Marginalia, no.252

We can know everything in nature except that which knows nature. To the extent that man is a piece of nature, he disappears.

~ Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

I can hold my breath for almost four minutes. I lie on my back, very still. I close my eyes and imagine that I am a piece of turf or rock blind to the sky above me. After sixty seconds my lungs begin to heave, but the heaving stops after another minute. The feeling of my body in space drains away. The sense of touch and weight recedes. Grass – Stone – Nothing in particular. Two minutes later there comes a ghost, an apparition that I rediscover as myself.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Marginalia, no.252

  1. Interesting, Ian––these somatic details. My father used to say, when I was a child, that he could swim the length of an Olympic-sized pool without surfacing for a breath. That impressed me greatly at the time, though I realize even now that I must consult a reference work to remind myself how long an Olympic-sized pool is.

    As for Alan Bloom’s remark, I dissent on Darwinian grounds. To the extent that man sees in himself the merely natural as against the super-natural (or other-than-natural)––well, that’s where the wonder begins. I suspect that Bloom is unwilling to follow the natural far enough to see where it may shade off into, or give rise to, the cultural. I’ve just finished reading Robert Trivers’s new book (The Folly of Fools); maybe that explains my impatience with Alan Bloom.

    But of course I have Frost’s word on it all, too: “There is at least so much good in the world that it admits of form and the making of form. And not only admits of it, but calls for it. We people are thrust forward out of the suggestions of form in the rolling clouds of nature. In us nature reaches its height of form and through us exceeds itself.”

    • Ian Wolcott

      I only discovered my talent for breath-holding a few years ago.

      I could be wrong (I’d have to check the context) but in this case I thought Bloom was describing a cultural habit rather than making a strict pronouncement about actual limitations. I’d never read the book until this year, its 25th anniversary.

      By the way, I looked it up for you: an Olympic swimming pool is 50 meters long.

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