I had a really weird dream on Friday that is still so vivid that it's going to take over my post this week. (I'll spin it into an art discussion soon enough, don't worry). In the dream, while out and about with friends, I suddenly looked down and saw that I must have gone and gotten MASSIVE tattoos on my legs! Two 1.5-inch stripes of gothic red-and-black checker patterns ringed (rung? rang?) around my ankle bones, and above them unfurled beautiful, lacy, abstracted black and blue fairy-wing patterns. These graceful arabesques overlapped each other and covered entirely the lower parts of my legs, all the way to my upper calves. I was at first entranced by my boldness in getting these tattoos, since I belong to a religion that generally disdains them (although, small side note, I absolutely love them on other people! Asking about tattoos is always fun, they are almost always very special and symbolic to their owners).
In the dream, after overcoming my surprise, I ran around for a bit, literally kicking up my heels and enjoying the flash of blue and black that ensued. I became horrified, though, when I realized my tats obstructed and distracted the eye from my legs, which, as all those who know me well know, are a source of shameless and unhealthy pride for me. (But, hey, I always make sure and give full credit to my mom and my Nike's!). Anywho, I was FURTHER horrified as this thought scrolled across my brain: blue is the hardest ink color to remove. Semi-repentant as I now was, I knew I faced a long, painful restoration process if I ever wanted my calves back to their original whiteyness. At the same time, I looked down at the insides of my arms and found similar wing designs extending out from the crooks of my elbows!!!! Apparently I'd gone tattoo crazy!
When I woke up, I checked my elbows before crawling out of bed and it turns out, I'm clean. But the whole dream, the vivid dark patterns on my skin, and the keen feelings I experienced about my tattoos really made me think about my human body, and the human body in general this weekend. It gets treated so differently by different people. In my religion, we believe our bodies are our first and most sacred gift from God, something we have been sent to Earth to learn how to operate and control. These precious gifts, the only thing we really possess, come with a full, wonderful range of sensations and passions that can either help us or possess us, depending on what we do with them. Gordon B. Hinckeley, former president of our church, had this to say about the human body in 1992:
"Have you ever contemplated the wonder of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak? No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. What a remarkable thing each of us is. We can think by day and dream by night. We can speak and hear, smell and feel.
Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has brought only a crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, look at it and sense the wonder of it. While sitting in Symphony Hall in Salt Lake listening to a concert, I was in a position to see the fingers of the performers in the orchestra. Whether playing the strings, the percussion instruments, the brass, the woodwinds--all involved the use of fingers. One does not have to use one's fingers to sing or whistle, but beyond that, there would be little of musical harmony without the deft action of trained fingers.
George Gallup once observed, "I could prove God statistically. Take the human body alone--the chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen is a statistical monstrosity" . Our bodies were designed by our Eternal Father to be the tabernacles of our eternal spirits." Whole talk found here.
Such I also believe. In addition, I believe it is very important to take care of our bodies, to keep them clean, to not show off every part of them to the world (DOWN WITH CLEAVAGE MONSTERS!), and to practice habits that make them function well for us. Regular exercise (doesn't have to be strenuous, peeps), a natural and balanced diet, and abstinence from anything that would lead to addiction-- yes, I include caffeine, alcohol, and white sugar here-- really help us in every aspect of our lives: emotional, social, mental, etc. Bonus: as a temple, the body really is a place that God may visit with his peace if we keep ourselves worthy of Him.
Elsewhere in the world I have observed people with very different opinions of their bodies. Not all of them are bad exactly, just... different: A prison. A sketchbook. A billboard. An adrenaline machine. Some people don't think much of their bodies at all, don't hardly use them. How sad. One thing I learned from being a lifeguard this summer and observing pool visitors is that God sure is some kind of sculptor. Truly. Everyone is built differently, and everyone is beautiful.
That is essentially the reason why people have for millenia sought to re-represent the human form in art. Portraits, history paintings, family photos, you name it. We as a species sure like to look at ourselves. With, ahem, good reason. Sometimes...
Special topic for the day: The nude. The nude is one of art's most prestigious (and snicker-evoking) subjects. It presents countless surfaces, expressions, and shapes for contemplation. The nude is considered by generations of artisans as the highest praise that their craft can render to God. To all the people I attend museums with: the naked statues standing around frozen will be most valuable to you if you simply try to imagine them as odes to God's creative powers. As man's attempt to emulate Him. As artistic explorations of one of the most riddling and enigmatic things that ever walked the earth, or took a breath, or made a sound. What about the body do you think is most fascinating? What would you try and recreate in art?
My best friend Jessica is funny, very opposite of me in the things she will geek out about. As opposed to museums and art, she will sometimes explode with great and brilliant things to say about, what else? The human body. (Science nerd!) I especially remember sitting around her room once, reading or listening to music or something, just chilling out, when I suddenly found myself struggling in vain to worm my way out of watching open heart surgeries on Youtube with her! Apparently, that's quality, uplifting entertainment for you (which I'm sure it is... when you have taken anatomy classes that prepped you to see something other than bloody goo on the screen). It sure is fun to have friends with different views of the world than you. I think I'll keep the science people around. There's a whole 'nother way of valuing the human body...
Because I couldn't escape this blog without including one small proof that my legs are awesome, er that me and Jess are BFF and that there are all sorts of different and beautiful body shapes in the world:
Have a great week!