L is for Limitations

| April 17, 2014

Returning to Schusterman’s discussion of the body as both coloring and being colored by experiences, I’ve been thinking about how our physical limitations can alter how we experience or perceive something, the kinds of experiences in which we can participate, and the capacity to which we can partake of them. Our bodies are complex and amazing ecosystems, and the things which they can achieve at their peak performance can be nothing shy of miraculous. Yet, we are, in essence, merely mammals, and thus bound to some extent by our physical needs and constraints. No matter how hard we may desire to push these limits, we still need to tend to the body’s basic needs–food, sleep, shelter, elimination, and so forth–and when we do not, the quality of our experience, in terms of what we can put into it or get out of it, suffers. (A personal example: I enjoy the evening classes, such as this one, that I’m taking this semester, and wish I could be more engaged and articulate in them, but coming in at 5pm after having put in a full workday, I’m usually exhausted and starving, so I feel like I have less of value to contribute to them, or can’t fully appreciate what I could be getting out of them). Similarly, we may not be able to do as many things, or immerse ourselves in them as fully as we’d like, because our bodies are not yet adequately conditioned  (e.g. doing more complicated dance moves or athletic feats because we lack the skills or strength), or because we must pause to rest, or because we simply cannot be in multiple locations or physically accomplish multiple tasks at once. These limitations can be frustrating, especially when our circumstances demand a certain level of high performance which requires us to push ourselves. However, maybe these limits are something of a blessing, as they remind us that 1) we are humans, not automatons, 2) we are part of the natural world and its rhythms, not separate from it, and 3) these physical vessels are the containers for our minds and spirits, and we must thus care for them accordingly, even as we strive to better their capabilities.