Thursday, March 14, 2013

Our Body, Our Home

The idea that our bodies are our homes is an interesting one.  They are portable homes; ones we can (well have to) carry with us wherever we go.  No matter how out of place we feel, in a foreign country, in a room full of strangers, in any new situation, our body is something familiar, something comforting.  When the body fails us however, all of the comfort and familiarity disappear.  Our traveling home betrays us, and sometimes there is nothing we can do to fight back.  Epeli Hau’ofa in his novel, Kisses in the Nederends, teaches the reader the importance of the body.  Because without its health and well being, we have nothing.   

The body is a beautiful thing.  It can grow and transform, it can survive and thrive, and it can even support and give being to new life.  The body however, can also be gruesome.  It excretes waste, can be taken over by disease, and if not cared for properly, it can wither and die.  The body is susceptible to whatever we choose to do with it.  Hau’ofa, however, wants to teach us that no matter how disgusting, how vile a body can be at times, it is still ours, and we are responsible for seeing the beauty in it.  I think this message is especially relevant in our society today.  Too many people get so caught up in body-image and “looking good” that they forget the true essence of the body and its health.  How much we weigh, how tall or short we are, the color of our hair, eyes, or skin, shouldn’t matter.  Our bodies are our homes, no matter how they look, we need to care for and respect them.  Because without our bodies, and our health, we would be rendered useless.   

Hau’ofa illustrates this idea in his novel again and again.  One particularly engaging passage says this, “The anus, as you have now seen, is neither revolting nor obscene.  The most revoltingly obscene thing that we live with today is the threat of nuclear annihilation” (104).  When put like this, the trivial problems we have with our own bodies seem just that, trivial.  If we think about all of the real problems the world faces, the fact that we sometimes smell, poop, vomit, or sweat is insignificant.  As Hau’ofa points out “every part of the human body is beautiful and sacred in the eyes of the gods” (105).  Instead of looking at every physical feature, we must look the the whole.  The body, even with its most disgusting aspects, is beautiful and deserves to be respected.  It is after all, our home.     

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