“love is the principle of a fulfilling equilibrium between the individual and the whole”
Matter and Desire is not a book about navigating in nature, an analysis of the natural realm, nor a biology book in any way shape or form. I read this text as a love letter to nature. Andreas Weber is a German academic, and scholar who holds degrees in Marine Biology and Cultural Studies. In this text he explores the ways in which humanity, unity with the larger ecosystem, and love as experience connect with nature and all things around us. In the foreword John Elder writes:
“He [Weber] focuses throughout on the ways in which sensory contact with our fellow creatures, as well as with air and water, light and gravity, can deepen our capacity to identify with all of life.”
Weber connects our psychology and experience of nature with ecology, as well as acknowledging writers before him who have managed to do so successfully—like John Muir for instance. In fact, Weber brings together philosophers and writers from Antiquity to present merging their writings with contemporary anthropocenic discussions, exploring how our human identity ties in to nature.
Weber begins his book by defining ‘eros’ as he will use it in the entire text as well as a brief history of the word itself. He writes:
“The Eros of matter counterbalances the physicists’ basic assumption that ‘entropy’ in the universe is constantly increasing, meaning that everything in the cosmos is trending toward a uniform condition of the lowest thinkable level of energy. Fires burn out. Life-forms die. Our bodies break down. Even the sun will collapse someday.”
He brings together all the components of this experience: touch, desire, and death as well as separating the contextual experience of nature in terms of relativity between ‘I,’ ‘you,’ and ‘we.’ Weber also explores the poetic imagination, poetic materialism, philosophy, psychology, and freedom and the ways they fit into the discussion of desire and nature, as well as the many conversations sparked by each separate field.
This entire text is so well written and almost every line is quotable. Here’s an example:
“the feeling of the soul in ascent is the feeling that the desire for aliveness that fills the cosmos to the point of overflowing is being realized.”
Weber also includes in each section of his work an anecdote from his personal experience and relates it to the topic discussed in a theoretical way examining how it applies.
This work is a love letter to nature, and it is first and foremost an academic text. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy Carl Jung, Thoreau, Octavio Paz, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Muir, Sigmund Freud, and Classical Mythology, as well as new emerging discussions about the Anthropocene. This work is demanding of its readers but it is worth the effort because it’s extremely rewarding. Every line is so well written and beautiful. This will no doubt become a crucial text on nature in future literary discussions.