Life: Human and more than Human

Merleau Ponty’s essay is a detailed comparison between Scientific and Artistic thinking processes. Scientific thinking, he explains lead to objectifying of things in general and gives up living in them. We distance ourselves from the world to conceptualize it which takes us away from the grounded understanding of being as “there is”, inside and outside has gone far away due to it. In Artistic thinking on the other hand inside contains the outside and outside is a phenomenon which reflects the inside. Painter tries to bring these distanced realities together. He extends this argument by explaining how our bodies can see and are also seen at the same time, we as humans can perceive the world but are also sensed by the world. “Can See” and “Is Seen” have been taken apart and that is the reason we separate our bodies from our mind and our associated bodies. Splitting of reality as two opposite poles is creating a misunderstanding of where and who we are, and this according to author, must be brought together for better understanding of the “now”.

Lata Mani’s essay is like an example of what Merleau Ponty states, it is a first-hand experience of nature that she describes through her relationship with tamarind right next to her house. She explains how we have an impoverished understanding of nature as nonmaterial & inert and how we consider ourselves separate from it. We as humans tend to enumerate, measure, and quantify, thus we value “doing” over “being”. Humans have believed we are superior to the rest of nature because we have the ability to change things and not merely adapt to them. Nature on the other had abides effortlessly, it simply is, it arises from beingness and accepts things as they are. Nature is what the author states apart from being a source of inspiration also transmits its knowledge of being-knowing-acting to one who is opened to receive it and we as humans are an integral part of this beingness.

David Abram in his chapter adds to the idea of beingness by talking about the notion of reciprocity while walking through a forest. Reciprocity is how everything affects one another, it is a cycle of exchange that exists in nature, it is the very structure of perception. We can sense the world around us only because we are entirely a part of this world. The author then talks about the ways of speaking that honor or deny the reciprocity existing between the human animal and the more than human land. Discourse of “Object” is what author claims disengages us from our bodily senses, it separates our body form earth, and we view this world as an outsider. On the other hand, the animistic style of speaking he claims view things not merely as objects, but as animate subjects which can resituates the human intellect back within the sensuous cosmos.

Thus, all the three readings, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay “Eye and Mind”, Lata Mani’s Essay “The Tree and I” and the chapter “Reciprocity” from David Abram’s book “Becoming Animal” tries to bring closer two scattered notions, the notion between human and nature. It represents the idea of “beingness” as a way to participate in symbiosis & co-creation which can make us human reconnect with this world and nature. 

References:

  1. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1972. “Eye and mind”. Aesthetics / Ed. by Harold Osborne. 55-85.
  2. Abram, David. 2017. Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
  3. Mani, Lata, and Srividya Natarajan. 2008. The tamarind tree. Chennai, India: Tulika Pub.
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