Thursday, July 08, 2010

thickness of flesh

I'm trying to get at why I don't accept Merleau-Ponty's assertion in The Visible and the Invisible that vision is the key for there being a world, and that we would not "make a world" on the basis of scent or hearing. That doesn't square with the account of flesh, I think. I may be reading "visible" too literally, or I might just be prejudiced against vision since I don't see well - who knows. But I do think there's something missed by this emphasis on vision.

I'm reading Barbaras' extremely dense but very good book The Being of the Phenomenon. His stuff on flesh keeps employing the word thickness, and that's been very evocative for me.

Consider sleeping together. Our inter-corporeality, the very “togetherness” of flesh to flesh, is an advent of co-presence. We are skin, curve, texture, sensible, sensing, sensed, heat, breath, rhythm, vibration. And something else – thickness, beyond surface, beyond “what appears” at the surface. This, all, is flesh to my flesh, how you are there/here with me, for me, visibly and invisibly. I hold you, holding your living flesh — Leib from Husserl’s German being the source of this term for Merleau-Ponty, carrying a compound of meaning – alive, body, “live” for one there, in the flesh.

Holding you, being held by you, our bodies take up different shapes and are availed to grasps that can’t happen standing or sitting. Skins touch, slide, and rub variably, multiply, at varied textures (which is the wrong word, somehow). Curled around my back, holding me with your arm over my chest, but also with the top of your foot on the bottom of mine, but also with your leg on the back of mine, your belly on my back – a kind of grip by what we usually don’t think of as having a grip. You are there, thickly, alive, breathing, heating me, cooling me, scenting me. Your scent is also thick, a flesh to smell, a flesh for the sense of smell, “live” in the flesh, the advent of your corporeal presence. You lie thick at/on/upon/against my back, or I at/on/upon/against yours, or thickly, overwarmly, side to side.

Flesh is neither visible nor invisible in the literal, mundane sense of these terms. If it were, then there could be no flesh for scent or taste, and there could be no flesh for the blind. Flesh is how it is that we are live for ourselves, for and in the world, and for one another – how we come to be thick with scent, taste, sound – and “live” in embodied copresence.

There'd be an erotic sense of thickness as well - not thickness in erotic "experiences," but the erotics of the senssation of thickness - its pleasure and pain (some thicknesses are painful, after all), its eruption of desire... Desire of flesh for flesh, of the entry of the foreign body, draws in the thickness of that body, thickens us as we draw in the "other" body. Consider "feeling full" or "feeling filled" in this way. There, now, "live" in the flesh, here comes the thick body of the "other."

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