Category Archives: Writing

Writing about writing, and writing of my own that is not about sustainability

David Abrams: Breathing ourselves aware on planet “EAIRTH”

David Abrams lecturing at Climae Existence 2010
David Abrams explains why Earth should be called "EAIRTH"

This is the second in my series of posts from the conference “Climate Existence 2010.” The series began with a post on Bill McKibben’s opening keynote. This one covers the afternoon keynote and the workshop I went to, which awakened some memories …

“We don’t live on the Earth.  We live in the Earth.  Or rather in the EAIRTH.

This is David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous or more recently Becoming Animal. He is explaining why he is proposing a slight change in the name of our planet.  The addition of that “I” puts the word “AIR” in the middle of the word “EARTH.”  It calls our attention to something that is both invisible and essential.

Because the air is invisible, says David, we tend to treat it as nonexistent. That’s why we can treat it like an open sewer, as McKibben called it this morning. But for indigenous people, that very invisibility is part of what makes the air so sacred to them.  “It’s a kind of a secret,” says Abram (who is also a sleight-of-hand magician, who likes secrets).  “Secret. Sacred. Same word.”

“The air is the unseen medium of exchange,” says David. We speak when breathing out, not breathing in, and our sounds are carried on the air to each other. For oral-history people’s, the air is “a thicket of meaning,” full of stories and spirits.

He introduces us to the word Ních’i — Navajo (Dineh) for “holy wind.” This was translated as “spirit” by the early anthropologists, “but they missed that this inner wind was entirely continuous with the wind out there,” with the air.  David traces the origins of various words related to air, and consciousness, and they intertwine beautifully:  “atmosphere,” for example, from “atma” and “atmos” in ancient Sanskrit, meaning … air, and soul.

He is drawing (I find this on the internet, searching on the phrases I hear from him in real time) on an article he published in 2009, “The Air Aware,” published in Orion magazine. David’s words are carefully chosen, he is a “writerly” writer.  It is an inspired reading.  But he occasionally breaks out of the box of his own text (and literally steps out from behind the podium) to speak, rather than read, and to breathe, and to make his case for taking the reality of the air-in-which-we-live-and-breathe more seriously, more passionately.  (“Passion,” from Latin, replacing an Old English word that combined “suffering” with “endurance.”)

The last time I saw David Abram, fifteen years ago …

Continue reading David Abrams: Breathing ourselves aware on planet “EAIRTH”

Launching “The Life Thief”

Today I took a dive into the Twitterverse — the “Twitter Universe,” the new online parallel reality of 140-character phrases with their followers, @s, cross-links to Facebook, and a vast number of other particles with strange names and functions that I barely understand. Or actually, don’t really understand. The Twitterverse reminds of the science book I’m reading now (“The Origins of the Future,” by John Gribbin, a great explanation of the big questions that scientists, and especially physicists and astronomers, are wrestling with), with its strange quarks and baryons and up and down spins, entangled over vast distances …

What I did was, I launched a Twitter novel. You can follow the novel here:  http://twitter.com/thelifethief

And read the Preface, and the general explanation of this project (how the novel will build up over time — built of Twitter particles, its growth driven by the engagement of readers in a symbiotic relationship), and read the complete chapters as they get finished, here:  http://thelifethief.wordpress.com

What’s it about? A thief, of course. And life.

More than that, I won’t say:  you have to read the (and here come some inevitable quotation marks) “book”.