Cycling


“Feminist sacramentality needs to begin not with women’s experience but with the body’s grace.”[1]

We rode our bikes to the pool.  I have not cycled in a long time.  It appeared flat but was slightly uphill.  I struggled, short breath and shallow, in and out.  We arrived and my legs were a little shaky, broken.  It was nice relief to throw the bike down.  We swam, nude, jumped in quickly knowing it would be warm, not hot, but warm.  The water was silky, liquid arms all around.  We kissed and swam in unison, entwined, arms and legs dancing like a Shiva statue. 

Soon after, we showered in very hot water, it was getting dark.  Feeling wet and soothed, we quickly dried off, dressed again and rode home.  It was now dark and began to rain.  We did not have torches or bike lights either.  But there was the sky, which glowed very softly between the trees that threaded the gravel road.  We rode, it appeared flat, but this time was downhill.  I could not see the road and had to look up to the skyline between the forest, which led the way.  It was raining, steady and light.  Legs cycled quickly, little native animals unseen and rustling, ran away scared by this intrusion.  We rode and rode.  It became darker.  I liked the wind blowing on my skin, which was hot and wet.  The rain pierced me with little needles, like nature’s acupuncture.  My skin was delicate, alive and breathing after the intensity of a mineral swim and scorching shower.  But this was another type of water, sharp and tender.  I had a skirt on, which needed to be hitched up to get on the bike and ride.  My legs were exposed to the rain and wind as muscles flexed to peddle.  I wasn’t dry after all. 

He was somewhere behind, I could not hear him cycling.  He said later that he kept his distance because he did not want to crash into me, generous, as we could not see each other or the road.  I looked up into the cloudy sky and weaved a way home through the trees.  My legs were like grasshoppers, wobbling on the bike as I crashed into the home gate.  Skin, muscles and mind were dancing, alive, shaking, vibrating.  I laughed and disentangled from the wire, there was no pain.  What a ride!

Much Feminist Theology is centred upon embodiment.  What does this concept mean?  It suggests that the body – the female body – has been historically devalued, but is now honoured and respected in female diversity and bodily functionality.  Women can enjoy spiritual wisdom in their bodies.  She who is able to teach and to bring forth learning in her body life.  Her senses, individual passions and fluids are part of this, not rejected so as to embrace a rational, discombobulated logic, instead she is known, loved and is equal in this space.  She is fully alive in her amazing, life-sheltering body.  She is the body of the world.  This is a great challenge to a patriarchal way of knowing which seeks to suppress these types of knowledge, which of course are commonly associated with death and decay.  Patriarchal knowing, as we understand it, is focused upon an objective, eagle perspective, a higher religious knowledge, valued for its penetrating rationality and importance.  The word is everything – it is God and it is not female.

The thing is, I have spent the last 12 years immersing myself in this way of knowing.  Becoming ‘legitimate’ and ‘academic’, getting to know the Word, and then attempting to deconstruct it.  I have wanted to be part of the system, so I can eat away at it from the inside.  But, but, but what have I rejected in doing this?  Do I dance very much?  Am I just a feminist head, floating in a disembodied academy?  When did I last pee on the grass on a hot summer evening, feeling yellow warmth run out of me?  Have I felt a child’s sticky hand on my face recently or the sharp smell of gum leaves as I crush and tear them in soft hands and shove up nostrils?  Do I ironically and subtly reject this embodiment to be part of academia?  Am I just reversing the dualism here, being absorbed into the patriarchal intelligentsia by stealth?  Have I had to sacrifice the very things I am advocating for (embodiment and alternative ways of knowing including play, poetry, art, body consciousness, women’s multiple subjectivities and narrative approaches) to be acceptable in this system of knowledge?  I have coveted theoretical accomplishment and the development of a knowledge base.  But bulimia still haunts me and alcohol abuse too.  Is this my own embodiment and subjugated knowledge, which has helped to suppress bodily freedom and fit into academia? 

Is this true life?  I was living that evening – my body’s senses alive and kicking.  For the first time in a long time, academic thinking did not matter as much because I was finding a way with my body, on the earth.  Will this make me a better feminist theologian – I fucking hope so!  There’s got to be a balance here as my mind-life is in this body, a beautiful, soulful body that loves to play in the wild.

[1] Tina Beattie.  New Catholic Feminism – Theology and Theory.  (Abingdon:  Routledge, 2006), 48.

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2 thoughts on “Cycling

  1. I wonder though if “true life” is always more romantic to write about than to live? maybe that is why we write – to bring the beauty into what might otherwise be mundane.

  2. Hi Shane – At the time, the experience felt quite sensual and amazing, which is why I wanted to further reflect upon it. Is there such a distinct separation between the living and the writing? Maybe it’s all part of the mosaic that we are creating, bits of shell, sand and skin; fragments of memory; fleeting body sensations; other people’s words and an occasional nugget of sadness, horror, which together makeup ‘true life,’ even as I write. There are boring bits of course and they are also weaved throughout, in the silence and gaps between words, in that which is unspoken.

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