Leny has been writing about the body this month, the body and eros and gaps in decolonization theories.
I've been 'in the body' these past few weeks, doing the work of the living, with little time to stop and process it all. I wrote her about it and thought about expanding my email a bit here. When my experiences are not fully processed, they come out in fits and bits, part mosaic, part quilt - solid pieces, broken and glittering set in concrete at times, other times soft and nebulous, gently pieced together with elaborate chain stitching.
She speaks of Eros and Power and Haunani-Kay Trask and I remember Hawaii and my daughter born two months too early and the heat and the sun and the light that was too yellow for my eyes. How I could never really rest there, how my skin craved misty mornings and cool NW breezes and darkness in winter. How Kay Trask was too radically feminist for me while bringing to my consciousness the possibility of sovereignty, if not in body then in mind and heart, but that the battle was on the field of the body and the body was a set of islands in the Pacific not my own, yet like my genetic ancestor. How I watched with mixed awe and projected jealousy that the Hawaiians had retained so much of who their bodies were on their body called Maui and Hawaii and Oahu, whereas at home, the Seneca and the Ojibwa and the Nez Perce and the Tlingit struggled to overcome the generational amnesia borne of genocide and survival through assimilation. How I realized that my home was not the Pacific, but the Pacific Northwest, in a rain forest near the sea where the nights were long in the winter and the days long in the summer.
Then Eros...a quick Wikipedia search revealed Freud's idea of Eros standing in opposition of Thanatos, the life instinct versus the death instinct, whereas Jung set Eros and Logos together/in opposition - psychic relatedness and objective interest, yet both placed the emphasis on the division of male and female along the same lines, the body-mind split revisited/created again. And I think about Maganda and Malakas, Beauty and Strength, again aligned along gender lines and looking for ways to talk about the strength in beauty without speaking of beauty queens and the objectifying gaze, ways to talk about the beauty in strength as nurturing as gardening as creating spaces to grow without speaking solely of drag queens and the objectifying gaze of men's bodies transforming into women's bodies.
And Eros breaks down into a this concept of Life Instinct, not just the drive to procreate but to live fully in life, today, now, in the present, to see that there are no ordinary moments, that there is never nothing happening in the world we live in. And I think of Dan Millman and the recent movie version of Way of the Peaceful Warrior - tangentially I met him 10 years ago this summer, my last summer in Hawaii, and he taught me how to juggle, to be mindful and releasing thinking all at once, that in juggling there is only really one ball, always in motion, jumping time and space.
I wrote to Leny:
We are built of our experiences and experiences only come from living, of meditating on living, on honoring the living we do.
Without the body we are simply mind or simply spirit - everything is theoretical until it is proven out with experience, with living in the body.
... there's a scene (in the movie) where Dan's mentor asks him if he knows how to clean a windshield and Dan says yes, his hand buried in his pockets. Dan's mentor throws him a windshield cleaner and says "Do it. That's the difference between knowledge and wisdom. The doing."
And if Eros is living, the instinct to live, and if life as we know it here on this particular planet means growing and changing, then living and nurturing is about growing and changing and these things can only happen with the ability to choose, to have choices to experience a thing, a place, a taste, and this reminds me of Ingmar Bergman's Magic Flute. I'm uncertain if it is Mozart's flaw or Bergman's that casts the feminine principal as personification of evil and the masculine principal as personification of good, but in any case what struck me is the idea of Power and Weakness vs Power and Strength. The Queen of the Night is seen as having great power but also fatal weakness, whereas Sarastro is seen as having great power but also life giving strength... the difference? The Queen seeks to twist her daughter's fate to her own purposes, taking away her choices, whereas Sarastro seeks to teach Pamina and her love Tamino how to make choices for the betterment of others.
I see the same in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast creates choice for Beauty at every turn - she chooses to sacrifice, chooses to stay, chooses to leave, chooses to return. In the Disney version we're given Gaston, again a character who seeks to take away choices - the choices of Belle, her father, and the Beast.
Power, then, is not the problem, it's the possession of strength, the ability to think beyond personal gain to the future and sustenance of an entire community. And I see this among my ancestors, the barangay system there, the grange system here, where resources are gathered, celebrated, and redistributed among the people.
Eros and the body... the body as vehicle of experience and more, not just intermediary, but essential to experience. Without Body, we are thought and spirit with the theory of living only. Bringing awareness to Eros is to celebrate and acknowledge the body for giving us what our minds and spirits can't - proof positive that what we think/believe is true, actually is, in the limited space of our bodies, actually true. And by true, I mean experienced and shared.
This concept of Objective Truth I find slippery these days, a different sort of vocabulary than the one I'm using now. Again because of the division created between Objective and Subjective, Male and Female, Light and Dark, Right and Wrong. The alignments are too easily made, habitually made and for now, left alone.
And I think of the bodies of the Filipino comfort women and the bodies of those who fight to have their experiences acknowledged and recognized. How genocide is about taking away the bodies, taking away the evidence of violence, taking away the price paid for the riches of colonization. How the body remembers and if you take away the body, then there is no evidence of crime, and if there is no evidence, then there is no memory, and if there is no memory then there was no crime. But the body remembers, the body of the earth, the body of the blood, the body of the genetics, the body of social thought and social structure, and so there is no erasure, no sure erasure, only the bending of perspective, the revision of history.
Leny is asked to account for the lack of sexuality discussions in decolonization, to account for sexual abuse and deviation as an expert witness, to account for the disconnection and disease of sexual abuse among 'her' people. As if any one body can account for a People.
I wrote to her about decolonizing sexuality:
Releasing shame and seeing it as a social contruction is the easiest, the tip of the iceberg, but one that requires constant meditation. We are habituated to shame, both as colonized and colonizer. Then there is the possiblity of viewing the person as whole, as mind and spirit moving in life through the body, listening to what the body teaches through experience rather than trying to control experience by limiting the body beyond simple safety measures. Being with the body as record keeper and fortune teller. Being honest with the body's revelations about our habits, fears, strengths by being present with the Body.
This all brings about spiritual rememberances - the Church as Body, the Body of Christ, a body of people, a body of work, somebody, nobody, we are the body - movement, change, revelation, experience. The basis for the analysis of Eros, then can apply to all these spaces. The question, the becomes, how to we provide space for our selves and most especially for each other to do that work, to allow those experiences to come forward, to allow the unique work of each body to come to fruition.
There is more... more in my body to speak of, the stories of experiences with broken hearts, broken bodies, lost bodies, grieving bodies, new bodies, aging bodies, mythic bodies, bodies of work, somebodys, nobodys...
but bodies live /in/ time, and time slips quickly or perhaps I move slowly, and in any case, there has not been enough time to process it all, the loss, the cherished moments, the growth, the setbacks. But these things, Eros, Bodies, Power, Weakness, Strength, Beauty, Life, Death, Change, Growth, all touch what I'm writing about, when I'm writing, which these days isn't much and my body feels it, yearns for it, but there's this busy-ness of living which requires the body, requires the attention, requires the compassion.
So I live as Eros requires, for I am not eager to greet Thanatos as much as I may have been in earlier days, and for that, I am grateful.