"The Flesh of Language" by David Abram [Cosmos Café 2021-09-30]

YES…I commit to this traveling plan toward another circling
of (Feet) Walking/Surfing the Labyrinth of Infinite Conversations:



The woman with plants growing up out of her body! I resonate. So much like my name-dream re: the woman with twigs growing from her head, which connected her (forever) to the Original Tree. Also evokes Dreaming and Psilocybering…
I am re-reading Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal, and as Doug said about The Spell of the Sensuous, I am discovering lots of things I somehowmissed the first time. This is much more deeply nourishing it feels to me than reading a new book on the same topic. Although I’m always hungry for new versions of…the vision at the heart of both books just mentioned! I read Sensuous years ago, wish I had it and could read it again!
Thank you Michael and to all who are delving and divining these matters.


Looking forward to Abrams next week, everyone!

Here’s a gift that was just dropped off in my office by a colleague who runs a small press (NewLights Press). They did the broadside last night. Quite lovely. Maybe another expression of the “flesh” of language. The poetess is Julia Drescher (“JD” in the image).



Listening to David A. gesturing and blowing the Holy wind, found myself in tears, and swept up into the clouds with the rushing-spirit swallows.
Wado (thank you), David, for breathing, for shaping breath to illumination.

I tend to leave half-baked thoughts in draft mode and end up not sending out. I would really like to respond to all of the posts here, mostly tangental from our core discussion regarding Abrams, with an eye to future realities. I like the direction we are going.

I keep reading (as I attempt a side project of learning basic html language) that many programmers love that feeling when they can take this abstract logical language and produce a tangible web page or website. It is like magic when things come together. What you and we and others have accomplished with the magic of internet creation and interaction is a language of its own.

In Faggin’s essay “Consciousness Comes First” he compares the structure of human language to that of a high-level computer language, “(t)he big difference is that the latter is extremely precise, whereas the former is ambiguous, requiring conscious comprehension to be understood.” He then posits that the expression of desire, similar to Marco’s desire to utilize computer language to “realize” something greater (the “what wants to happen”) is a top-down process that lays down the abstract pattern and the bottom-up fills in the pattern with matter (thought comes before matter). I am taking his framing a bit out of context but feel it relates to the flesh of language in that we, as an animal living “in” the Earth, are under the spell of some great Flesh similar to how it, the computer program, is under our magical fingertips, creating a world (for better or worse). Again, remember that the computer program may have a certain precision when all goes well; the Flesh of the world requires that we actively participate with our conscious comprehension.

I am very interested in China’s recent decision to ban gaming for ages 18 and under during the week and limit play on weekends. China's gaming market was built on addictive games. Can Beijing stop kids from playing them? | Fortune . Highly controversial (I am sure much more is being considered aside from children’s mental health. . .) but an experiment worth examining nonetheless. Too many online games are designed to be addicting; to keep the gamer (and mostly gamers under 18 ) purchasing new ‘skins’ and guns that pop up almost daily at the expense of parent’s pocketbooks. All the while, these companies are collecting the behavioral data and patterns of our children to better set up the next addictive game. I wouldn’t mind having Uncle Sam play the role as bad cop when surveilling my children’s screentime. Some related issues that I have yet to explore in depth is how a government might go about mandating restrictions regarding the various healths of their citizens that does not violate certain freedoms.

great questions . . . I will add these to the seed questions for our next Cafe.

I attended most of the Consciousness Unbound conference online and must say that our style is perhaps the best out there for reaching into the matter at mind. The talks, while informative, were “boring as hell” . . . I greatly appreciate our decision to remain Patreon free and free to talk about our latest walk in the park; free to all to take the helm and steer us into uncharted realms or into the ground. I also love a good guest (the conversation with Ben is a prime example of the intimacy a speaker can bring to the table). And I believe all of the guests we have invited have been changed in part by how we impart. Weird and unpopular: great for our imaginal hips . . . not so great for selling our ideas. allegro-rhythms over algorithms, my elders say.

Like Ed, I left the book on the shelf. Personally, I felt I was not ready for the section on language when we first brought it up in 2019. With all of our recent language discussions, a recent read of the language chapters was entered with a healthy knowledge. I think it is correlated with Abram’s work and with Faggin’s model.

I avoided Merleau-Ponty in undergraduate years. When I touch his and other phenomenologists’ works now, I am truly touched. Phenomenal. Phenomenology is a branch of philosophy that has a clear application to the tangible world. I like the direction we are going and like that we are going together.


