Michael Marder

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Michael Marder

Like a flower of the skin

Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

To you, orchid, I whisper: “Like a flower of the skin.” I graft this expression onto English from other, Romance languages. À fleur de peau, a flor de piel, à flor da pele. I graft it, also, like a flower onto the skin—a plant part onto an animal or a human organ.

One of its possible English renditions is “skin-deep,” that is, not deep at all, situated right on the surface, essentially superficial. An exteriority that is sensitive and sensuous, emotional and passionate: being on edge, easily set off by any little thing, but also being super-delicate, awash in raw sentiment.

If you experience the world à fleur de peau, its stimuli impressed on the outermost casing of an outermost organ, then you exhibit a heightened attunement to your environment. Like flowers with their skin.

I am running out of space, of words, of air, of breath. A parting provocation, then. Try not only to live but also to think “like a flower of the skin”! How is this possible? You, orchid, know it much better than I do. There is no set answer, save for a continual practice of honing the sensitivity of thought, grazed on its surface by…