Richard Louv Reviews Becoming Animal
Richard Louv is the author of seven books, including Last Child in the Woods. He is the chairman of the Children & Nature Network, and has served as adviser to the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World award program and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Read his review of Becoming Animal:
David Abram is unique among interpreters of the wild voice within us. His first book, The Spell of the Sensuous, has become a touchstone for a needed shift in our thinking about the place of humans in the world. As the poet Gary Snyder remarked, that book helped map us back into the world. In his new book, Becoming Animal, Abram offers a startling new exploration of our entanglement with the rest of nature. This time, his focus is the intimate but sadly forgotten relationship between our bodies and the earth. By excavating the most ordinary and familiar of our experiences--the perception of shadow, the recognition of depth, the transience of mood--he re-opens for us the knowing that our bodies are intertwined with the flesh of the earth. I cannot imagine another book that so gently and so persuasively alters how we look at ourselves, and reminds us that sentience was never our private possession, that our very awareness is a means of participating in a more than human world. At no other time in Western history have we needed to listen to the wild voice within us, and to Dave Abram's, as much as we do today.
*Starred Review* How did our curious, inventive species go from worshiping nature to destroying it? A creative and visionary ecologist and philosopher, Abram addressed this complex and urgent question in his influential first book, Spell of the Sensuous (1996). In his second provocative, boldly recalibrating blend of stories, reflections, and discoveries, he offers perception-heightening insights into the causes of our disparagement of “sensuous reality,” or “bodied existence,” and the disastrous consequences of our increasing detachment from the living world as we funnel our attention to the cyber realm. As Abram identifies underappreciated aspects of our minds and bodies that evolved to enable us to respond with exquisite sensitivity to our surroundings, he tells extraordinary tales of his encounters with wildlife from whales to ravens, illuminates the planet’s myriad forms of sentient life, and elucidates the significance of oral culture. In addition to writing with poetic precision about sensory experience—his analysis of shadows and life’s reciprocity are phenomenal feats of observation and eloquence—he also draws on his adventures as an itinerant sleight-of-hand magician and apprentice to indigenous shamans to forge an inspirited physics of being. We can’t “restore” nature, Abram writes, without “restorying” life, hence his prodigious, transfixing, and rectifying “earthly cosmology.” --Donna Seaman