Embracing our Animality

“It may be that the new ‘environmental ethic’ toward which so many environmental philosophers aspire – an ethic that would lead us to respect and heed not only the lives of our fellow humans but also the life and well-being of the rest of nature – will come into existence not primarily through the logical elucidation of new philosophical principles and legislative strictures, but through a renewed attentiveness to this perceptual dimension that underlies all our logics, through a rejuvenation of our carnal, sensorial empathy with the living land that sustains us.” – David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous 

Why are we so reluctant to own our animality?

What is so off-putting about acknowledging our creaturely existence?

The human cognitive revolution has been ongoing for thousands of years and accelerated through the scientific revolution. Although this has resulted in many useful advances (the entire modern way of living) it has also prized the thinking mind over all over abilities and equated cerebral intelligence with morality, superiority and even godliness.

Religion, once the potent force for spreading ideas, promoted the notion that there is something inherently sinful about the flesh, which should be considered subordinate to the mind – even though we owe our very existence to the body and it is from the body that we emerge. As well as denying an important aspect of our fundamental make-up this notion extends into the physical world outside of ourselves; the implication is that the animate Earth is also subordinate and corrupt – ashes to ashes, dust to dust seemed to be conveniently overlooked.

Here in northern Scotland the summer months afford long daylight hours in which to play outside. I’ve been taking advantage of that lately and have had many wonderful encounters with the natural world that remind me how fortunate we are to physically meet the Earth around us.

Here’s an extract from an article I recently had published on The Elephant Journal in which I described one such encounter:

“The human animal remembers where it comes from; a special alchemy arises when we reconnect with the earth or adhere to nature’s rhythms. After all, that is what we’ve done since time immemorial, and although the comforts of modern life are pleasant, we also need the primal intimacy of our earthly, embodied reality.”

If we were merely a thinking mind would we care about the natural world? Would we care if the world was absent of birds had we not watched in amazement a pair of ducks whooshing across the sky, or a family of crows amass for their daily meeting? It is our physical encounter with nature that leaves us in awe, that allows us to observe and feel its needs, and that could ultimately be the key to ushering in a new era of abundance of life on Earth.

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