What do Butler's A Small Hotel, Louv's The Nature Principle, and Abram's Becoming Animal have in common?
Well, for one thing, the first two book titles made the list of Oprah's top 27 summer reads. The third, Becoming Animal, should have, but didn't.
A Small Hotel, Robert Olen Butler's latest work of fiction, is an unapologetic romantic story of a couple in love for nearly 25 years but now in the throes of separation and divorce. (I first met Butler about six years ago at a Narrative Magazine fundraising dinner in Santa Fe, New Mexico.) Butler read from Intercourse, his 2008 collection of irreverant short stories that, through humerous paired dialogues, allow the reader to romp through imagined sexual moments of some very famous characters. It's a very "fleshy" book, but more about "connections" than separations, which is the theme of A Small Hotel.
Richard Louv's latest book, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature Deficit Disorder is also about separation (you'll have to look a little harder for the sexuality, though one might argue that nature is all about sex). But I imagine the reason Oprah's edtiors included The Nature Principle in her list of top summer reads isn't because the book is about how adults have divorced ourselves from the very thing most deeply rooted in us - Nature - but more importantly, because the book gives us 7 very specific concepts for helping us restore our lives. The Nature Principle, writes Louv, "is about the power of living in nature—not with it, but in it."
What does it mean to be living in nature? Or to be living in a marriage? The hummingbird nestled among the petunias in my garden doesn't only live in nature; it is nature - an integral, organic part of the natural world. Dave Abram (Spell of the Sensuous) might say that all living things are actually organs of the world - allowing the world to perceive and continually recreate itself.
In Richad Louv's review of Abram's latest book, Becoming Animal: An Earthy Cosmology, Louv writes, "Abram offers a startling new exploration of our entanglement with the rest of nature. This time, his focus is the intimate but sadly forgotten relationship between our bodies and the earth. By excavating the most ordinary and familiar of our experiences ... he re-opens for us the knowing that our bodies are intertwined with the flesh of the earth."
Louv goes on to say, "I cannot imagine another book that so gently and so persuasively alters how we look at ourselves, and reminds us that sentience was never our private possession, that our very awareness is a means of participating in a more than human world..."
The word sentient is rooted in the belief that we become conscious of the world through what our senses perceive because we live in a sensual world. Animals that we are, it is through how we touch, taste, see, hear, and smell the world around us that allows us to live in the world. All these things help us to intuit the world and develop a conscious awareness of the world. Can you think of a recent moment when you felt keenly aware of your surroundings? When your ears perked and your nose twitched and your eyes flashed? When the hair on the back of your neck stood up, or your solar plexus tightened? I hope you'll share it with us by leaving a comment HERE.