Eduardo Kohn on “ambulatory habits”

From Zeitgeist Spam (John Bloomberg-Rissman), “From Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think (a contribution to the mental discussion I’ve been having with Commune Editions’ posts at Jacket2)” (I think this also relates to my previous post. But I think what Kohn says here about stumbling through the terrain of the rainforest is about more than a personal fixed habit or being tipsy, but of a systemic [not] “seeing,” [not] “feeling,” and [not] thinking):

“On those walks with Oswaldo back to the house my ambulatory habits had only imperfectly matched the habits of the world. Because of fatigue or mild inebriation (the first time I had stumbled on that stump we had hiked more than ten hours over very steep terrain and I was exhausted, the second time I had just finished off several big bowls of manioc beer) I simply failed to interpret some of the features of the path as salient. I acted as if there were no obstacles. I could get away with this because my regular gait was an interpretive habit-an image of the path-that was good enough for the challenge at hand. Given the conditions that we faced it didn’t really matter if the way I walked didn’t perfectly match the features of the path. If, however, we had been running, or if I had been burdened by a heavy load, or if it had been raining heavily, or if I had been a little bit more tipsy, that lack of fit may well have become amplified, and instead of slightly stumbling I might well have tripped and fallen.

My tipsy or fatigued representation of the forest path was so rudimentary that I failed to notice its differences. Until Oswaldo pointed it out to me I never noticed the stump, or that I had stumbled on it-twice! My stumbling had become its own fixed habit. By virtue of the regularity my imperfect walking habit had assumed-so regular that I could repeatedly kick the same stump on successive days-it became visible to Oswaldo as its own anomalous habit. And yet, however imperfect its match to the path, my manner of walking was good enough. It got me home.

But there was something lost in that “good enough” habituated automatization. Perhaps that day walking back to Ascencio’s house, I had become, for a moment, more like matter-“mind whose habits had become fixed”-and less a learning and yearning, living and growing self.” Read more of this lengthy post on Zeitgeist Spam

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