Last night, I dreamed of computer images, tight digitized blue rectangles, framed in bright white light, arranged in rows, scrolled down, by an invisible scroller. This rather distrubed me, as I was fully lucid, and was not sure if I was a robot or not. Perhaps I am having the dream of a machine? This is probably what an algorytymic infinity would look like. On a clear day you can see forever… an infinite amount of the same.

Or am I the interface between bio and algo -generated rythmicities experienceing the disconnections between incommensurate scales? I was listening to white noise, which helps me ignore the screams in the night, the occassional explosions of a burst of rock music, the sound of glass breaking, the laughter of a drunk, all of that messy analogue stuff. So maybe what I was viewing in my dream was what it is like to be white noise, a computer generated miracle, an antidote to the lucid dreamer brouht up on Milton and Shakespeare and technicolor science fiction movies, who wants to fly and rendevous with intelligences from mutliple dimensions, and develop superhuman capacities., to save the world, bringing forth a Second Axial Age- well so what? We are imprinted upon by culture. But which culture will do the imprinting? It appears the digital is much stronger, changing our nervous systems and our relationships.

The young, I fear, who will be dominated at an early age by AI, won’t register this tension. Already absorbed into the Borg, the time that is not our time, they will not register that tiny gap, nor register the discrepencies in subtle kinds of percieving, as the noise of mixed messages and commercials flood their young sensoriums with manufctured products, distracting them from what is happening upstream. So, I consider this tension to be something that only a dying boomer generation would register, the last generation to have known a world without a computer.

And what is a World anyway? Or the Earth? Or a Planet? Or the Global? These are the big ticket items that we are using without ownership or repsonsibility. We are networked, we own nothing, we are users. But I am getting distracted.

I am surely unfair. There are outsiders in every generation, who register the gaps, don’t fit the norm, who have a sensitivity to what is happening upstream, who read books. I know some of them personally. With this in mind, I read a smart, young Czek philosopher ( just turned thirty) who writes of Cosmogrammatology and the Spectral Earth. The Spectral Earth will be without us. This is a new concept that is an absence that many of us are feeling often. Now the young and the old are both feeling this. How to make a good death together? Is this common sense or a new nihilism? I’m not sure.

At any rate, I review David Abrams and this book ( I loved it twenty years ago) but with some misgivings. It does feel-well-sort of romantic. I like romanitic but also am wary of it. His new book, though it is told with great flare, is also a bit romantic. The opposite of human is not animal but the demonic. And animals who are abused can become demonic, too. If you give a dog too many mixed messages, she will bite you.


I fell asleep and dreamed I was a computer.
When I awoke, I could not know whether I was a man
dreaming himself as a computer, or the computer
dreaming herself as a man.

– Chuang-Tzu, mis-translation MVM

The first “computers” were—as we know from a book and film called Hidden Figures, chronicling their history—mostly women, including especially women of color, who literally performed the calculations with their brains in service to the NASA mission to the moon, before those calculations could be entrusted to IBM machines.

Technology comes from nature; one could say Nature itself is technological, as it is perpetually developing the means for its own ends—membranes, tissues, organs, nervous systems, power grids. We could say humans create technology for their own ends, but humans arise out of nature—and how could our ends so radically depart from Nature’s goals or intents?

Yet can nature be said to have goals, intents? Where does Nature come from? Before there is “nature,” must there not be some form for nature to take? A shape, a number, a quality. We posit Spirit, consciousness itself, a realm of pure thought that permeates (becomes immanent) in nature and cannot be conceived outside of it, since it is always human beings, operating within nature, who posit spiritual truths and realities.

We are an attempt, perhaps, to realize a natural dream. Our artificial intelligence only appears to be a metastasizing mechanism gone berserk; it may exhibit faces of the demonic, born of human, that is to say natural, violence and trauma. Who owns their servers and cloud computers? What are their agendas and business models? Let’s generously grant that they are merely concerned with world domination: this does not prohibit, necessarily, other possibilities or forms this intelligence can assume.

Form matters. Emptiness means nothing in particular. Could the spell of the sensuous and the spell of the technological be mutually exclusive? Or must we find our way residing among multiple centers of gravity, leaning into a future without money-back guarantees? I just know that my brain does not make up the flesh of a butterfly, which I touch with my eyes. And a Virtual Reality headset probably won’t be able to fully, authentically, recreate that experience either. But if, in some imaginary future, it does, then what would be the difference?

