The body, science, and a newfound awe

Today, I sat down and opened an atlas on physiology, a book that had been sitting around at our house for some time. I have always been absolutely fascinated by the body – my body, your body, our body. The way in which we can manipulate our bodies through movement, through what we eat, through what we think, and what we feel – all of these things have been an ongoing source of amazement to me. When I was young, I used to read my older sister’s first aid book, intrigued by the various issues that might exist within the body, and how one might respond. We had a series of encyclopedia for children, and I particularly loved the one that focused on the body. Growing up, I played a huge amount of sport, and I enjoyed exploring my physical response to different activities.

Entering adulthood, I somehow became distracted by other things that disallowed me to explore my body with the same intensity I applied to other concepts. Busy in law school, I spent a year or two whereby I completely neglected my body. I paid little attention to the way in which my body felt, instead rushing through my days, sometimes feeding myself poorly and then very well, to try to compensate. I was alien to my body. I went running and exercised, but I did not thank my body often enough. My body had become something that needed to be controlled, separate to me – if something was wrong; I was quick to head to the doctor to try to ‘fix’ it.

Then, I rediscovered my love of movement. This time, it was through dance. Once I started dancing, I came back into my body. In doing so, I came back into my self. This is an ongoing process – modern society does, in many ways, encourage the paradigm of seeing our bodies as things to be managed. Are you fat? Get yourself into shape; control your eating, they say. Seldom are we urged to sit with our eyes shut, consider how we feel inside, touch and explore our entire physical selves. Nonetheless, the increasing prevalence of practices such as yoga, meditation and martial arts in Western modernized society means that it is becoming easier to shift our relationships to our bodies. I am enjoying exploring this shift, at the moment. And, of course, I hope to continue to enjoy exploring this throughout my entire life.

When I became open to exploring myself, through my physical existence, I was synonymously exploring many aspects of epistemology. I started to question the role of science, and rational thought, that had dominated my thinking up until that point. I became dubious about the way in which our society has homogenously applied scientific thinking to our understanding of existence. Although I did not, and have not, completely dispelled the relevance of science as a mode of understanding, I became concerned about why exactly scientific reasoning was so incredibly dominant, and began to think about it in the context of our neoliberal system of politics. It seemed to me that science – or reductionist thinking – was useful in explaining, but could not explain everything. As such, why is it that it is applied with the same reverent commitment that is typically associated with other religions that it dispels?

These meanderings and thoughts led me to explore my body experientially, with little regard to scientific thinking – e.g. I paid no attention to physiology as recorded within scientific literature. Having been educated within a Western education system, I thought it to be important to try and explore my body through different modes of understanding. Feeling and what might be referred to as intuitiveness have come to dominate the exploration of my body.

Well, today, I opened this atlas of physiology. I maintain my concerns about science, but WOW oh WOW. Reading this atlas, I have found myself experiencing a new level of awe. Awe of our bodies, awe of science as a discipline. After reading about the muscular system, I spent some time feeling my arm muscles, and thanking my body – my self – for existing in such an intricate way. It is art. It gives me goose bumps. I am excited to explore this more – to marry feeling into my self, with an understanding of how the body works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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