by Adam Robbert
For our eyes to dance in the dew sparkling across the canyon that the dawn is opening before us is to feel the quasi-visual form of ourselves as seen by the multiple eyes of the canyon. To see the weight of the fieldstones in a plot of land we are digging up for a garden is to feel the diagram of a grip forming in our postural schema, and the weightless force in our arms now emanates by itself in an immanent sense of the weight of our limbs which a fieldstone would feel as it struggles with our force…As we sing while walking through the forest and shout to the mountain cliffs we hear how we sound to the murmuring trees and in the great ear of the mountain (p. 62).
Strolling along the beach, eyes adrift in the azure light, the sea in waves meanders across our field of vision and sands flow in glitter under our feet. Then, crossing a rise, our eyes are drawn to a bleached gnarled log whose contours curve back upon themselves and whose visible surfaces are packed with the grainy density of its substance, its weight, and its muffled inner resonance. Our gaze is refracted to the outlying tufts of salt grass in the hollow which stabilizes as its site, containing so many viewpoints turned to it. The hollow where a piece of driftwood from the sea has come to rest closes in upon itself, a refuge for the driftwood and for our body too; the undulating seascape of azure breezes and glittering sand flow halts at the rims of this hollow, as the open sea is obliterated from the stable workspace of a reader seated in his cabin on board ship (p. 69).
A thing is not simply the set of internal relations with all other things. It pushes back the other things and clamors for our attention. It is not simply a relay for a movement that stakes out directions and paths beyond it. It is also a terminus for our perception. Things are ends and not means only. The tasks they present to us designate themselves as what is to be accomplished.
Perception which aims for things also sinks into things. Perception has been too much conceived as an apprehension, a movement of the sensory-motor organism outward which returns to itself, an exploration that enriches itself with content assimilated and forms grasped. Our gaze emanates from our eyes and sinks into the depths of things, and also passes between things to dissipate in the distance. It turns into sensuality and enjoyment (p. 69).
A visitor brings a vase of jasmine into our hospital room. The elegant spray of the stems, the coil of the petals lure our eyes, which travel up and about them. The fervent white of the flesh of the petals draws our eyes to catch on to the way the petals condense and occupy space. But soon our gaze softens, and sinks into the balmy insistence of their substance, in the involution of enjoyment. Our gaze is connected with the plenum, and forgets the outlying room with its pathways and other things and extends into an endurance. It can happen that the cumulus white of the jasmine extends into a fathomless depth and perception becomes a specific kind of warmth and pleasure, as when we abandon ourselves to the bliss of the sky or the glimmering light in the blue of the sea (pp. 69 – 70).
- Alphonso Lingis