I believe the real butterfly must be a creature beyond ourselves. The word “butterfly” becomes flesh on my tongue because the world backs me up. If we allow ourselves to be satisfied with a world of fake butterflies, which people everywhere are pimping, then it is likely that we will already have passed beyond the realm of the meaningfully living.


I am far behind on this thread, but something arose in me to say here:
What I see and have seen all my life is that except for art and gift, human-made “technologies” are built for narrow purposes to benefit even narrower groups.
Whereas nature’s inventions always benefit many beings and ecosystems as beneficent “side-effects”, even the ones we judge as useless or pathogens. Human inventions (not made out of love, ie art) rarely ever show this multifarious effect in the world. Fake butterflies/bees are made to force a crop plant to produce. Real ones provide for many beings in many ways. The intentions of human tech inventors are often economical and ego-driven which i believe is why they so often create havoc in the living system. No thought is given to their “after life”, their “waste”, whereas butterflies when they die do not pollute the soil, but MAKE soil and feed the world.
Of course there are exceptions, but I feel this is the dimension we humans almost always denigrate and overlook …to our and the world’s peril
Saw a documentary yesterday: The music of Strangers, which concerns a generous multi-cultural/international musical collaboration which benefits all the participants, all listeners ( I don’t say “audiences”) more like a natural system does. We might say that the ancestors who dreamed up the music, invented the instruments, learned to communicate and play together, living and dead, are a part of the collaborative seeding of joy…
We humans would be far better off and our world too, if we devoted ourselves to more of this, and less to ambitious technological enterprises, beyond the simplest that truly do enhance life.
How can we help each other spend more time (together or alone) offline listening to trees, wind, music of the planet and of the stars, all the voices and wisdoms…we can gather, sow, tend, harvest, share.


Flesh, form, sex, death. Zach Bush warns us that our mania for untested vaccines may have tipped the balance towards wide spread infertility. Due to chemicals within our eroded top soils and the over use of antibiotics, plus the effects of bad nutrition, a fourth of women and a third of men, are already infertile. More people are killed by iatrogenic diseases than cancer. Bad air and water are the weapons of mass destruction, not rogue viruses. None of this bodes well for the future. If you have seen the film , Children of Men , based upon the novel by P. D. James , you will be struck by the resonance between that film and current facts and factoids or what I prefer to call factions that are embedded within our current enfolding fields of possibility.

As a gay man I was never interested in passing on my genes to another generation but I am aware of the civilizing impact children have upon adults. P. D. James imagines our society goes sour really fast without their presence. Life copies Art.

And what does any of this dystopian fantasy have to do with current realities in the making? I’m not so sure. But I am open to the posiiblity of a concrete utopianism that is not caught in the downwards spiral of a materialist paradigm that improve us to death. We are open to other and perhaps marginal imaginalities. Who knows which seeds will grow in the womb of time?


Hi Johnny, How can one sign up for this talk? Is it free?
When I click on registration, nothing happens, searching online, can’t find it.


Here is a link to the seminar. There is info on how to register. Thanks for your interest, Maia. Safety is not the same as no data.

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While I do not contest this, the approach of using people to do the work was, as far as I know, developed in the Second World War… NASA simply borrowed the procedures already in place. “Computers”, in the same sense, were used on both sides of the Atlantic, during the efforts to break the German enigma code and other related information cyphers, but also in the US during the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb. In both cases, as was true at NASA later on, women were the primary resource for those activities.

Interestingly, too, the first device that could be called a computer in the more modern sense was the Jacquard Loom (1804), some of whose elements were reused in the design of Babbage’s difference engine (1820) or the later Analytical Engine (1837). The Jacquard Loom was itself based on earlier devices dating back as far as 1470. History ascribes the origins of these devices to men, although women while in earlier times dominated the weaving trades, were also still active weavers in medieval Europe, and it seems likely their influence was important. The Babbage designs were also influenced by Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the poet Byron, who became a celebrated mathematician in her own right.


