Years ago I came across David Abram’s book ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’ and was intrigued and thrilled by his visionary approach to the natural world. In Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace, I had to include his wonderful description of a brief eye contact with a condor, flying above him at the top of a mountain, where he felt himself “stripped naked by an alien gaze infinitely more lucid and precise than my own”.
But somehow I could never fully buy in, perhaps because his reverent approach feels a little too much like church.
More recently, his videos and talks can increasingly be found online, often expressing views about digital life which are very different from my own. In many ways I find him both an inspiration and an irritant! (I suspect he is struggling to incorporate the digital as hard as I struggle with animism.)
Nevertheless, his work plays an influential role in informing the novel I’m working on now, ‘The Fault in Reality’. I’m trying to open up to his style of engagement with the physical world, and this involves battling my own deep cynicism. And it’s not really about what he is saying, so much as how it is being said, how it is being portrayed in the dreamy soft-focus videos used to convey his and others’ views.
This isn’t meant to be a criticism of Abram, but an honest expression of my own difficulties as I grapple with his work.
I want it, but I don’t want it. That’s what it boils down to. And maybe that’s what biophilia is too, a pull towards nature which both attracts and repels.
“…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.” (Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous)
I can’t argue with that. Who could? And yet. And yet…
I need to do a lot more thinking before I can settle with it.
If you haven’t come across Abram before, here is a taste.
Excerpt from Becoming Animal by Emma Davie & Peter Mettler, 2018, Switzerland, United Kingdom. 79min