I define ‘physicality’ as bodily engagement (listening to the body, expressing oneself physically, etc.)
For most of human history, people were bodily engaged by default. People relied on physical labor to meet their basic needs. Take transportation for example. Before the fossil-fuel age, most people’s transport options were walking, or if there was a convenient waterway, a boat. Walking obviously entails using many parts of the body (legs for force, arms for balance, eyes for navigation, etc.) even on well-maintained paved surfaces. However, people often had to rely on rougher paths, which, among other things, meant people had to listen closer to their feet. For example, as a hiker, ‘the ground doesn’t feel right’ is often the earliest sign that I am going the wrong way (and many of the trails I hike were originally established before the widespread use of cars/buses/trains so that ordinary people could get around to take care of their business).
However, cheap energy has replaced so much of physical labor that many people now hardly ever walk, have sit-down jobs, sit down for most of their social encounters and entertainment, and get food delivered to them instead of, say, maintaining their own garden without power tools.
Hey, am I sitting down at my computer writing a blog entry, or am I talking loudly at the town square to whoever will listen to me?
I, personally, cannot be happy with a sedentary life. I need my regular dose of stress hormones, and my muscles need to be able to burn them off and get the exercise-endorphins flowing. If I am just sitting or lying down most of the time, then I’m not living to the fullest. This is why I hope I will never have an 8-4 or 9-5 sit-down job.
I also think the sedentary lifestyle might contribute to the over-emphasis society puts on sex. In many people’s lives, it’s one of the few kinds, if not the only kind, of deep bodily engagement which has not be substituted by cheap energy (i.e. fossil fuels). With so, so, so many people I’ve met, when bodily engagement comes up, their minds immediately turn to sex. I bet in the minds of farmers who don’t use electricity or fossil fuels, ‘bodily engagement’ and ‘sex’ are not so closely coupled.
Ace-spectrum people often highlight the value of sensuality. I love sensuality too, but I think it goes way beyond that. We should, as a culture, stop privileging sex over other forms of bodily engagement, but I am not sure that’s possible without restoring a more holistic physicality to daily life.
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