I enjoy meeting new people. Some more than others. But generally there is an indescribable rush that comes from connecting with someone new in a social setting. However, within these exciting social interactions there are two questions that shower me with an annoying sense of uneasiness. ‘So what do you do?’ being the first, and ‘where are you from?’ the second.
Though I acknowledge that the question-bearers usually don’t mean any harm, both of these interview-type inquiries send waves of panic through my nervous system, as I plead with the universe to send someone…anyone, to interrupt our conversation. Let’s save our deep dive into the first question for another day. For now, I invite you to journey with me through the corridor of ‘where are you from?.’
For most people this may seem like a simple question to answer but for as long as I can remember, I could never quite respond to this request in a manner that satisfied both the curiosity of the asker, and the certainty of the answerer. The two lineages that paved the way for my biological birth come from different countries. The surge of capitalism pushed my grandparents to leave what they referred to as home and move to the city, in search of a ‘better life’ for their descendants. My parents spoke two very different languages. So, when it boils down to describing to others where exactly it is that I’m from, I often weave together a dubious garment made from the off-cuts of information I know about my heritage.
My inability to answer this question in one simple breath, often created a symphony of confusion not only in my head, but in my spirit.
This was of course until I reintroduced myself to my body.
Space. Where does it begin or end?
For the most part of the past seven years, I have been formally learning and informally unlearning the concept of space. Initially my curiosity led me to working with what people refer to as the built and natural environments. As my interests evolved, my inquiry into space became more fluid, limitless and personal.
It occurred to me that the task of trying to define what space entails can only be described as an intellectual suicide mission. Attempting to confine this multifaceted idea that exists in different dimensions is quite frankly a reflection of how much human beings think of themselves. We see ourselves as though we, a small part of the vast universe, have the capacity to fully understand the ways of the world that came before us, and that will outlive us.
Once I settled on the fact that the language of my brain couldn’t possibly encapsulate the vastness that is space, I began to lean on the wisdom of the elders. This took me to the scientific and cosmological concept in many African teachings that refers to the circle as a perfect representation of life; it has no beginning and no end. I suspect that the same can be said about space. The beginning of one space can be seen as the middle of another. With this understanding we know that all things are one.
I offer my unfixed and ever changing rendition:
the arena in which we execute our sense of being
Space in the Body
Our first, most immediate and sacred home on this earth is the one carefully carved out for us through flesh. A place made up of several intelligent systems and vessels that help us connect with our spirit and the essence of others. A space drawn by a plethora of sensory experiences that help us understand our work with self and our journey with others.
Understanding the body as a home is perhaps one of our most rigorous callings. The modern environment is one that prides itself in using those around us (family, friends, strangers) as foot soldiers in war against ourselves. We are taught from a very young age to disembody, consider our flesh simply as a means to an end, a vessel that only exists for function and not as the divine encounter that is the human experience.
“Sit still! Stop running around!”
“Don’t walk like that, it’s weird!”
“Stop making those faces in public!”
“People are staring at you.”
The prerequisites to being ‘normal’ play on repeat in our minds as we grow and become active participants in our own oppression. Though we are spiritual beings having a human experience, the human experience is a sacred one. The home that is our body should be treated with the sensitivity with which we approach a shrine, a temple, or a sanctuary.
Imagine walking into a mosque and smashing the windows, throwing mud all over the walls. Our words towards our bodies can be the clay that connects two corners or it can be the bulldozer that shatters the ceilings. The ideas we impose can be the fertiliser for our garden or the thief that stole from us while we were asleep.
Awakening a deep sense of intimacy and connection with our bodies can help us forge a deeper relationship with God, our Source. The same way that the church is the house of God, a space where those who go, do so to be in communion with their creator.
Perhaps that's what the bible meant when it referred to our bodies as temples.
Discovering our first, most immediate and ceaseless home is the difference between observing our bodies as functioning objects moving through space, and experiencing a dimension of spaciousness that continues to unfold, the closer we get to self. And to God.
the arena in which we execute our sense of being