The world waits for us on the rough side of the womb, its fabled obstetrician poised to slap us on the ass and start us crying, which is to say breathing, which is to say crying-as-breathing, before we open our eyes. And so crying and breathing fuse for us in our first of life’s lessons, long before we can understand it, much less stand it. For us, the world crouches, readies, always and already.

This isn’t news. Nabokov opens his memoir with the image of an empty cradle, poised to catch us. And Heidegger describes our “thrownness” into the world: that we can’t be, in the most basic sense, apart from the world’s givens—the specific place and time into which we’re “thrown” at birth.

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