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Ecospirituality in the Age of Technological Overkill: Body-Time Reclamation in the Fiction of Alan Lightman and Don DeLillo

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Abstract:

In exploring the link between ecospirituality and the hard sciences, I argue that theformer provides a much-needed complement to the latter. The fragmentation ofdisciplinary pursuits fostered by the Enlightenment and by the continued progress ofunquestioned technological advance as an end in itself finds its ultimate expression inour current disconnection from the natural world, from each other, and even fromourselves. As a corrective to such disconnection, ecospiritual impulses emerge in anattempt to unify a discombobulated subject, a self so fragmented by the multiplenarratival requirements of a communication-obsessed age (where we can be reached bycell phone, regular phone, multiple email addresses, Facebook, and other social media)that the "contemplative" facet of being human within the rhythms of the natural worldis all but obscured-indeed, is hardly given the requisite environment in which tofunction. Against this over-reliance on technology, on where the hard sciences have ledus, ecospirituality emerges as a balm for the terrorized human spirit. Don DeLillo'srecent novel Point Omega documents this poignantly. His narrator speaks of the "usualterror" of cities with their "endless counting down," with people constantly checkingtheir watches and other time-keeping devices. DeLillo's protagonist moves to the desertwhere "geological time" becomes the paradigm through which a restorative calm isgenerated. Alan Lightman's fiction proves even more relentless in its depiction of thedissociation engendered by an over-reliance on technology. Lightman's protagonist inThe Diagnosis is an information trader who suffers a breakdown and is only restored towell-being through a re-acquaintance with his own natural body rhythms along withthose of the natural world. Many of the characters in the short-story collectionEinstein's Dreams also find that a connection to nature counteracts the senselesscompetition of a consumer-driven, technologically-enhanced world.

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