Every-body, Some-body, and No-body

– by Samuel Thambusamy

(Dis) engaging with body images

How do we (dis) engage with ‘wishual’ body images that enter our lifespace? Explicit body images are all over the place – magazine covers, calendars, movie poster, music channels, music videos and media. Images assault our imagination and no wonder we are a sex soaked generation. Lets face it! We need to help ourselves face the onslaught of body images lest our imagination gets perverse. We need to help children face inappropriate images lest there be a debasement of taste for sex, love and relationships.

The fragmentation of our imagination

(S)explicit images are now accessible, available and affordable. Media/Cultural products make it possible for close-ups of body parts ( and the triggering of evil imagination in the dark corners of the mind). People are described ( and known) through their body parts ( eyes, face etc). Body parts are now ‘assets’ that can be flaunted. If you have it, then you flaunt it. New media makes it possible for the free flow of these images and reaches our homes through wireless network. What do we do? Do we teach ourselves and our children to read images ‘differently’?

Every-body

I think faith must inform our behaviour and radically reform it. The tastes, preferences, needs and desires must be radically altered. I think this is a journey. We all must move from ” every-body” stage to “some-body” stage to “No-body” stage. We are fascinated by body images (especially those of opposite sex), particularly in the “growing up” years.  At this stage “any-body” and “every-body” excites us because it opens up possiblities for exploration.

Some-body

And then we move from ” Any-body” stage to ” some-body” – a psychological preference for physicality. Your value equals your pretty face and/or sex-appeal. This is largely due to myth-information about what constitutes beauty. We seek – the shape, the size and the colour – that which gives us excitement or incites passion. We look for the body-type (psychological preference), sometimes fall in love and if lucky get to marry one. It if difficult for us and/or partners to sustain the (mental) picture-perfect image forever.

Enter Media Managers! The hunger for “some-body” is re-discovered through cultural products. They supply you with a steady supply of younger body images that give us excitement or incite passion. You never realize that most of these body images belong to twenty somethings – almost half our age. Children never realize that these images belong to men/women – almost as old as their mothers/fathers. Technology/internet offers us facelessness so that we can watch what we want, whenever and whereever. Contemporary culture has raised obscene images to the level of art and aesthetics. Such scafolding (facelessness) helps us to counter with “shame”  ( We can never ever be caught) if not guilt.

Faith in a world of images

Titilation is built in to the DNA of our cultural products. What does it mean to follow Jesus in world of (S)explicit body images? We can never be insulated from the world of images. Jesus invites us to look at things differently. He reminded us that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus followers are not those who stop looking at men/women. They look at men/women differently… They are part of the evolving new creation – with new tastes, preferences, desires, and needs. They are those who have a grasp of the vision of what is good, true and beautiful.

No-body

As followers of Jesus, we must move away from “some-body” stage. We need to move to the “no-body” stage. We must be people who look at the whole person ( not just the pretty face, skin colour, body structure etc). God did not created us as mere ‘flesh’ and ‘bones’. There’s more to life than the phsicality of our existence. We are all created by God – in his own image. This means each of us have dignity, identity and sense of belonging – beyond our body image.We must learn to value the inner person beneath the appearance of physicality. Simply put, we must be drawn by inward beauty and uphold the dignity of being who we truly are-human.

The contemporary rebellion

We live in a fragmented/fragmenting world. Sin has fragmented our collective imagination, particularly the vision of the human body. Cultural representations continue to desecrate the human body, particular the female body. In the primeval story, God covers/clothes humanity. The “uncovering” of the human body as the fodder for lust is a contemporary act of rebellion. It is lust inturn that fuels systemic production and distribution of (s)explicit images. When we see body images we too see them as good for food, pleasing to the eye and desirable for knowledge. Every one faces the challenge of INSTINCTS, IMAGES and INFORMATION. The way out is INTIMACY with God – the purifying of imagination, the capture of the good, true and beautiful, the quickening of conscience, the re-surrender of life as a living sacrifice….

The healing of our imagination

How do we seek healing of public imagination?In a fragmented world, women are merely “sex toys” – to be commodified. Men are “sex animals” who can be tamed and domesticated by the free offer of the body (or its images). We need healing of not just ‘bodies’ but as embodied ‘persons’. In Christ, God comes to us in flesh. His body was torn asunder and his body was broken, bruised and battered for all the visual violation of the body.  Christ offers us healing and helps us to seek wholness. Christ offers forgiveness (and grace) and makes it possible to look at the whole person – not just as fragmented body parts. May we find God’s grace to journey into the “no-body” stage.

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