Thursday, September 18, 2014

on indignities

Every magazine and every advertisement would have you believe that the human body is a beautiful machine. The perfect finished product, a piece of art covered in smooth skin, tout and cold like a stone sculpture. Stretched out like perfect a canvas waiting to be painted.  Nothing jiggles when you run, dance or walk. The hair is smooth and silky. The eyes, a mixture of stare and discontent, invitation and accusation all in one, where the white is white and the color intense like deep waters. Lashes long like spider legs, but that simile is too mundane, so butterfly wings are evoked more often as metaphor. Our teeth are pearl-white, our breaths are minty and the rest of our bodies smell like a mixture of cardamon and lavender.

The reality though, is very different.

The Buddhist focus on the indignities of the body as a tool to detach themselves from it. And no matter what the advertisements say, at the end of the day our bodies are more often a source of indignities than that plastic sculpture they try to sell us. Only in death, after our blood is removed and replaced with embalming liquid, do we become as plastic as those photoshopped barbies that stare back at us from the shiny pages, daring us to starve ourselves and mutilate ourselves to become more like them.  The truth is our body smells. Much like a bunch of wild flowers it is full of odors, each part with its unique intense stench. Our armpits smell, our breath smells, as does the crack of our butts and the folds of our sex. Our insides are filled with gas which is sometimes freed into the open air. Indignities that escape our bodies no matter how hard we will them in. It can happen at the grocers, a work dinner or just before a first kiss. After a quiet exit the stench spreads and you try to disassociate yourself from it, like the Buddhist, you cover your armpits with a foreign smell, like a Buddhist, you reject the body, but instead of loosing respect for it, instead of ignoring it as a temporary case, we learn to blame it for not being yet embalmed and plastic. For not lacking cellulite, even if its actually meant to be there. We fight years of genetics that taught your thighs and your waist to hold on to the fat to avoid starvation. Now we seek starvation as a way to make our bodies unlearn. We embalm it with regret.

Warm breath, aged teeth, dry hair. We are but one imperfection after another. Naively we fight this. We think that we can cover it, we deny the body and the bleeding knife next to it, or the blender filled with fat violently removed from us. Evolution is yanked from us.

In the end, we should eat better, and treat our body better, not because or for those plastic gods we idolatrize, but because, as the Buddhist say, we are dying from the very day we are born, and how we treat this wondrous machine that keeps us alive might very much define how and what state we are in when we go. Also, out of respect from this amazing engine that is able to balance one million things to keep us going, that fights starvation along with disease and stress and every other abuse we throw its way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014