Disclaimer: The following essay is not about sex.
“I want to kill myself when I think I’m the only person in the world and that part of me that feels that way is trapped inside this body that only bumps into other bodies without connecting to another person in the world trapped inside of them.” – Frankie and Johnny(1990)
We live in a culture that is constantly obsessing and obsessing over its obsession with bodies. Are bodies a canvas for demonstrating contemporary culture? Are bodies a history? Are we truly, as we are told we are, more aware of our bodies than ever? And what about the bodies of others? Are we more preoccupied by our own body, our only possession we can carry to our graves, or are we more concerned with studying the bodies of others? What are the myriad ways of communicating with our bodies, sharing our bodies and is that communication more serious, more effective than the one we make through secondary means such as writing? In isolation as in the act of writing, is our body simply limited by skin and hair or is there some greater, invisible emanation that still communicates? The bottom line is, how do we really communicate with our bodies?
Imagine an ordinary, everyday scene of you being on a crowded bus. Imagine the largely abhorrent smells, the brushing against various textures of clothing, the unconscious sizing up of colour and space and structure in your vicinity. Imagine your greatest desire right now, which is just to be able to breathe some fresh air and get more space for yourself. Is your body sharing anything? Are you receiving any communication from your fellow bodies?
Yes, you are an image. If you had existed before photography or refined society, you would still be an image. Your body would still have been witnessed by others around you. Yes, you have a smell, or maybe multiple smells that make you who you are and communicate your bodily essence. You have animation, deliberate and unconscious, and to one who witnesses you, each action would mean something which they wouldn’t need to refer a copy of Body Language to make an inference of. “The way you wear your hat. The way you sip your tea…” Just existing, just being in the vicinity of other bodies is an act of sharing.
And what about tactile motion? Take today to consciously count the number of and note the nature of actually touching and being touched by other bodies. Again, there will be a lot that is deliberate and indeliberate. Wanted and unwelcome. Some will leave you puzzled, some will stay in your mind forever. Some will have a hint of danger. Some will leave more to be desired. These motions will be subject to temperatures. There will again be textures involved, of skin and hair, clothing, air etc. The touch maybe by proxy where a plastic bag passed to you at the checkout counter might still be considered to be a tactile communication. There might even be instances of static electricity where a wanted or unwanted contact would result in a blocking or bouncing off. Where this contact, which would have been a contact in any other circumstance, is not realised.
And what about communicating with your own body? As you sort out a tangle in your hair, as you prop one leg over another, as you feel the water sprinkling on your face when you shower, you are making a thousand communications with your own body everyday. You walk, you sit, you lean, you crack your joints, you laugh, you roll your eyes, every little thing you do is a communication with yourself, with others, that says something about your body. That makes it what it is. Your being for existing. Your vessel, as some call it, even your temple. In a world where a body is reduced to only a means of achieving something, a “thing that gets us to the thing”, you have to realise how powerful the communicating ability of your body is. It is your means to express yourself, your means to fight back when due respect is not given. An act of sharing is always an act of trust and when you share yourself with others, you trust other with your open want for communicating, for sharing, for kindness, for participating in human connection.
We might be more aware of our own bodies and of others in present times, but instead of being perceived as a overly judgemental phenomenon, it should also increase means of sharing and accepting bodies.