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Sight and sensibility
     

Sight and sensibility

5.0 1
by Laura Sewall, David Abram (Foreword by)
 
In the tradition of A Natural History of the Senses, an esteemed expert in ecopsychology shows how expanding the way we see the natural world can improve the way we relate to it.

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the connection between the human psyche and the natural environment. Fueled by a growing awareness of worldwide ecological

Overview

In the tradition of A Natural History of the Senses, an esteemed expert in ecopsychology shows how expanding the way we see the natural world can improve the way we relate to it.

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the connection between the human psyche and the natural environment. Fueled by a growing awareness of worldwide ecological degradation, an entirely new field of study, called ecopsychology, has emerged. At universities across the country, scientists are learning how the decline of our planet's environment affects not just our physical health but also our minds and emotions.

Laura Sewall, Ph.D., is one of ecopsychology's pioneers and an expert in the study of the visual process. In combining these fields, she has determined that the sense of sight is key to understanding and potentially reversing the effects of ecological destruction. In Sight and Sensibility--the first book on ecopsychology for lay readers--Sewall draws on her fieldwork studying the visual behavior of baboons and teaching vision improvement to trace the evolution of human sight and the cultural development of different ways of seeing. She shows how we can restructure the neural networks that determine how we see, awaken to visual patterns and depth perception, and learn to see more of the world around us.

A contemporary companion to John Berger's classic Ways of Seeing, Sight and Sensibility is a dazzling blend of science, psychology, and poetry.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sewall calls herself "a kind of mystic scientist" (she holds a Ph.D. in psychology and the neurophysiology of vision from Brown), a characterization that could easily apply to her field, ecopsychology. Her focus is on research that indicates that visual experiences can alter the structure of neural networks in the brain's neocortex. Because we selectively filter visual information through these memory-laden channels, Sewall believes that our perceptual habits mold and perpetuate our worldview, unless we consciously choose to attend to what we've overlooked. Swinging between lyrical introspection, epiphanies in nature, sociocultural commentary and analysis of the psychology of perception, she attempts to nudge the reader toward making that perceptual shift. Readers who can get past her New Age effusions may otherwise appreciate her style, which hovers somewhere between Annie Dillard and Ken Wilber, and will find some stimulating nuggets. A professor of ecopsychology at Prescott University in Arizona, Sewall points to a host of factors that blunt the average person's sensory awareness, including TV, fragmented lifestyles, ego-based projection and the mind/body disconnect bequeathed to us by Plato. Much of her inquiry flows from engagement with the ideas of James Hillman, John Berger, environmental philosopher David Abram and others. In Sewall's upbeat scenario, many people will adopt new ways of seeing and meditating that will awaken them to the interdependence of all living things. How exactly this will solve the global ecological crisis, as Sewall hopes, remains an open question. Illustrated. Agent, Anne Depue. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780874779899
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/04/1999
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.58(h) x 1.15(d)

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Sight and Sensibility 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of the many books I have read this long summer, only this one would I call beautiful. It is not just a read but an encounter with a deeply inspiring being who seems to become an actual presence herself¿someone to guide us back toward awakening to the wondrous, sensuous world around us. Far beyond the information purveyed or even the stories told, Laura Sewall herself emerges from her luminous prose as though to point with a gentle smile to the doorway which will lead us from our self-made enclosure, from the prison of our own device. This prison seems to consist of our habit-routines which bind our perceptions. Her special field of expertise is sight. She shows how we have lost our ¿depth-perception¿ by seeing everything in terms of our own culturally constructed self and its illusory security. We have learned to see only objects in terms of their potential use or threat to us. We do not see into them or their unified relations or our relationship with them and through them: ¿The canon that our Western worldview posits is that the healthy, well-adjusted adult is autonomous and independent, not interdependent¿ (247). Instead of seeing the living world and knowing we are part of it, we see a dead world reduced to ¿resources¿. But her tale is much more than a position or an argument. She shows the reader both through her own experience (including a powerfully transcendent moment of awakening on the East African veldt) and, more subtly, through her expressive prose and prose-poetry. Reading this book is itself an experience which approaches such transcendent moments. For Laura Sewall, ¿perception is the dynamic ground of our many relationships with the world¿ (17) which ¿may become the ground for a sensuous, even ecstatic relationship with the world¿ (18). And this is the kind of many faceted text which can remind us of that. Nearing the end, as the author called for the courage of new consciousness, I feared for a time that we were going to leave terra firma and go soaring into the airy-fairy realms of New Age spiritualism. But I was wrong, and relieved to be so. This fine author stayed firmly on our dusty planet: ¿My prayer is that we get down, that we get down and dirty¿ (274). When I was finished, I closed the book and whooped for sheer joy.