Saturday, January 10, 2009

The library had a copy of David Abram’s book The Spell of the Sensuous, so I’m now in the glorious process of devouring it. There have been times in my life where I have been looking and looking for a book, never quite able to find it, only to be suddenly jolted into awareness that the book I’m searching for is my story. Which of course nobody else could write. But this book—oh my God—has come so close to that Eureka! experience I’ve often sought.

He articulates so well what I’ve been experiencing—much better than I’ve been able to. It feels incredibly comforting and validating. This is a gift—the perfect book to fall into my hands at this time.

I’m in the middle of his discussion of the significance of writing. It jives with my thinking about the importance of language but I’m disappointed that he hasn’t mentioned the connection to ego- and self- building. It’s not just that words separate us from direct experience, but that words create subject and object and a reflective egoic self. The egoic self then becomes almost self-perpetuating, creating more and more mental constructs that lock it out of the fused natural world.

I love that Abram talks about the magic of the written word. I’ve always found words to be mysterious and magical things. Lately, I’ve also been seeing them to be mysterious and magical as well, when they morph before my very eyes. It’s hard to describe what exactly happens, but it happens both with my handwritten words in this book and the printed words in the books I read. The letters take on a sacred quality. I see them differently as sacred symbols (which they are, of course)—it’s almost like they shift to some ancient script. Argh, I’m not describing this well. Often when this happens I get that weird Native American flavor, as if I’m seeing Native American symbols—yet I know they didn’t have a written language, so that’s not really what’s happening. It’s hard to grasp. I see the supreme beauty of the letters, but I’m seeing them with different eyes, seeing them as nuanced layers of meaning.

When Abram discussed the Hebrew alphabet, that’s kind of how I’m seeing. a–Aleph, meant ox—and you can see its ox-iness. m–mem—eventually became M—it was also the Hebrew word for water. That’s not exactly it, but it sort of describes how I’m seeing more than one thing at once.

When words morph they also become exquisitely beautiful. If you’ve ever seen some ancient language and were struck by its beauty and mystery, that’s how I experience my own language in those moments. I think when this happens I’m being reminded how utterly sacred and powerful words are.

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