When a baby is born, we ask: Is it healthy, does it have ten fingers, ten toes? Is it a girl, a boy? We welcome this newborn as a being with a body that needs to be nurtured: fed, washed, clothed, and to be cuddled and held close enough to convey a sense of continuation of being in the womb. 

The beginning of life for any newborn proves that a human being is a corporeal being: someone who eats and drinks, pees and shits, someone who moves through the world. Humans care for her or his own body and bodily needs and (hopefully) for those of others. They hug and are hugged, they kiss and are kissed. They are loved and desired, they love and desire, they can experience their own sexuality and share it. They plough the land, take things in hand, and evolve them into many different things. They get sick and (often) become healthy again, they experience diminishing energy, loss of beauty and mobility, they age and die. All these are bodily experiences, encountered in and through the body.

When a child is born, she or he experiences the world around them with and through her or his body, through touching and being touched in the sensible matter, that is her body. Light, sounds, smells, taste, and touches encounter the senses of the newborn, they touch the sensitive matter that forms the substratum of the body. 

All these sensations leave traces on and in the body; sensations that are ordered in patterns and forms, „translated“ into perceptions of comfort or discomfort, of pleasure or pain, in relational patterns, responses, and acts.

But not only children acquire their knowledge of the world around them in this way, adults do, too. They tend to often forget that, though, because the (neural) patterns in which the sensible perceptions are ordered give them the impression that it is with the mind or brain that they relate to the world. However, humans can realize anew the fact that they experience and relate to the world through their senses, through the sensible matter of their bodies a distinctive time and place when they are struck in wonder at perceiving something beautiful or different from what they know already, or when their body is in pain, when one of their senses—say sight or hearing—does not function (any longer) in the way they used to.

The body is our first location. It is the place from which we experience and relate to the world around us. It is also the corpus—the material whole—that is perceived by others to which these relate to. Gender, colour, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, and skills are therefore an inextricable part of our corporeal being.

A body is not only nurtured and cared for in and through human relations, but also in and through the material world that surrounds and envelopes it. Bodies are needy. A corporeal being, thus a human, needs air to breathe, water to drink, fruits to eat, sun or fire to warm. Without air, water, food, and warmth corporeal existence—and thus human existence—would not be possible.

All this, and more, explains why a good life and human dignity are (often) described in terms that refer to the well-being and care of the body: enough to eat, to drink; a warm place to sleep, a hug, absence of pain through human violence, and so on. 

This shows how thinking about a good life for all begins with the material world and with thinking about it: thinking about nature and the ecological system of which my body is a part but which my body also carries and sustains.

Veröffentlicht in Body

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