The Body Issue

Every year The Age Newspaper (Melbourne,  Australia) runs  “The Body Issue” of the Sunday Age Magazine. Every year I hope for something more from the big investment The Age seems to put into this special edition devoted to the contested territory of the post modern human body.  Every year the story of peoples bodies, the mysterious complicated vessel from which we see, feel, know and locate ourselves in this life gets shrink-wrapped into dualities: fat, thin, beautiful, botoxed, worked-out, boob-jobs or not, well fed, over fed. In short the ‘body’ becomes another place where living experience can be neatly boxed, cataloged,  updated, looked over with your Sunday morning coffee then popped in the recycle bin.

Every year this magazine serves up the same semi-comatosed superficial  investigation of what people in this culture are thinking and feeling about their bodies.  The body becomes another form of materialism, another forum for unquestioned aspirationalism next to real estate, cars, careers, sex.  Another place for humans to compare and quietly suffer. Suffer the all-pervasive misunderstanding that there is never enough, more is better and if only I did this or did that to myself then,  I would finally be happy. Another place where we can all be told that there is some pathology which needs a fix.

If only a good newspaper like The Age could for a few moments take off the veil of certainty about the ‘body’ and allow the unpredictable, edgy and nebulous experience of being embodied, being in an animal body shine through the clouds. What our bodies are according to this world view is what can be seen by others, what can be judged by others, what can experienced vicariously. Where is a discussion of the felt-sense of our bodies, the territory of the interior (hmmm, doesn’t sell newspapers does it?). Ahhh that potentially vast space, a vast and beautiful universe,  sensations, emotions, pleasure of movement, pleasure of pulsation…life circulating…breath…breathing…living like all other sentient life on this planet. Whoops sorry need to get back to names and categories for the body, objects, keep the whole thing at arms length, avoid rubbing up against something resembling living. Until next year I’m gonna keep wishing for something that goes beyond fine grained suffering into enjoyment and gratitude with what we”ve got: a precious human body!


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