Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tactile Meditations on the Interiority of the Heart

Eleven ounces, approximately the size of one's fist, the heart belongs to the world beneath the skin. The invisible territory, the absence, the hidden interior that is the scaffold allowing us to be.  We see ourselves, each other, from the outside. Eyes, hands, lips, hair. We speak, come together, and part ways only  to speak, come together, and part ways once again, our exteriority taking precedence, our outsides dwelling together, touching in a space between us that is only possible because of the interior, even if we don't notice it (for why would we?) as we move through our days.

Elizabeth Grosz likens our corporeality to a mobius strip. If we stop to trace our bodies we discover we are interior to exterior to interior to exterior. One continuous infinite loop. For where is that boundary, the delineation between inside and out? My heart beats beneath my rib cage; it is hidden. And yet I feel my pulse on the outside when I press my fingers to my wrist.

The interior. If we forget it or don't acknowledge it often, for it certainly deserves our continual respect and recognition, perhaps it is  because seeing most often means something has gone wrong. A fall breaks a bone and the bone rips through the skin. A knife slips, a finger is cut, blood flows, a tendon is glimpsed. Seeing the inside or representing the internal, whether it be organs, muscle, bone, blood, may be considered morbid, grotesque. Respectable representations are repetitions of our exteriors. But our skins are what they are precisely because of the insides. The interior shapes us, makes us tall, stout, broad shouldered, slim. Our skins service our interiors, keep them packaged up, neat, safe. Is it too much to think of the exterior (if only in a moment of poetic reverie) as a continuous embrace that cares for that wonderful flowing world made of intricate pathways and inlets, that place where wild highways of capillaries, arteries, and veins twist and swing about, where in the depths of the interior neurons and electric life continually move, in that hidden world where aveoli trees open to receive the exterior even as we sleep?

The exterior becomes interior becomes exterior once again. Represent the inside or the outside, but remember they are a continual dance. And notice when the interior is approached with the intensity of an artist enthralled, the interior--even the torn open corpse--rumbles in gorgeous muscularity and form. Artists who have done this, who have succeeded in ripping open, divulging, without landing in the merely or reductively grotesque are Hyman Bloom, Chaim Soutine, and the younger, still alive Jenny Saville. There are others, of course, and their representations are worth more than a quick glimpse, for in such hands paint reveals what Adorno refers to as the "shudder" in reference to Soutine. The shudder, the tremor, that is an energetic interior bursting forth in richness. The rich complexity that we human animals along with other inhabitants are.

And now, in this moment, when I think of the human heart, of my own, of that surprisingly small muscle upon which I rely, I stop in the history of it--not merely the 39 years of its individual life, but of the hearts of other animals and ken that led to this four-chambered one of now. And going further, I remember the stars. I envision eleven ounces of stardust. I think of the stardusted interior that feeds the  ones I see as I move through my days, their skins not merely skins, but infinitely rich coverings that envelope the seemingly hidden shudders within.

No comments:

Post a Comment