what we're about

Attempts to illuminate our brief mortal existence

Friday, November 30, 2012

On Embodiment

In a comment on this post by Jessica, I prefaced a statement about my sleep habits by saying: "I am much more mortal, embodied, and human than I realized when I was 18...."  And then this morning, as I clicked through some links from Sarah Bessey, I found this article that put into words (ironically) some of my own struggle with using words.  And all of this made me think about embodiment.

Before I wrote this, I washed the dishes.  I put my hands in hot, soapy water, and wiped a dishrag over ceramic plates and cups.  I scrubbed a wood cutting board that smelled of the onions chopped on its surface.  I drained the water from the sink, then brought my cast iron pans over from the stove to coax the debris of breakfast cooking off their surfaces - eggs from one, bacon from the other.  I rinsed coffee grounds out of my french press.  I wiped the counters and the stovetop.

After the dishes, I took care of a diaper, left to soak before I started the dishes.  There's little that's more embodied than a dirty cloth diaper, waiting to be swished, rinsed, scrubbed, wrung out, and dropped in a pail with other diapers to await wash day.

This, here, is life.  The thoughts that I think about it in my head are not life.  The abstractions and lessons and principles that I take from it are not life.  This is life.

Embodied.  Rinsing eggs off of cast iron.  Wringing toilet water out of cotton.

I struggle with how to use the words that I have been given, because I want life to embody the abstraction of my words, instead of using the abstraction of words to convey the embodiment of life.  When I kept copious journals as a teen, they weren't so much for the purpose of pouring out life as it was, but for rationalizing life as it was with the big things that I thought life should mean.  They were for wrangling, bending, and obfuscating, not for expressing clearly.  As a coping mechanism for an emotional teen, this isn't the end of the world, but now as an adult I struggle with the place of words (which I love) in my life.  I would still like to use them to construct what I think that my life should be, instead of conveying what my life is.  I want to skip ahead.  I want to use abstraction to justify, excuse, or rationalize life.  But over and over I have heard a call to embody.  To use words to show things as they are.  I hope that in the future, this space will do a better job with that.

And now everything that I need to learn in life (embodied in my child) has woken up from his nap.  So long!


  1. When I kept copious journals as a teen, they weren't so much for the purpose of pouring out life as it was, but for rationalizing life as it was with the big things that I thought life should mean.


    I am treasuring that today. I don't think I am yet at the place where you are - able to confront life as it truly is, but still wrestling with everything to see what it means. I love reading and learning from you. I am still searching for what truly embodies my life. And to write it.

    You are in such a beautiful place in life and I truly look up to you. Never stop writing.

  2. Good thoughts! I too love words, but I find too often that life (or embodiment, as you term it) takes away words. Who wants to hear about dirty dishes, ornery preschoolers, sick preteens, and thrift store bargains? Life is also the thoughts we think as we embody the other things. I may have missed your point, since I have been mostly awake for a LONG time, but I do enjoy the challenge you give!

    1. It's always possible, too, that my point wasn't super clear to begin with. :) It's true that life is also the thoughts that we think as go through our thoroughly embodied routines. What I'm trying to reject is not the legitimacy of our interior life, but the idea that the stuff of our life - the day to day dishes and babies and big babies and bargains - is only worthwhile once we've attached some sort of abstracted meaning to it. God is at work, and the testimony of others tells me that the diapers and dishes will eventually be seen to have their meaning and place in that work, but I don't want to be held hostage to the discovery of that meaning. I want to use words to show forth life as it is (and maybe nobody does want to read about that), rather than thinking that I need to wait until I see what it means, or what the end of the story is.