And who had a computer language named after her:


“The printing press, the computer, and television are not
therefore simply machines which convey information. They are
metaphors through which we conceptualize reality in one way or
another. They will classify the world for us, sequence it, frame it,
enlarge it, reduce it, argue a case for what it is like. Through
these media metaphors, we do not see the world as it is. We see
it as our coding systems are. Such is the power of the form of
information.” Neil Postman

Walter Ong, wrote of the sensoriim as " the entire sensory apparatus of an operational complex." In the first Axial Age there were persons who were able to keep track of the interior and exterior sensoriums. Plato and Socrates, Aristotle with his four causes ( mentioned by me in the last Cafe) were adept at moving between an exterior verson of what we do on the interiors to make sense of complex world in motion with many others. Buddah and Jesus were good at it,too. Abhidavagupta and the Tibetans were able to develop interior landscapes through methods that I actually use. And these practices can register trans-rational apprehensions, that impact the exterior world. In other words, the interiors and exteriors co-refer. The Imaginal ( not the same as imagination) is the force that can turn you inside out and then back again in the twinkling of an eye. But which eye? The eye of the senses,?the eye of the mind? the eye of the spirit?

The ancients had some good maps for these territories that our current mania over codes and faster algorithyms completey obscures. I think David Abrams calls this process of integrateing percievers with sensoriums, synesthesia. An overlapping of senses occurs that trance practitioners and meditators as well as poets and story tellers, know well. Cognitive Psychology , modeling humans using computer metaphors, illuminates us very little as they pay attention mostly to material causes only.

The mathemitizing of mind has failed to capture our complexity. We can’t re-engineer humanity. We are learning this the hard way. Our immune systems are smarter than we are.

Yesterday, Norway has rejected all mandates and restrictions. If you get sick stay at home and take care of yourself before you rush to the hospital. An acceptance of Corona VIrus fatigue has swept that country up north and in Singapore as well. Both of these advanced socieites have lower rates of transmission than is happening in the US. No model fits all. The nation-state and medicine for profit has left us scrambling with few alternatives. . These two responses will probably amplify as the risks of more booster shots seems very risky and trying to defeat the virus medically has reached a cul de sac. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Personal responsibilty for health will place more upon the person than mandates, insurance companies, and the compiler of statistics. This has been a foolish and costly mistake. The same foolishness manifested in the medication of gay men during the AIDS epidemic. Rather than clean up the air and water we try to wipe out a virus. Herd immunity is not to be scoffed at. Those who have survived the illness have stronger immune systems than those who take a jab in the arm. Not all epidemics are alike. I am not an anti-vaxer but I am for bio-rythms and exercise and wise nuturition and breath work and cold baths. But not for everyone.

So, we learn to live with the Virus rather than against it. To defeat the microbial world is a lost cause. Let us pay attention to our prepossitions. We are more, much more than a computation. I hope we can develop these motifs further at the Cafe tomorrow. How in the midst of so much bad information can we focus attention on what is most important? How can we resonate with the structure of the Whole?


This morning I took part in a very interesting discussion about technology and language. It is part of a graduate seminar I and two of my colleagues have created dealing with the ethics of care in the health system and, indeed, society as a whole. One of the students presented a paper on “ethical design”, and another student a paper on the concept of institutional design in relation to health service environments. The issue of technology emerged, and it was pointed out that technology, rather than being a thing-by-itself, is really in a continuum with the idea of “techne”, itself a practice related to the acts of expression, hence of discourse. In a way, technology can be viewed as a way of saying things in certain ways. We were discussing the “case” of Joyce Echaquan, a native woman who died at a Quebec hospital a year ago after being admitted for a stomach ailment and mistreated by the nurses and doctors who were there to care for her. In essence, she died because she lacked the right language (and skin colour!) to be heard and treated with respect. Because care in the current system seems to depend more on how we present ourselves than on who we are. Technology, especially in the health system, but also elsewhere, is used to legitimize a certain kind of discourse or relation with people that focuses more on the technical aspects of the body than on our innate humanness.


Etymologically, “technology” has its roots in the Greek word techne, meaning “art” or “craft”, neither of which is generally associated with or attributed to Nature, as these notions imply, at least implicitly, that some kind of “knowing” is involved in their execution (which resonates, I think, with @Geoffreyjen_Edwards’ thoughts on technology as a way of expression). Isn’t there perhaps something of an agency issue also involved? What is more, the result of an art or craft is most often some artifact or artifice, which sends us linguistically close to “artificial”. And natural/artificial is a very useful distinction, is it not?

Picking up on the Alderman articles we read, that is, prepositionally speaking: what does “comes from” actually mean in this context? Is it in the sense that one thing leads to something else, that is that there is, if not a causal, a logical connection between them? Or in the sense of “I come from Western PA” simply because as a result of some great Cosmic Chance I happened to have been born there?

