I have just been listening to a wonderful exchange of views between Bill Plotkin and David Abram. It’s quite long at over 80 minutes, but well worth taking the time to have a listen.

The topic of the discussion is how to generate a profound shift in our culture, in our consciousness. David talks about this great shift as requiring a shift in our perceptions. He says that we don’t see the earthly world around us with any clarity, we don’t hear the voices of the land, and we don’t notice the rest of the world with anything like a realistic apprehension. So, he says, we need to build our perceptual abilities so we can gain the needed clarity to learn what the world is really about, and to learn what our place is in the world, and to live appropriately.

It seems clear that we forget that we have animal bodies, with animal senses, that co-evolved with the world around us, and that we are immersed in a word of others: animal beings, conscious presences, and elemental forces. It is interesting to reflect on the way “animal” is a derisory comment in our modern society, especially when applied to humans: You animal! They were just animals! But our animality is just a fact of life, and we should take the time to celebrate our animal bodies, by, at the very least, getting outside.

Bill says this shift requires a redefinition of what it means to be human. He talks about how our modern western societies have become locked into a patho-adolescent way of being, engendered by our consumerist culture and our schooling, and how we desperately need to grow up. But it is so easy to sell more things to immature people! So we need to develop new models of what it means to be fully and authentically human. We could all benefit from a careful reading of Bill’s nature-based model of human development.

Bill talks about the way in which a conversation between two people can shape each other in interesting ways. Similarly, David asks, could a conversation between a place, animals, plants, water, and winds, shape and inform our bodies, nervous systems, our very styles of experience? Only if we humans consider the world around us as being alive, being able to communicate to us, and if we develop the skills to enter the conversation, can this idea resonate with us. But we have become locked into a human centred way of being, without being affected by non-human “others”. Of course indigenous people around the world have understood that the world does speak, and not just metaphorically, but as experienced reality. Listen to the words of Bill Neidjie, a Aboriginal Elder who has returned to the earth:

I feel it with my body, with my blood. Feeling all these trees, all this country. When the wind blows you can feel it. Same for country … You feel it. You can look, but feeling … that make you.

So can we shake ourselves free from our (perhaps unconscious) assumptions that the world does not speak, does not have a presence? Can we become receptive to the voices and presences of the world around us, and our places? Can we awaken to the awe and mystery at the heart of the world around us? Can we feel this presence deep in our bones, deep in our hearts? Can we celebrate our nature?