Having a relationship with one’s body isn’t an easy task. We take it for granted because it’s always been there. We call it “me” because it’s absolutely integral to our consciousness. But really, we have no control over our bodies’ workings; they are a mystery beyond our ability to understand, far less to manipulate. My conscious mind could never regulate the life-enabling processes that flow so smoothly in my silent partner’s control, while I, the talking part, don’t always manage my part of our life very well.
It’s often a love-hate situation. When it makes the perfect jump shot, wins the prize, feels and looks good, we love it. If we’re dissatisfied we criticize it and despair, and when it ages, we complain, worry, and maybe even become afraid, knowing it could sabotage us at any moment with, say, a deadly illness. We discuss its failings and any treatments we’ve had done, with great relish.
In addition to mystery and fear, our body is shaped as we mature and our environment begins to rein us in: others set limits on our explorations, comment on our behavior, and require things of us. Given the emotional fragility of children (and adults too), derogatory comments and negative emotions from others can create deep-seated doubts about our worthiness, intelligence, and abilities. The danger is as children, we tend to believe what we’re told, and in innocence accept the comments of others as we formulate our place in the world.
In the bluster of life, we seldom step back and consider what the body actually is, apart from our emotional entanglement with it. It’s a magnificent, complicated, self- regulating engine that’s grown itself from a single cell, that turns food and water into energy, moves and manipulates its environment. It heals itself, and learns. It’s silent, signaling distress with pain, illness, incapacity. I suppose a body’s essentially an animated piece of meat, but that sells its way short.
I’ve read theories our body’s cells each have an intelligent consciousness, communicating in a vast network to perform the millions of chemical and electrical connections required as we lead our daily lives. Since our cellular consciousness is so productive, we might be wise to recognize our body as the most capable one in our relationship.
“So what?” you may say. “That’s what it’s supposed do. And, why should I care?”
Now, say your body is an employee whose “boss” (the “talking part”) never realizes how excellently you perform your work, how well you handle an interwoven complex of details, how loyal you are even though you might be fed junk food, heavily stressed, and occasionally reviled by the “boss.” You, the steady workhorse, receives no acknowledgement, appreciation, or honor. Wouldn’t you go on strike, quit, or get sick?
We’re seldom genuinely grateful for our fleeting moments of life. Do you savor the joys of existence — the beauty of clouds and landscape, the splendor of sunset and sunrise, the glorious sweep of the seasons, and the abundance and relative safety we enjoy in this country? Or don’t you go in for that kind of emotional nonsense? An important thing we could do is to adopt an attitude of gratitude toward the truly splendid things of life, including that essential part of ourselves, our physical selves.
After all, why should we expect to receive good things from the play of life in the universe, when we’re usually dissatisfied, complacent, or ignorant of the value of what we’ve already been given, including the competent silent partner that permits our continued existence?
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a long-time Comstock resident.