Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Umwelt - Thoughts on My New Favorite Word

Umwelt - the world as it is experienced by a particular organism.  

I'm considering the umwelt of the lizards dashing across the courtyard.  The ground covered with mini stones must be like rock hopping on the mountain for me.  

I'm considering the umwelt of the Maya, somewhat larger in scale but an organism nonetheless.   We can imagine it, pretending that we understand what motivated the hands chiseling out statuary and steps. But without the Maya themselves, it's only play acting.  

The Mayan umwelt no longer exists.  There is a hole in the cultural universe of humankind.  Ever since I learned the word a few weeks ago, I've been having thoughts like these.  It's probably not the healthiest thing for my brain to be concocting these images of what has been lost.

I realized that and tried to move on, with some (see the lizard above) success.  

But I'm also wondering about the umwelt of our individual responses to the pandemic, bringing the word down to the smallest human entity - one of us.  I'm laughing as I remember R. D. Laing's inexplicable Politics of Experience: 
Your experience of me is not inside you and my experience of you is not inside me, ...
and I fear that I'm going down a rabbit hole with this one.  But what will it be like when we all begin to interact with one another again?  We've each experienced the world from an individual perspective for so long now, with no end n sight (at least for those of you who are reading this, who, I assume agree with me about the seriouslness of what's going on outside with The Yuckiness).  

Do I want to go back to the way things were?  Am I enjoying bits and pieces of being isolated? What are my neighbors doing and thinking?  What used to be a collective, a We, the people, now is not only politically but physically distanced.  We've spent lots of time reveling in our own umwelts, forgetting about the larger organism, the USofA that ought to be reeling from what's now the third story on the news shows - anonymous, camo-clad, agents of the government are kidnapping people on the streets of Portland.  

And, as the Governor of Oregon pointed out just now, the graffiti they were there to protect remains, untouched, just as it had been for three weeks before these detentions.  

I've wandered, haven't I.  This organism has spent too much time examining the lint in her navel, I'm afraid.

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