BODIES

Bodies

Bodies

BODIES

You have one. I have one.

The subject of human bodies carries high voltage. For some the subject provokes an electrical jolt of distress; for others it's an electrical surge of energy. As raw material for creative consideration, bodies bring the sun for an infinite set of opportune days.

Some people have bodies like road-weary Studebakers. Other have bodies that shimmer like rain-kissed Italian sports cars. Fast or slow, sleek or not, they propel us through space, through time, through life. They torment us with aches and pains, and sometimes far, far worse. But don't think about this too hard: look at the next body you see, even if it's your own standing in front of the mirror. No matter whether it treats you well or badly, it's still an astounding thing.

Sages have spent ages trying to separate body from mind. Speaking as someone who spends huge sums of his day blissfully immersed in pursuits of mind alone, this separation makes some good sense. The intangibility of our thoughts do not demand our ability to life heavy objects, nor process oxygen across the alveoli in our lungs. But as we all know, there's no such thing as a life of pure intellect, nor should we ever aspire to such. Even literalism here suggests that the ordinary act of thinking requires respiration--oxygen transfer--to facilitate the alchemy of thought.

Philosophers have also spent great energies trying to reconcile mind and body--to place them in direct contact. Breath is the fuel that powers Zen meditation, an active pursuit of achieving emptiness. Aristotle and Hippocrates both espoused the values of body and mind. Two thousand years later Thoreau similarly didn't separate physical experiences from intellectual considerations of ethics and values.

But bodies: what of bodies?

Science cannot produce them, even as modern science continues to improve our ability to maintain them. Art continues to reinvent them; culture finds endless ways to present them. Taken as geography, bodies are any archaeologist's dream. In their folds there and mountains and hills; there are wide-open expanses; there are areas exposed to the sun. Skin stretched tight over muscles or skin hanging loosely  over bones tell stories. Time develops scar, tattoos of experience unique to every single body that has ever lived. Scars are inevitable, and the roadmaps of time that each of us wear. We live in these shells, and in these shells we act in the world, each similar, each slightly different, just like the narrative threads we all tell.

No doubt there's the potential for prurience here, for slightly salacious implications of objectification and judgmental evaluation. If all that is corporeal of our humanity is only to be evaluated endlessly, baubles in a market, we become nothing but bodies of judgement rather than entities for marvel. That's why I'll suggest the following: it's fine to regard some people as more beautiful than others, some people even more attractive than others. But beyond superficial aesthetics, consider the deeper possibilities. Every body you've ever knows will return to it's constituent elements soon enough. You only get to inhabit your own body for a short time. Therefore, when you consider different bodies as the starting point for endless moments of invention, superficial aesthetics don't  get you nearly as far as knowing the people who inhabit the bodies themselves.

--MS

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