Anything I’m able to think is because of everything I feel. And everything I feel is this wonderful embodiment, this solid physicality.
Everything begins as physical sensations that are then co-opted, abstracted, and re-appropriated by the mind. Love in the abstract began as a warm feeling of security and comfort and a belly full of milk. It grows into trust and affection. From our instinctive feelings of approval and disapprobation we develop judgment, ethics, and morality. Everything we call virtuous began with some action that met our approval, that felt good, was beautiful or useful to ourselves or others and thus became codified by our society as morally worthy. [fn1]
Our emotions are derived from our bodies and emotions drive our decisions and our actions. Reason is only used to justify ourselves after the fact.
So how could we make any decision before embodiment? Before we felt, how could we know?
We are here for an embodied experience: to feel, to learn, to decide, to know.
I don’t know what I am apart from my body. It overwhelms my consciousness. And yet my body is not of my choosing. It is the first given of my experience. I like reading Carl Sandberg’s poem Phizzog [fn2] with my children:
This face you got,
This here phizzog you carry around,
You never picked it out for yourself
at all, at all—-did you?
This here phizzog—-somebody handed it
to you–am I right?
Somebody said, “Here’s yours, now go see
what you can do with it.”
Somebody slipped it to you and it was like
a package marked:
“No goods exchanged after being taken away”—-
This face you got.
My body is how I see and what is seen of me. It is the actor of my actions and that which is acted upon by everything else. At times, it obviously asserts itself over my will; at other times I am able to imagine it has no power over me, to deceive myself into some kind of mental autonomy.
[fn1] I am obviously very indebted to David Hume.
[fn2] This is one of our favorite poets to read with the children during Family Home Evening. We have several books in the Poetry for Young People series, and we enjoy them all.