The Character of The Body
1.Look at a loved one, but with a little honesty this time. Though your gaze can only bounce off her surface, the rest of the senses can help to realize the entirety—the warmth of a hug, the weight of the head as it leans on your shoulder, the movement of the pulse, the scent of a sweet breath, the sound of an ever-beating heart. Notice her grace and power as her form rises and pushes back against gravity. See the muscles tense beneath the skin, as she stands tall and statuesque on a scaffolding and frame of mere bone. In regards to that loved one, all that you need, all that you’ve known, and all that you’ve ever loved, is present and accounted for.
And then remember your self, your life, your relationships; remember all the strange and awkward feelings, the pains, the pleasures, the illnesses, the health, the growth. Remember changing as you age. Remember your first and last time trying something new. Remember when you played, danced, and fought. Remember being bored when you should have been attentive. Remember approaching famine one time, and feasting in another. Remember all you have faced. You have made it, sometimes dragging yourself across the ground. Never hide your scars. In regards to your self, your life and your relationships, all that you need, all that you’ve known, and all that you’ve ever loved, is present and accounted for.
But that’s not good enough is it? None of what is present and accounted for gives us anything more than itself. None of this gives us the answer to Why. None of this leads to God, the afterlife, and divinity. None of this can satiate the insatiable.
2.If human history was a book, we would find on the cover beneath a grandiose title the subtle and nondescript text “based a true story”. We the people, of course, would be its authors. Besides being populated by a host of well-known truisms, platitudes, maxims and the popular metaphysics and spirituality of the time, the book would undoubtedly be overflowing with metaphor, half-truths and cloudy obfuscation, where we were most ignorant.
The strangest character in this fable—the most cloudy, half-truthed, and infested with metaphor—and thus what we are most ignorant about (besides the setting we find ourselves in), would be the human body, which, throughout its entire character development, assumes a variety of forms, i.e. fallen angel, dumb matter, a ghost-piloted machine, a pile of atoms, a hairless ape, a featherless biped, a vehicle for souls, an antenna for consciousness, an effigy to mortify, an aggregate of parts, the source of all sin, folly and evil, and so on. In this sense, the character of the body in this story has so much character that it is impossible to discern one characteristic from the next, but there are nonetheless a garden-variety of attributes from which we can piecemeal together a preferred idea for our hopes and desires. Sadly, when these fictional characteristics do not correspond to anything in reality, it isn’t the fiction of the body we abandon, but the reality of it we lose faith in, and we opt to keep reading.
3.We can observe the human body very easily. We can open it up to see its parts; we can analyze its functions; we can experiment with it. We can watch it be born, we can watch it age and we can watch it die. We can watch it be sick and watch it be healthy, and even better, it can speak and tell us how it is feeling. We can watch it perform relatively amazing feats of endurance, strength, love, compassion, violence, hatred, stupidity etc. But, for some reason this isn’t good enough.
It seems that in every branch of human lore and mythology—those being the institutions that put together this great fiction—the body as it reveals itself biologically is never a sufficient enough answer in regards to what a human being is. In fact, many think it is downright counter-intuitive to suppose that we are “just bodies”, that there must be more too it, and for some strange reason, it is somehow easier to suppose something non-physical leaves and enters the body on its own accord, despite how paradoxical and untenable such an idea is. It is in this vein, and with a curious absence of scientific method, Occam’s razor, logic and a whole host of philosophical tools, that we invent convenient fictions in order to placate our intuition, the faculty we seem to hold in higher regard than our sense and reason wherever knowledge is concerned, and fleeting hallucinations and ideological biases mistakenly take precedence to our heart of hearts. The same is with the opposite, when sense and rationality take precedence over intuition and emotion, and we can only rest our reason on our reason. The assertion of imaginary lines between faculties shows not any truth, but displays a being unwilling to operate at full functioning ability; and when he negates one aspect of himself in favour of another, in so doing, he can only ever negate the whole.
4.I notice two extreme ideas being held about the body in philosophy: that being the idealistic urge to exaggerate it, and the materialistic urge to understate it. To the idealist, the body is like a homeless man in need of a makeover, and it is dressed up beyond all rational recognition so that it no longer offends us with the very sight of it. To the materialist, the body is reduced to a brain, or an aggregate of atoms as in an attempt to use the mathematical models of physics to explain biological phenomena, or perhaps the body is something akin to a machine, with so much disregarded as it is mentally eviscerated, pulverized and liquified to a mere substance.
Despite the differences, both these views surprisingly come to terms somewhere in the middle, or at least, somewhere in the head, as both postulate the concept of Mind as what is most important in our areas of interest in regards to the body. Why? Any guess will do in this instance, for there is no logical answer.
Whether the idea of mind has simply become a custom with its overuse, or whether the mind is the same idea of soul, anima, nous, and psych slightly refined, exaggerated with every epoch, and passed down through the ages, it has become an assumptive mainstay among our research and languages, without it ever once being empirically or logically validated as having any reality in the entire history of mankind. This assumption has led to many curious ideas such as “thoughts”, “consciousness”, “awareness”, “intention”, “perception” and “representation”, which have been un-bodily ideas postulated into places where there exists only body. This is no different than postulating that Thor is the cause of thunder, and our use of “mind” as an explanatory tool shows we are still in the infant stage of understanding the most complex of complexities—ourselves—and we resort to a sort of polytheism in regards to the nature of the body, endowing ourselves with numerous gods (perception, awareness, consciousness, intellect, emotion, intuition, ego, etc. etc. etc.) in order to explain one thing.
5.The character of the body in our lore has been both protagonist and antagonist, a supporting character and a cameo with only a walk on role. What it does not mention is that it is the author.