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  • Foto van schrijverPieter Derycke

Notes & Quotes - Blackbird

Music for today’s 'Notes & Quotes: Fat Freddy’s Drop with the song ‘Blackbird’.

Sometimes a book speaks to you just by its cover. David Abrams book “Becoming Animal, an earthly cosmology” caught my eye, even before I read the title, just because of the beautiful photograph on the dust jacket. It is a very interesting read, and I’d like to share two passages:

“This sitting in chairs is a strange new thing for the primate body – holding our hindquarters away from the ground, our flexible spine suspended in air. Civilized, to be sure. Yet how much more nourishment our spines once drew from their oft-renewed friendship with the ground – planting themselves there, like trees, as we prepared our foods and whittled our implements, squatting on our haunches as we wove patterns into bright cloth and chatted with kin. But now we scorn the ground. Gravity, we think, is a drag upon our aspirations; it pulls us down, holds us back, makes life a weight and a burden.” (p. 27)

Ah, living on the ground, one of my personal interests… The second quote is about another personal interest:

“On some mornings I step outside before pulling on any socks or sliding my feet into their shoes. The soil presses up against my bare feet and shapes itself to them; the clumped grasses massage and wake up my soles. Sharp pebbles stab the thick skin. Dryer, more resistant grasses prick and sometimes break under my weight- ow!- sending my feet back onto the smoother stones. Pale stones are cool to the toes, dark rocks warmer. My feet receive directives from the ground, turning away from the brown, brittle grasses, seeking the press of those green blades that tickle and play against the callused skin and then spring up again, slowly, after I pass. It feels good to bring my life into felt contact with these other lives, even if only for a moment. […]

Flat rocks and rough rocks, needles cast off by the pines, grit that clings between the toes as they flex against the land: each patch of ground requests a different kind of stop, which my legs discover only in the doing. My feet are like ears listening downward, and a dark rhythm rises up into me from this contact – a pulse that slows down and deepens the private beat within my chest. […]

An old, ancestral affinity between the human foot and the solid ground is replenished by the simple act of stepping outside without shoes.” (p. 58-60)

I rest my case…

And since, according to these wise words from Papua New Guinea, “Knowledge is only a rumour, until it is in the muscle”, why don’t you give it a try.

The Papuans are not the only smart people, by the way. According to Richard Nelson*, the Koyukon of Alaska also know this wisdom: “While they highly value the teachings of elders and hunters, they believe the only way to make knowledge whole and meaningful is through direct experience with the world” (from “The Island Within”, page 106). Direct experience is the most vital and important kind of learning.

Well, what are you waiting for?



* Richard Nelson is an anthropologist who has also written another inspiring book: “Make Prayers to the Raven, A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest.” And this ‘raven’, the trickster of North-American mythology, keeps us nicely in the black bird theme…


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