When coming into this semester, I thought I had a concrete definition of the body. It is our organs, our blood, a shell that encases your being. It is something I want to study for years to come in medical school. I knew this was not going to be the definition in Humanities, but I did not expect my understanding of it to change so drastically.
The body encases all forms of the human experience, from memories and history to the feeling of movement and sickness.
Movement and Sickness
Movement is one of the first things I think of with the topic of the body. The body allows us to move and create experiences from it, but there are many limitations to what we can do. In Unit 5, we learned how the body can represent ideologies and values through dance. Dance shapes the body and creates empathy within the audience and dancers. In Unit 5 and 7, we discussed AIDS and other illnesses. Sickness creates a limit to what the body can physically do, but this does not mean stories and emotions should not be shown. One conflict that arises is if it is right for those who have not experienced the illness to represent it through performance or art. Our bodies are strange things with limitations and constraints that our mind does not have. Performance is a way to remember those who are lost and to represent emotions, which not everyone has the capacity to physically show on stage.
History and Experiences
History and experiences are important, abstract parts of the body. Many times, the body and mind are seen as separate in western culture; however, you cannot study the body without the mind. Usually history is seen as unimportant to current day, but it shapes everything around us and our experiences. In Unit 6, we discussed how history is written by the victors. Other histories and experiences are twisted and lost to time. With this bias on history, how can we ever know what truly happened? How is history any different from fiction then? We may never know what truly occurred in history, but the narrative needs to change to include all versions. History bleeds into modern day with how we see certain cultures and how views either persist or do not. Most history after colonialism was written by western countries, and the countries painted themselves as superior and exceptional, which still persists today. If we learn all views of the past, we can break the current narrative.
Units 7 and 8 dealt with mourning and remembrance of past emotions. Emotions are a large part of the human experience, and unfortunately mourning and grief takes up a piece of the emotions felt. How do people overcome these overwhelming emotions, or should it be held onto? During the AIDS epidemic we learned in Unit 7, thousands of people died. However, it was treated as a political issue and increased discrimination came out alongside the deaths and losses. Anger mixed with the mourning, and movements were held to protest government inaction and remember those who were lost. These movements were very important to show the discrimination ocurring and to try and prevent more deaths from happening. Going from Unit 7 to Unit 8, there was a sharp contrast with the events occurring, but there are common themes throughout. Most of the mourning in Unit 8 stemmed from the horrors of the Holocaust. With Arendt, there is more of a focus on trying to understand the mourning and how evil can exist, but there is still the underlying emotion of anger. Anger about the situation and anger of innocent people hurt. Mourning and grief are some of the hardest human emotions, and it is often accompanied by anger to protest the unjust and unfair experiences some are forced to go through.
A shell made of skin that encases a person but is so much more. The mind and body in America are often separated, but the mind affects many parts of the body. The mind provides emotions and feelings, which makes us human. The body uses movement to tell stories and emotions in ways spoken words fail. While there are limitations to what the body can do, people can learn and feel empathy for others. History shapes the world around us from what we learn to what we believe. Our mind tends to believe what it sees, but it is important to expand our thinking to understand the world around us. Experiences change our personalities. They change how we see the world, how we treat others, and how we treat ourselves. Lastly, emotions are a large part of our lives. There are some like mourning and grief that no one should have to face, but they are part of our experiences. They change depending on the person, but there are some similarities where we can feel empathy and connect to others.