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a phenomenological essay series
The following essays are a collection of journeys into the heart of experience— a reference to the silent sentience embodied in our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings as we range through an aesthetic environment, in this case, experiences within the northern Shawangunk Ridge system— affectionately known as The Gunks. The essays do not seek so much to describe the landscape as to describe aesthetic experiences unfurled by a fertile exchange with the environment, and to glimpse the phenomenology of perception itself. The environment is but the mute, yet powerful invocation for that rich arising.
The Gunks were chosen for this series because they solicit the right balance between unconscious comfort and conscious attention. This unique terrain prods a free measure of attentiveness over and above the functional requirements of navigation— whether hiking, biking, birding, skiing or climbing. Unless we have engaged in an adventurous trek or a highly technical climb (which, of course, is quite possible), we are not pitched radically outside the sphere of our everyday deployment of the senses and the perceptual momentum that is normally initiated. Nonetheless, despite this seeming comfort, the landscape is surprisingly and often abruptly unique. It is also deceptive in its capacity to raise physical challenges. The result is that intrigue and oddity are often suggestive to experience, but not confrontational in an overly burdensome manner.
It is precisely that mix that sometimes enables significance to quietly seep outside its ready-made embeddedness within everyday functional endeavors. In this series, our journeys remain ‘phenomenologically’ orientated because they do not seek to exclusively describe the outer environment we range through— like a guide— or the inner landscape of our personal feelings— like a journal diary. Instead, they seek to render a rich illustration of that two-sided coupling itself: consciousness-in-an-environment. This, in turn, provides for suggestive descriptions of the very same richness that is the other-side of the environment in that mutual arising of the perceptual bond, i.e., the environment of perceptual consciousness itself. We have symbolically dubbed this capacity for richness ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’— for it is the active work of the forgotten realm of perceptual processes that retain the latent power to transform ‘mere rock’ into experiences of ‘Shawangunk conglomerate’ in this region. And that type of rock, as anyone even vaguely familiar with the region can attest, is the glittering gold that has been transduced from ‘base matter’ in the Gunks. Still, the magic requires a receptive perceptual system to activate the transformation. It is the function of these essays to prime just such a receptivity.
There are fourteen essays in the original series. Some of them are accompanied by a rich set of images. Others, like THIRST, set the stage for the project's thematic emphasis without imagery.
The links below access the online adapted version of the book and do not correspond to the order published in the physical booklet. Only a few master copies of the book remain (published 2018), so this set constitutes the original impetus of the work in a different order. In the physical book, the essay "Intimate Otherness
" (below) introduced the Gunks through Mohonk Mountain House, the historical introductory anchor to the region. The essays are infused with a rich phenomenological/philosophical stratum in cases, and many are accompanied by imagery at the end of the text. Don't forget to check out related Gunks landscapes (on istockphoto
by Getty Images). The essay 'Reflex Cycle' is perhaps the most overtly philosophical essay in the collection, as it employs the notion of a startled reflex to provide entry and contrast to a core set of misguided notions at the heart of today's machine learning interpretations
(as opposed to the great success of machine learning applications
Philosopher's Stone: a phenomenological essay series