Speaking as a body…

Responding to David Jardine's essay "Birding lessons and the teachings of cicadas" (Jardine, 1998), Abram (in Abram & Jardine, 2000) writes:

I was really struck by the writing style that you've been forging for yourself, and it got me thinking about the ways of languaging that seem to reign within academia, and within Western education generally, and ultimately within our civilization at this curious moment.

Seems that you and I both are engaged, whether implicitly or explicitly, in trying to nudge the collective language – to loosen it up, perhaps, in hopes of making room for various other non-human voices to enter and influence the general conversation. No matter that these other voices do not speak in words (but rather in honks, or trills, or croaks, or whispering rattles) – what's important, as your essay on 'Birding Lessons' seems to show, is that our own words be awake to these other styles of expression, these other bodies, these other shapes of sentience and sensitivity. But, to let my words and my thoughts stay awake and responsive to these other voices entails, it seems, that I speak more as a body than as a mind – that I identify more with this breathing flesh (this skin and these hands and this ache in the gut) than my culture generally allows, and that I let my words and my thoughts blossom out of my limbs. That I acknowledge and honour my own animal presence, this curiously muscled form and its various affinities and cringes, and its apparent ability to echo, or reverberate off of, any other body it encounters – a sandstone cliff, or a water strider, or a wolf howling out in the forested distance.

For me, the whole reason and worth of reclaiming the body – or rather, of letting the body reclaim us – is so that we may find ourselves back inside this delicious world from which schooling had exiled us, rediscovering our embedment in the thick of things, remembering our real community and being remembered by that community. I mean, how long did we think we could go on without the necessary guidance that herons and toads have to offer? (p. 168)