by Troy Chapman
Well, February has disappeared like a wallet at a pickpockets’ convention and I’m standing here patting my pockets in dismay. I’ve spent this month trying to be aware of physicality and the senses that connect me to the physical world. As I’ve become more conscious of my own body I’ve begun to see others more in their bodies as well.
I’ve found myself talking to people and wondering how they experience being a body in this world. Are they dealing with achy joints and sore feet? The strange tingling that’s lately been named “restless leg syndrome” (which sounds like a medical name for “ramblin’ fever”)? The constant impulse to clench their teeth (like me) or, its close cousin, the desire to be chewing, drinking, or smoking something all the time, what psychologists call an “oral fixation,” and I think of as a physical manifestation of spiritual hunger? Are they losing their eyesight (again, like me) or maybe their hearing?
At first, asking these questions felt like an invasion of privacy or at least a violation of unspoken social etiquette. Maybe it is, but it’s also a form of empathy. It makes me feel more connected to people. I see their fragility and the sense that “we’re in this together” is stronger when I make an effort to be aware of people on this level.
Now, I’m finding myself extending this awareness to other aspects of creation. How does the raven there on the light pole between my unit and the chow hall experience its physical presence in the world? What does it even mean to “experience being”? I’m fairly sure the raven isn’t self-reflective the way I am and probably isn’t sitting up there wondering about me as I am about him. But it’s still experiencing its being in some way.
I’ll probably never know how, but just asking the question makes me look at myself in new ways. Maybe that’s the point. We can’t really know ourselves by looking only at ourselves any more than we can truly know the meaning of a word without reading the sentence around it.
As the raven pushes off the light pole with a bullfrog croak and flaps away on the wind, I watch until it becomes a tiny black dot in the sky, a period, I think. Then, one wing drops and the period becomes a comma and I’m aware of my face muscles finishing the sentence with a smile.