Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Review: Coming to Our Senses

I purchased Coming to Our Sense by Morris Berman, on a whim, a few years back; after seeing it referenced in something Tom Myers had written, and liking the front cover art on Amazon.  I got more than I had bargained for(!) - and the book is now in my 'top 10' for sure.

The basic theme, of which I subscribe, is that humankind as a whole, and Western nations in particular, have lost much of the sensous, somatic dimension of our lives and, very importantly, of our history, too.

But, there is much, much more to the book than this.  The first chapter alone blends the history of the mirror with 'The Basic Fault; Self/Other concepts; a fascinating discussion on Transitional Objects (with many implications for giving children toys) - later on to the somatic and visceral aspects hidden from our view of history; pets; the creation of romantic love and its co-option by the Church and secualr culture; heresy and orthodoxy cycles throughout history (and, yes, repeating today) and the bodily basis for creativity (among many, many other things! Seriously; this book taught me more useful knowledge than high school and university combined).

Actually, on that..

"In now becomes clear why I was bored in high school - and why you were probably were as well (at least in class). Historical "objectivity" is not merely boring; it is also, quite simply, wrong, and on some level the body knows this. This is why we found it difficult even to sit still in school. That restlessness is the body's way of flashing us an essential message: "This is bullshit," the body is saying: "don't listen to this." p117, Coming to Our Senses, Morris Berman.  

Flicking back over his book now, I want to read it again! I do not think I can do justice to it by just mentioning the extremely broad range of topics it weaves skillfully together.  Do yourself a favor and go and buy a copy (or 3 and give two to friends!) and read it Now! Take a day off work if you have to. If I am being really ruthless with the books I have read and whether they have truly changed my worldview (not just provide fascinating facts and trivia), there would be only a few - and this is one of them. The book provides a large number of the deep reasons I do the work that I do - and feel so passionately about it's importance in this culture; in this epoch. 

There are so many quotes I could end with from this book (there are pencil marks everywhere from my noting), but I think I'll re-use one I put in a previous blog post - just because it is so good:

"We have inherited a civilization in which the things that really matter in human life exist at the margin of our culture. What matters? How birthing takes place matters; how infants are raised matters; having a rich and active dream life matters. Animals matter, and so does ontological security and the magic of personal interaction and healthy and passionate sexual expression.  Career and prestige and putting a good face on it and the newest fashion in art or science do not matter. Coming to our senses means sorting this out once and for all. It also means becoming embodied. And the two ultimately amount to the same thing" Coming to Our Senses,  p342, Morris Berman.

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