Whispering Bodies

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(“The Space between the Fox and the Hare” – Image credit Jackie Morris)

“When the body speaks

All else is hollow”

Depeche Mode

Under, behind, and through the noise of civilised life, our bodies carry on conversations with everything and everyone they encounter. Our many senses take in and filter a constant stream of data, and through this, we come to know the world and our place within it. This is a dialogue, an exchange, with our bodies giving out breath, sloughing off skin cells, that texture and scent and sound may be imbibed.

Sometimes, it’s true, bodies may shout, exalt, and exclaim. Urgent messages may need to be relayed about sickness, exhaustion, once-in-a-lifetime attraction. But mostly, bodies whisper their truths.

Flesh mutters and murmurs.

Essence insinuates, hints, trades gossip with its hinterlands, and with those outside its boundaries.

Whisper is …

From Old English hwisprian, of Germanic origin; related to Germanic wispeln, both meaning “whistle”.

To murmur, breathe, mutter, mumble, purr, speak in hushed tones, say softly, utter under the breath

To gossip, hint, intimate, insinuate; to suggest or to rumour

To rustle, sigh, moan, hiss, swish, sough, susurrate.

(from the Collins English Dictionary)

Body is …

From Old English bodig, related to Old Norse buthkr, meaning “box”.

The entire physical structure of an animal or human being: physique, build, form, figure, shape, make-up, frame, constitution, flesh and bones; the flesh, as opposed to the spirit

The trunk or torso, not including the limbs, head, or tail

A dead human or animal; corpse

The largest or main part of anything: the central part; the majority; matter, heart, material, mass, substance, bulk, essence, hub

A separate or distinct mass of water or land: expanse, area, mass, stretch, sweep, extent, tract, breadth

A number of individuals regarded as a single entity or group: company, group, society, association, institution, corporation, syndicate

A three-dimensional region with an interior (mathematics)

An object or substance that has three dimensions, a mass, and is distinguishable from surrounding objects (physics)

Substance or firmness; texture, density, solidity.

(from the Collins English Dictionary)

Riffs on “body”:

A body of water (sometimes poetically called a waterbody) is defined as a significant accumulation on a planet’s surface, and can refer to oceans, seas, lakes, ponds, areas of wetland, and sometimes puddles. Most waterbodies are naturally occurring, but some, such as harbours and reservoirs, are created through artificial construction.

A waterbody does not need to be still, or even contained and clearly delineated, to be defined as a body. Rivers, streams and canals, for instance, are in constant movement, the water flowing from one place to another, but are still considered bodies of water.

An astronomical or celestial body is, like a waterbody, a collection of matter that constitutes a unit. It can refer to a single planet, or a comet, or an asteroid, or to a grouping of objects such as an asteroid belt or a nebula. The term refers to a cohesive structure that is bound together by gravity, and sometimes by electromagnetism.

body of work does not refer to a single piece of work, but to a substantial amount of output by an artist, or author. It is distinct from an oeuvre, a word that most often refers to an artist’s lifetime of work. A body of work is comprised of multiple pieces that are cohesive in nature, and might therefore be grouped together by subject matter, colour, or media.

Professional and regulatory bodies have specific intentions and scope, such as advancing the knowledge and practice of professionals within a specific sector, or responsibility for some area of human activity in a supervisory capacity. The individuals making up these bodies are required to adhere to a clear framework, which bestows authority upon the body as a whole.

So is a body …
A discrete entity
Defined in opposition to bodies around it
Delineated and knowable, with fixed borders?

Is a body a conglomeration of cells, atoms, bacterial colonisers
A temporary coming-together of separate to create not-separate
A community, an orchestra
Conveniently boxed-in to appease the human need to know with the intellect?

How might we speak to the body, from the perspective of being in the body, and of the body?
What might those conversations sound like? And feel like?
Can this precious body, maligned as not-spirit, not-intellect, not-me, not-good-enough; ridden over roughshod just as we plunder, rape and ravage the body of the Earth, ever do more than whisper?
Can we – should we – ever expect more than mutterings, murmurs, silences; interludes and lacunae; sporadic outpourings?
Might we tease these suggestions into declarations and expressions?

Listening to the body is an art.

Though we may misconstrue its meanings, and glean its messages only partially, and though it may be a lifetime’s work to learn its language, the body does not – cannot – lie.

Ssssshhhhhh …

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