Co-becoming ‘shadow of…’

*Photo of my desert shadow.

Reading a book by David Abram called ‘Becoming Animal’ that is a development of his book ‘Spell of the Sensuous’, both of which explore sensory experiences of the more-than-human world. He was describing how the general human perception of ‘shape-shifting’ elements in nature, like light and shadows, is one of 2-dimensions. We see ourselves (the 3D being) and then our shadow on the ground, a 2D casting of our shape as it blocks the light. However, he then goes on to describe how a bee might be flying along, the light gleaming on its wings, and pass into the space between me and my shadow. When this happens, the light ceases to gleam on the bee, it is effected/affected by entering that space. So, the space between me and my shadow on the ground is actually part of the shadow, and I am connected to it, and indeed a part of it as well. From the moment I begin and the 2D image of my shadow on the ground ends, we constitute a 3-dimensional entity that is ‘shadow of’ and is becoming (or co-becoming?) ‘shadow of’.

Becoming Animal by David Abram

How do I experience this, as person with heightened sensory sensitivity?

My shadow is not something that I smell or taste, but I certainly engage with it visually as most people do. However, I recall instances of sensory-touch experiences with my shadow. I remember as a child often trying to reach out and touch my shadow – finger-tip to finger-tip. This is very difficult to explain, because of course…there is no possibility of physical touch between flesh and shadow. However, if you close one eye and line your flesh finger up with your shadow finger, you are able to touch! It is a perception experience, but one that was more than just an optical trick to my senses. For example, when doing this, the nerves in the tip of my flesh finger would tell me that I had made contact by tingling…the sensation, I believe, was recalled with perfect clarity from flesh-to-flesh contact experiences of similar kinds and re-enacted in relation to this interaction between my shadow and I.

Another experience that stands out to me is whenever I make my shadow hand disappear from the pavement by drawing my flesh hand into the space between my body and shadow. Upon doing this, my flesh hand experiences sensations of altered temperature and ‘thickness’ in the air-space it occupies. The space physically feels warmer, thicker than when my hand was not occupying that 3D continuum of person-shadow, suggesting in a sensory manner that there was something physical, alive, more…existing in that otherwise seemingly empty dark-space.


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