Driving back home late on Saturday evening I caught an interview on RTE radio with Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan. Since my girls are ballet dancers my interest was piqued.
At one point the interviewer speaking of the expressiveness of dance, said, “And of course the instrument is the body. You must be very, very aware of the body—its strength, its frailties…”
The choreographer’s response struck me, for he said, “I don’t like calling it ‘the body’. It’s my body. I am my body.”
That grabbed my attention for there was something refreshingly counter-cultural to it. For all our body-consciousness, the 21stcentury world has set the mind over the body, “I am my mind, and my body is a mere tool, something extraneous to my identity” so to speak. I’ve just finished Nancy Pearcey’s superb book, Love thy Body which fleshes this concept out in great detail—so his statement resonated even more.
In all sorts of ways the body and mind are separated. Or ‘Me’ and ‘My Body’ are separated. We are told that sexual intimacy is just biology, just a physical interaction, that you can have sex without emotional involvement. Body and mind are put in two separate categories—but they are deeply interwoven.
Pearcey quotes scholar and author Donna Freitas who, after conducting hundreds of interviews with students, found that many find their meaningless sexual encounters disappointing. Pearcey writes, “They feel hurt and lonely. They wish they knew how… to create a genuine relationship where they are known and appreciated for who they are as a whole person”—not just as a physical performer.
Another instance of mind and body set against each other is found in transgenderism—where the mind believes/desires to be one thing, while the body indicates another. And so people want to change their body. Body and mind are set at odds—what a person is in their mind carries more weight that what their body says. And because of this emphasis more confusion is brought into what can be a very disconcerting situation. But why should the mind have precedence over the body?
Even the fixation with the body beautiful does not mean we accept our bodies. As one writer states, “the cult of the young body, the veneration of the air-brushed body [and we could add to that the ‘perfectly instagrammed face and/or body’] conceals a hatred of real bodies.”
So there is something refreshingly healthy in what the choreographer says, “I am my body”—an unashamed connection between himself and his body.
Of course, on its own, the statement “I am my body” is equally wrong—it is just the opposite end of the scale from “I am my mind”. And for those struggling with aging bodies, paralysed bodies, dysfunctional bodies, broken bodies it isn’t a helpful statement. The reductionism of “I am my body” has led some to euthanasia—My body is of no value, therefore I am of no value.
But the choreographer didn’t leave the statement on its own. He went on to say “I think that connects to this: trying to reduce the separation…we feel between my mind and my body.” Trying to reduce the separation—he grasped that we have created an unnatural separation between mind and body to the detriment of the body.
He is right. We were made a body-mind unity by God. The Bible paints a rich picture of the body as a gift from God, and of the mind as a gift from God. If we taught that our bodies are a presentfrom God, designed and given by Him to us, to be accepted and used for His glory by us—would that not help with issues of sexuality and many other issues?
(I understand that much of the ideology of the rejection of the body is driven by a rejection of God. The body itself is almost the last remaining fingerprint of God which man is desperately trying to efface, in an attempt to remove the nagging reminder that we are accountable to God. But others are caught in the cross-fire of confusion in this war against God, including Christians, and having a right view of the body will provide anchor points in these storms.)
Mind and body—the two cannot be separated. We are inundated with the dogma, not so much that we are brains on sticks, but that we are personalities on sticks. If we taught our young people that they, mind and body, are uniquely created by God—woven togetherby Him—it would go a long way to equip them to live in a world which has separated what God has joined together.