What is the body?

What do somatic trainers talk about on a week-end get together? One hot topic was exploring what the body might be. We had a brainstorm on that topic one evening and selected our best one-liners for broadcast.

This playful exercise suggests that there are many bodies. That sounds unintuitive; surely I have just one body! But if that’s so, which of the definitions above best describes that one body? Conscious complexity? Sculpted experience? A possibility for partnership? History and future solidified? A locus of divine intervention? The body is all that and far more, but does that mean we have several bodies?

Our physical body – the complex cellular system enclosed within our skin – is so moulded by society that it makes sense to talk about at least two bodies, the physical and the social (Douglas, 1973). But this blog contends that the body extends beyond the skin-bag, so maybe Douglas’s two bodies are actually one – or three!

There’s an Indian parable about a group of men  in a dark cave with an elephant. They’re trying to work out what’s in the cave with them, but disagree because each can only reach one part. “It’s clearly a horse”, claims the one touching the tail. “Nonsense! It’s a snake!” Exclaims the one nearest the trunk. “Fools!” Says a third man, feeling a huge leg. “It’s just a tree”.

The body is like the elephant: it is physical, social, gendered, “an extended field”, “a cellular adventure” and of course, “Well clever!”

1 thought on “What is the body?

  1. Pingback: Bodymind and Earth | Body Mind Place

Leave a Reply