The Embodiment of Christmas
One of the messages of Christmas is the importance of embodiment. It is in our bodies that we experience the necessities of being human as well as the joys of being human. It is through our bodies that we know the fullness of fallibility and the many ambiguities of experience, learning and discovery. We know that one of the most important necessities to life of food and drink come to the fore at Christmas in the joys of celebration festivities and risk.
When we speak of embodiment we infer something tangible and material that captures the essence of something. So we can say, ‘Nelson Mandela embodies the essence of forgiveness’ or ‘Ebenezer Scrooge embodies the nature of greed’. When we accept the realities of being embodied we also accept the vulnerabilities of being human. The story of a baby in a feed trough in a cave at the back of a pub embodies the symbols/myths of humility and love. It wouldn’t quite work with a five star apartment overlooking the harbor.
Unfortunately, the rejection of the human body is an all too common modern phenomena. The seduction of body sculpting, body improvements, nips and tucks, eating disorders and body image rejection are all evidence of the denial of fallibility and the quest for being more that human. Benner states: ‘any religion or spirituality that seeks to make us less than, more than, or other than human is dangerous’.
The quest to be non-human or trans-human (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism) is testimony to misunderstanding what it is to be fallible and human. The rejection of embodiment is the rejection of risk. The rejection of embodiment is the rejection of life and learning.
Embodiment is the stuff of life and living. It brings with it the joy of learning and the harm of trial and error. It fills living with the richness of discovery and existential joy of maturation.
In the Christmas story we see the approval of embodiment. The story of a god embodied in a child is the endorsement of embodiment. The theology of rejection of embodiment and fallibility proposes that the purpose of being human is to become infallible not fully human. This is the quest of zero.
The rejection of embodiment, learning and associated harm of not knowing is a delusion. The quest for infallibility and to become all knowing dehumanizes what it means to be human. The ideology of zero harm is on such a trajectory of delusion.
The body is so easily harmed physically, psychologically and socially and so if zero harm is the goal then all harm must be rejected. If the goal is learning then harm must be accepted. Unfortunately, the zero harm delusion is hazardous for our well-being and can only be sustained through simplistic binary constructs.
I remember one Christmas we had a water skiing holiday on the Murray River. Camping, festivities and skiing, what fun. The sensation of cruising on one ski on ‘the glass’ is sensational. After a huge session of the river we would sit down for a well earned drink and my brother would often say ‘this is living’. This is all so good until a nasty fall and that happened. And would you stop such an adventure, hell no.
We all know that harm is the trade-off for living with fallibility and uncertainty. We all know that in the real world that the fear of harm is the fear of living. We can only learn the limits of our bodies in accepting the limits of our bodies. The nonsense of perfection fuels mental health disorders. What the zero harm ideology don’t get is that the rejection of zero harm is not the desire for harm. What zero harm ideology doesn’t know is that the semantics of zero harm primes the unconscious for brutalism and perfection. Its so easy to harm others in the name of zero harm, simply don’t pay your taxes (https://safetyrisk.net/the-real-story-of-zero/). Let’s count the band aids and revel in our own blindness to harm, this is what zero harm does, it creates delusion.
So at Christmas time we need to acknowledge and give sanction to embodiment. There are no other bodies but fallible bodies. The body that enjoys a good wine and food can also get drunk and sick of food.
There is no zero and never can be. Such language draws humans away from empathy and alignment with being human with other humans. When we see humanity and fallibility as ‘defiled’ (Douglas – http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/schloesser/HS041-042/fall/w04/resources/DOUGLAS_Purity-Danger.pdf, https://monoskop.org/images/1/1d/Douglas_Mary_Risk_and_Blame_Essays_in_Cultural_Theory_1994.pdf ) we truly shape a religious worldview for blame, superiority and the rejection of embodiment.
Ah, if we didn’t have these silly fallible bodies no one would get harmed.