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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

in remembrance of the body by CJ Q. '23

affirming the mind–body connection

there was this time three weeks ago, when i was still living in baker, that the internet went out for a while. it was around 7:45 pm, and i went downstairs and took a walk, and the sun was setting. so i tried to find as high a point i could stand on to watch the sunset. i ended up walking to, i think it was pi beta phi, and standing on top of those low brick walls in front of the house.

i think that was the first time in five months that i actually felt my body. i felt my muscles wrapped around my arms and legs, i felt my feet in contact with my slippers, i felt anchored, i felt grounded inside my body, i felt its shape around me.

i’ve spent long enough days over long enough months feeling like a mind plugged into a computer, my focus pointed wholly on an article, or a video, or a pset, all my attention poured into a single thing. i helped run a program for two thousand students without leaving my chair. i attended the first week of classes, and the only times i went outside were for getting food or getting tested.

in days like these the body feels like an inconvenience. i have to tend my hunger. stand up every once in a while. remember to blink, because if i don’t, my eyes begin to hurt so much i want to gouge them out.

last wednesday morning i went to my first class of intro to acting, which i’m taking this semester because i need hass-a credit and i was also interested in seeing how it’d adapt to a virtual format. after spending an hour going through the syllabus and a couple minutes doing introductions, we did some warm-ups.

the professor asks us to stand up, and i do, and tells us to just shake our body around, and i do, and to pay attention that we’re here, present, inside our bodies. “you are here, now, in reality; not virtual reality, but reality,” or something like that. we close our eyes and breathe, in, out, focusing our thoughts on our breath. we’re asked to pay attention to how our feet are in contact with the ground, to how our knees can keep our body up but still be loose, not locked in position.

after the class, i felt my body feel a little larger. as if it was trying to burst out of its shell. the outlines on things felt sharper, the colors more vivid. it was like taking the focus that i was so used to pointing at a single thing, and inverting it and diffusing it, and my mind felt plastered on everything around me at once.

i talked to alan z. ’23 yesterday, in that socially distanced, let’s wear masks and be outside and be more than six feet apart just to be safe, way. i’ve forgotten how to interact with people in real life, like how to make eye contact, or at least look in their general direction while talking to them. it’s also hard to resist reaching out and offering a hug. even if we’ve tested negative several times already, i do think it’s important to exercise an abundance of caution.

tomorrow, instead of getting lunch from talbot, the lounge in the first floor of east campus, i will be getting it from the student center. and i will be doing this for the rest of my lunches. which means i’ll probably bump into more people i know. i’m not sure how i’ll handle that.

in a week from now my pe class will start. i am taking swimming this first quarter, which will also be an interesting experience. again, partly because i want to see what socially-distanced swimming class will be. but also, it’ll be interesting as i have tried (and failed) to learn swimming in nine separate occasions. by the end of the class, i’m expecting to have tried, and failed, to learn swimming in nineteen separate occasions. from my understanding, you don’t have to pass the swim test after taking a swim class, so i can at least get that requirement done.

it just seems that the next few days are lining up to make me actually use my body, remind me that i’m still inside it. in the end, i’m still forced to do things through the body. i’m not sure how ready i am for that.

arcade fire’s my body is a cage is, i think, supposed to be a song about insecurity. it opens

my body is a cage
that keeps me
from dancing with the one i love
but my mind holds the key

my mind holds the key, here, meaning that the person is held back, partly, by their own mind. the first verse says i’m standing on a stage / of fear and self-doubt, which i think makes this clearer.

the meaning that i want to push on the song, the one that i like better, focuses on the body itself. if not for the body, i could be anywhere right now. i wouldn’t have to worry about eating or sleeping, i wouldn’t have to worry about housing myself, so i wouldn’t have to worry about a job, or any of that. if not for the body, i could be anywhere in the world, talking to anyone i want, without having to worry about social distancing or traveling.

i could be with my friends again! i wouldn’t have to do it through a screen! i won’t have to be alone anymore!

but i can’t hug people without a body.

maybe that’s one good reason for having one.