Landscapes within, landscapes without. Contrary to positivist science, the boundary between our body and the world is indefinite and shifting. When I experience space, according to the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1964: 59), I do not experience it as “an exterior wrap.” Instead, “I see space from within, I am enfolded by it… rather than the world being in front of me, it is around me.” Moreover, in our experience there is a constant interplay between the open and the closed, between the within and the without, between the here and the yonder, between inner space and outer space, writes Gaston Bachelard (1967: 192). These metaphors spring from our experience of space as we move through it, changing positions, and reconfiguring it. What seems external may become part of our inner space, conversely intimately held images are eventually exteriorized. Our consciousness is not a camera that blindly records raw data. Even as the senses relay information to the mind, they are oriented by it; for the mind continually re-organizes sensory data into meaningful wholes. The universal is present in the particular, as Hegel observed. Thus our senses spontaneously highlight certain features of a landscape, flatten others, and ignore the rest. What may be far for others, may be near for us and viceversa. What may seem but a forest may, for a community, be the abode of their spirits. Or a sword may be more than a finely crafted weapon, it could signify a bond between father and son. In this era of relentless change, where commercial interests dominate, many communities all over the world are now trying to protect material objects that give them a sense of continuity and purpose. But what is tangible does not necessarily endure forever. If a forest is merely regarded as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, it will be laid waste. A sword bought outside its cultural context may well be melted down one day for scrap. Hence even as nations and local communities protect their material heritage, they should also protect the intangible world into which this heritage was born and that subtly nourishes it. Tangible and intangible heritage are woven together like body and spirit.
Zialcita, F. (2013). Chanted Landscapes. In N. Revel (Ed). Songs of Memory in Islands of Southeast Asia, pp. 3-16. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.