I took a break from reading The Beast by J.R. Ward to enjoy a short offering from Katie MacAlister, The Perils of Effrijim. This short story features Jim, a sixth class demon who is the servant/sidekick of Aisling Grey, the heroine of many a dragon shifter book by Ms. MacAlister. Jim is a hoot, and I enjoyed my foray into his world immensely. Jim is forced to surrender his preferred form as a large, drooling Newfoundland dog and take on the shape of a human male, which he hates (something to do with a reduction in the size of his “package,” about which he is obsessed—like so many males). And this forced human embodiment got me to thinking about being in our bodies, and what that means to us. Or maybe just to me. But it’s a topic that occupies my thoughts rather a lot these days.
To my mind, we are embodied spirits with an infinite yearning for the part of ourselves that is divine to reunite with the rest of the infinite. But, while we are here, in this place on the space-time continuum, we inhabit bodies. This inhabiting comes with the limits of our physical beings, and also the incredible perks of being in a body. Remember all of those science fiction characters who exist as balls of energy or as human brains in glass jars? Even though they are “evolved,” and presumably beyond the dictates of the flesh, they want to find bodies to inhabit. Why? Because being in a body comes with serious advantages. Like eating chocolate covered strawberries. And touching our beloved’s bodies with love (and lust, who are we kidding?). And being able to smell the delicious scent of a baby’s head. You can’t do those things without the right equipment, like mouths, fingers and noses. Sensual perception is intensely pleasurable.
So while it’s annoying to have to deal with the perpetual care and feeding needed to keep these miraculous machines running effectively (and some of us do a better job than others), it’s still amazing that we can do all we can do and experience all that we can experience.
Except when it’s not. Like when we take it for granted. Or when we focus on the difficulties of our physical limitations. Or when we are not appropriately appreciative. Then, being embodied is not such a great deal. Given the amount of body bashing we do, an objective observer might conclude that we actually hate our bodies. Just this afternoon, for example, I was berating my body for continuing to grow—I’m not enjoying the extra layer of padding that seems determined to gather around my middle like metal shavings to a magnet. I would really like to demagnetize myself and attract less fat to my midsection. But concentrating on my love handles and my spare tire misses the point that my magnificent body produced two human lives, allows me to practice yoga, which I love, hike up hills to see beautiful mountain lakes and does most of what I ask of it. Pretty remarkable considering the abuse to which I subjected it for so long, not to mention my ever-advancing age. Decrepitude cannot be far in the future, but for today, all systems are go. No need to break out the emergency dilithium crystals to get that extra boost of power quite yet. Stand down, Scotty. At least for now (I’m on a Star Trek kick in anticipation of the movie coming out shortly—and I have eyes to watch and ears to listen. Yay!).
Our bodies are wise. They house every experience we’ve had in each and every cell. If we remember how to do it, we can draw out our somatic knowing, our bodies’ knowledge, to help guide us to exactly where we need to be. You know those “gut feelings”? We should listen to those. They are almost always right. When we feel our feelings and listen to our bodies, we tend to do the right thing and make good choices.
But what about when we are cut off from our bodies? What happens when that whole mind-body connection has some serious static on the line and we’re missing every third word of the conversation? Bad things happen when we are bifurcated between our necks and the rest of us. My experience has been with living entirely too much in my head. But the opposite problem exists as well—those who are slaves to their bodies without a lot of cognitive direction. The goal, of course, is integration. Easier said than done, at least for me.
Being disconnected, though, is not as bad as being in a state of armed conflict with our bodies. Instead of our bodies being wonderlands, they become battlefields, where wars on cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity are routinely waged. This is tragic, actually, because a house divided truly cannot stand. We are our bodies and our bodies are us.
And then there is the ultimate consequence of being embodied: death. The whole shuffling off this mortal coil business. The final frontier. That part kind of sucks, admittedly. As does the whole aging process, for the most part.
But that is the price we pay for being able to inhabits these marvels of complexity that are our human bodies. As a demon, Jim doesn’t have these issues, and his preference for his dog form is baffling to me, but, hey, to each his own. Given the opportunity for a human body that didn’t age, decay or break down, I’m pretty sure I’d take it. Although my dogs lead pretty sweet lives, come to think of it…
I’m grateful for my body in all its imperfections. So I’ll practice groundedness—the effort to be and remain in my body, rather than letting my mind drift away to the far reaches of the galaxy—or at least where Ms. McAlister and Ms. Ward take me.