city. new york city
I’ve always been obsessed with my mind.
If it’s true that the world is evenly divided between mind and matter, I’ve never had any trouble choosing a favorite. Really, it wasn’t even a competition.
Blame it on my religious upbringing. Blame it on my chronic malaise. But I’ve always been fascinated by the world of my mind, the world of my spirit, the world of my experience. To me, it seemed like the only world worth considering. The body? Eh. I could do without.
The body, for me, was merely an annoyance. A big ol’ hunk of meat that I was forced to carry around, feed, clean, control, and protect. The mind however held all the keys to happiness, to freedom, to eternity and to my deepest self.
I’ve spent the last couple decades delving into my mind (whether studying religion in yeshiva or philosophy in college), and following it wherever it happened to lead me.
But beginning just over a year ago, during the few months I spent living in Rome, I began to notice how the soul doesn’t always need to avoid the body. In Judaism, I’d been conditioned to think of god as that which has no body. The thing beyond all things. He cannot be described, he cannot be sensed; most importantly, though, he cannot even be named.
In Rome, god is given a body. He is given a physical home. He is portrayed through art (beauty), charity (goodness), and flesh (humanity). I realized that Christianity was able to see what Judaism had always been afraid to accept (lest they revert to pagan idolatry).
God is not eternally absent; he is universally present. God is not lurking in the depths; he lives on the surface.
“Eat of this bread, for it is my body. Drink of this wine, for it is my blood.”
So simple. God is nothing more and nothing less than the world around us. Our bread and our wine. The cross doesn’t symbolize Jesus. It symbolizes the body itself.
Having spent the last year focusing on death, I’d begun to notice how I often thought of death occurring in the mind (lights out), but actually it occurs in the body. Only living beings die; only bodies grow frail. I noticed how my anxiety around death was deeply intertwined with my anxiety around body; particularly my own.
If I could come to terms with my body, I supposed, I might come to terms with death.
Moreover, throughout the year of dealing with all things dark, scary, and deep, I’d grown incredibly fond of the surface of life. Let me explain.
No matter how scared or lost I felt, I found that I could always find shelter in my body. I could focus on my breath. I could run the tips of my fingers along the surface of my desk. I could take slow gentle steps, noticing the pressure that the floor exerted against the soles of my feet. In all of these sensations, fear could no longer appear. I realized that even my worst thoughts would never find purchase in even the flimsiest of sensations. Try to find sadness in the taste of a cherry. It’s impossible. My thoughts simply can’t follow me here.
I found that my body was not an annoyance. It was a relief. A safe haven for a restless soul. And if I ever grow tired or weary of my journey, my body is always here to welcome me home. My body is my home.
My body doesn’t judge. It doesn’t question. It doesn’t hate, project, fantasize, or feel guilty. My body only does what bodies do. It lives. And isn’t life the point of it all?
“There is a rose in your hair, Your shoulders are bare, You’ve been wearing this costume forever. So turn up the music, Pour out the wine, Stop at the surface, The surface is fine. We don't need to go any deeper.”
Beginning from today, my 30th year, I’ve begun the slow, exciting journey of coming up for air. I will learn how to appreciate my body. Not as the vessel for my soul, but as the truest version of myself. My body, quite literally, is my world.
Floating right there on the surface.
My Body = flesh, fitness, food/nutrition, appearance/surface, material, things.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”