A meshwork of interwoven lines

“So what are the essays in Being Alive actually about? Well, they’re about skills like sawing and kite flying; about Chinese calligraphy, line drawing, Australian aboriginal painting, native Alaskan storytelling, spiders, the art of walking, the art of being in weather … But that isn’t the half of it. These essays are really about becoming. About breaking down the great divide between human beings and the natural world. It’s impossible to cover all of the subjects and ideas that are part of Being Alive in this review, so I’ll focus briefly on the concepts that made most impact on me and that I believe will be of most interest to readers of EarthLines.

The key theme that runs throughout Ingold’s work is movement. Our humanity, whatever that might be, doesn’t come fully formed but is continually made and remade in our movements along the ways of life. Life, for Ingold, is an ongoing, unending process of wayfaring: ‘My contention is that wayfaring is the fundamental mode by which living beings inhabit the earth. Every such being has, accordingly, to be imagined as the line of its own movement or – more realistically – as a bundle of lines.’

“Amidst all these lines of movement-in-being (‘The wind is its blowing, the stream is the running of water. I am what I am doing. I am not an agent but a hive of activity’) Ingold sees the human being as so perfectly entangled in his environment that the two become inextricable. In this context, the concept of ‘meshwork’ is critical to Ingold, and so much more adequately represents what he is saying than the concept of ‘network’: ‘The web of life is not a network of connected points, but a meshwork of interwoven lines.’”


One thought on “A meshwork of interwoven lines

  1. From the same review:
    “Ingold’s world also is a storied world. Stories help us navigate the world of movement; they help us integrate the knowledge that comes from our ever-unfolding paths. There’s no point at which stories end and life begins, he tells us, in words that will give heart to every storyteller who’s ever been accused of childish irrelevance, or of doing no more than providing ‘entertainment’. ‘To tell … is not to represent the world but to trace a path through it that others can follow … Like following trails through a landscape – each story will take you so far, till you come across another that will take you further.’ This following of the trails of stories is yet another example of wayfaring. Wayfarers are their stories, and the stories are unending. ‘Wayfaring always overshoots its destinations, since wherever you may be at any particular moment, you are already on your way somewhere else.’ Not so much, as the title of the bestselling book on mindfulness by Buddhist therapist John Kabat-Zinn would have us consider, a question of ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’, so much as ‘Wherever you are, there you go again.’ “


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