extraordinary machines

Let’s begin with a little Fiona Apple.

Now quit yer bouncing and read on.

Our bodies truly are extraordinary machines. I found out from the wonder that is the internet that our noses have smell-memories that remember up to 50,000 scents! That’s a lot of smell. And pound for pound, a human baby is stronger than an ox (lazy though…very lazy). Apparently, each of our kidneys contains 1 million individual filters, and these filter an average of around 2.2 pints of blood per minute, and expel up to 2.5 pints a day of urine (yum). Our lungs contain over 300,000 million capillaries and laid end to end, they would stretch 1500 miles (that’s the distance, as the crow flies, from Dublin to Rome). Nerve impulses to and from our brains travel as fast as 170 miles per hour (but still not fast enough to feel pain instantaneously when stubbing your toe). In an average lifetime, the human body produces enough saliva to fill two swimming pools (instead of chlorine, you’d get lots of lovely electrolytes, mucus, blood, antibacterial compounds and enzymes). Our sneezes leave the body at speeds up to 100 miles per hour, and we have a strange penchant for vocalising them. Human beings are the only animals to shed tears linked to emotion and despite how it may seem at times, human hair is virtually indestructible!

That kind of information, despite the fact that we are literally embodying it at this very moment, doesn’t mean all that much to us. Our lived experience resonates more with the reality that our body is quite simply our vehicle for getting us around. We use it to express our affections and our violences. We use it to communicate, to think, to work and to act creatively. We spend our days consumed with meeting its needs – hygiene, warmth, food, water, rest etc.  We’ve got exactly one each and they are in various states  of disrepair. We spend half our time abusing them and the other half treating them with reverence. We move them in time to music and we sing with them and beat our hands together in appreciation of things. We type and write symbols that we’ve all agreed on and form words which started in our brains. We walk and run long distances. We sit in metal tubes and boxes that mechanically transport our bodies at astonishing speeds. We sit in the same place staring at computer screens for hours on end. We hug and kiss and have sex or masturbate. We value our bodies’ health very highly and experience deep shock when we learn that they are, as all bodies do, breaking down. We look in the mirror and we experience indifference, disgust, insecurity or perhaps, tentative, joy? We stiffen up when angry. We loosen up when drunk. We stretch like cats in the morning and at night. We wriggle our toes inside our shoes. We smell our own armpits. We pound pavements and climb stairs and lift weights and imitate the movements of Wii fit instructors or Davina McCall. We absorb beauty through our eyes, our noses, our mouths and our ears. We taste sweet, sour, salt and bitter. We pray with our bodies. We meditate from our bodies. Our bodies work, work, work at keeping us alive. Our bodies store extra calories as adipose, for rainy days. Our bodies fight infections and diseases, making us hot and achy. They cool us down with sweat when our temperatures rises. Our bodies produce antibodies for our babies, who get nourishment from our milk. Our bodies climb mountains and lie in sunshine and snuggle babies (anyone’s baby!) and hold hands. Our bodies seem to vibrate and pulsate with emotion: have you felt your blood boil? Or your heart sing? Our bodies are wondrous, stunning miracles of nature that carry us and are us and reflect our ages and experiences in their very substance. They are instruments of action, of every action, in fact!

And yet, somehow, for some reason, we have come to a place where we’re simply not allowed to like those bodies…if they’re in any way fat.


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