Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bodily Gymnastics

Bourdieu says we learn bodily which can mean two things. First, that our body learns and adapts to the social enviornment. This was discussed in the essay on deportment. Second, that our body learns seemingly independent from the mind.

Deportment becomes second nature, something we do mindlessly, without mental effort. We do not normally think about how to hold a spoon or fork or knife nor do we think about whether or not we walk properly. We do not normally think about the volume of our voice in conversation. Our body learns.

The same is true for more purposive corporeal activities (beyond deportment) like driving or dancing or sports or sex. A person who is good in all of these things does them mindlessly, as if the body had a mind of its own. A person engaged in these activities is considered to be good when the body knows what to do even without mental consideration. That person has good bodily instincts.

As someone gets adept at driving, for example, that person increasingly thinks about driving less and is able to think about other things more and yet still avoid accidents. A new driver on the other hand, will think about nothing but the road before him and his deportment will probably easily identify him as a new driver (not seated back but leaning close to the wheel, not looking at passengers, jumpy, etc.)

Bodily agility in purposive corporeal activities can be gained through constant practice or drills. At first, a dancer may find himself counting as he dances say to the waltz (one two three, one two three) but a really good dancer does not count anymore. The body already knows what to do. But to get from counting to bodily agility requires constant practice, a training of the body until it knows what to do. That is why we often say, "That looks easy" but when we are actually engaged in the corporeal actvity, we say "It wasn't as easy as it looks".

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