intellect rooted in, and secretly borne by, our forgotten contact with the multiple nonhuman shapes that surround us on every hand?
We like to assume that language is a purely human property, our exclusive possession, and that everything else is basically mute.
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.
We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.
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.
Breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next.
What we say has such a profound influence upon what we see, and hear, and taste of the world!
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.