Ron Broglio

Attunement means giving ourselves over to another and with the resistance, insistence, and weight of bodies. These bodies feel the give and take of being in a place with another. A hand may press into the flesh of another and feel the yielding and the taut resistance of muscle and bone. Another body may reach out to meet our own and call for a new posture and orientation. The sensation of heat moving from skin to a cool rock on a winter day. The prick of a needle along the smooth ridge of a paddle cactus. We give ourselves over to thinking at a register far different from a self-conscious I and the angular forms of reason. Bodies in a plenum abiding, tethered to the world.

There is a temporal plenum or rather many in which we are enfolded. Touch opens us to time. 6,000 feet below the rim of the Grand Canyon, one can run fingers across towering flat surfaces of rock layered in a black varnish of eons in which the stone surfaces have breathed air that chemically transforms their coloring. Here in what geologists call the Vishnu layer of planetary sediment, a hand across the unmoving surface touches a mass of earth that has lived a billion years into now. Here the rock bears forth a long now which in our touching takes us elsewhere in time. Here in time but in a duration beyond the registers of an all too human thought. With such touch, we are in a now that engulfs us with a duration before and after humans.

Attuning to a time beyond the human calls for a new posture, a new body architecture. Posture is a moment by moment conversation by which we find a fittedness. Posture is a pathfinding with the world. Some of these paths are well worn—the feel of a familiar keyboard and its responsiveness to slight pressures by the tips of the fingers, the resistance of bicycle pedals in the push of legs and feet as the body and machine move along a street, the nimble threading of shoelaces, the small gestures of hand, arm, and smiling face in greeting a friend.

Other paths challenge us in how we open our body onto the world. They ask something new of us and so we find something different in ourselves. We have a new conversation with the surroundings as we squeeze past rocks on a precarious cliff, hunch and huddle tightly in a cold and windy storm, align and realign grip to the feel of fur unfamiliar to us. These plants and rocks and animals and humans and multitude of things of the world ask something from us. They call for particular conversations which we respond to with corporeal postures. In doing so we get to know these others but only by way of remaking ourselves in ways that respond and ways that fit with what is asked of us. And in these conversational alignments we get to know something different of ourselves.

Today we have become aware once again that we share this planet with innumerable other living things, whose voices summon our attention and must also direct our lives. (…) Could it be that outside inert matter summons and directs our material bodies in ways that biochemists have not yet been able to trace? Alphonso Lingis, The Voices of Things

A human body is present when, between the see-er and the visible, between touching and touched, between one eye and the other, between hand and hand a kind of crossover occurs, when the spark of the sensing/sensible is lit, when the fire starts to burn that will not cease until some accident befalls the body, undoing what no accident would have sufficed to do… Since things and my body are made of the same stuff, vision must somehow come about in them; or yet again, their manifest visibility must be repeated in the body by a secret visibility. “Nature is on the inside,” says Cézanne. Quality, light, color, depth, which are there before us, are there only because they awaken an echo in our bodies and because the body welcomes them. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind


Dust and Shadow Reader Vol. 2. Next: spell of the sensuous