Similarly, what might “developing” mean? If it is “finding ways to make ways meaningful”, that is one thing, but if is meant teleologically, i.e., " finding ways to make ways means", then that’s another. To my mind, it makes a significant difference whether those “ends” are the reason for the solution being sought or whether those “ends” just happen to be the place in the process where you can stop because you found what you think is a solution.

And, I found the list intriguing: the first four items organic, the fifth not; the first four “natural”, if you will, the fifth “artificial” (to link back to my first question above). The first four can be understood as – and certainly have the feel of – an ever-increasing complexity, a kind of hierarchy … but the fifth? Whereas the first four can be understood in terms of differences in degree, the last item is different in kind. Should it be included in the hierarchy, or does it fall out categorically?

Otherwise, I think I pretty much understand where you want to go with this, at least as far and the “form” and “emptiness” are concerned. I stumbled over the AI, of course, just as I did with the power grids. I was reminded of Heidegger’s distinction between calculative and meditative thinking: the former is divisive and atomistic; the latter integrative and holistic. All AI is the former. Computers compute, calculate, crunch numbers, even if it appears they are doing something similar to what other sentient creatures are doing. At bottom, they are merely mimicking.

Which brings us to the Abram video that John posted. The theme of his presentation is “breath”, air, consciousness, mind, … spirit. You hint at this question, too: where’s the “spirit” in AI? And I’m not talking about the “rah-rah-sys-boom-bah” that surrounds it. I’m wondering what enlivens it, literally? Does it live at all? At this point in my own ruminations, I’m working with the hypothesis that if it can’t assume a form that breathes, it doesn’t matter.

I must hasten to add, though, before I’m terribly misunderstood: I am definitively not saying that if something doesn’t breathe, it doesn’t matter. It most certainly does. I mean, where would we be without matter? And to some, what matters more than matter? And what are our bodies composed of? And where would we be without them? It appears, as Arthur Young noted, in this 3.999…-dimensional reality, we couldn’t be without one: but it’s got to be a breathing one. So, in agreement with @johnnydavis54, best take care of it the best we can.

Just some thoughts thought sort of out loud.


It is! Yet distinction need not imply division, dissociation, or opposing relationship.

“Comes from”—must mean it has arrived. It was once there in Nature;
now it’s here, with us Techno-Humans.

A spider spins a web.
The web is not the spider. It can blow away, tattered in the wind.
The web is an extension of the spider. It is both a trap and a part of her nervous system.
The spider eats.

Let us posit that “AI” is a way that some spiders eat.
The question then is not whether AI is dead or alive, but who is lunch?

We could all be spiders, slinging light through fiber optic cables.

A spider sits in the center of her web
and meditates…

Breathing, sensing, waiting…
Pulsing, multiplexing, decoding…

There is a light around the spider, and light
around the screen.

And the light around the spider is your light.
And the light around the screen…

Where does that light come from?




And Yet What is & What of Relationship does a Human Being Create
When Interacting ? Is My Humble Need,Desire to Engage…


I find this to be a confused analogy.

Spiders eat and make webs but do they poop?

Spiders don’t deposit separate feces and urine, but rather a combined waste product that exits from the same opening (anus) .

Does AI create waste products? If so, from what does that waste come from? And how is it excreted?

I am all for anologies that fit. Your anology doesn’t fit, Marco, although it is amusing to muse upon why it doesn’t. I have thought about it and it doesn’t match up. As conscious beings we can project our intelligence onto the non-intelligent and the unalive. AI is not conscious and never will be so comparisons to living, orgainc creatures can be allowed as poetic liscence but there are limits. This, in my view, is the problem of animism in our digital age. We see something that mimics life and fall in love with it. This becomes idolotry.

The eye through which God sees me is the same eye through which I see God. AI can’t do this. I look at the light from my computer screen and feel bored.

I can use the computer to share symbols with other sentient beings who also share symbols. That can be interesting and is miraculous. And that is a different story.

Thanks for the thought experiment.


I shouldn’t be too late for the meeting today (but won’t be on the call until after 12:05). I may have to leave a little early because of student meetings, though. Some of the passages on page 84 struck me as offering some good fodder for Lisa’s project. I wanted to mention it here in case we don’t get to it on the call.

See you soon!