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In a department-store line, I watched an undergarment commercial on a screen above the cashier's desk. It featured women expressing dissatisfaction with their figures, while the camera zoomed in on their chests.

It seemed I was watching a series of dismemberments, as the infomercial's editors divorced body parts from their owners in order to direct attention to deficiencies in quality and trajectory. I was struck by how tragic it is that millions of humans—impossibly complex in neurological makeup, fantastically unique, and almost unbearably freighted with potential—walk around obsessed with perceived appendage inadequacies (or superiorities).

This is no news flash: We live in a body-obsessed culture. Materialism—the conviction that only matter can be proven to exist and that belief in transcendence is at best a fond hope, and at worst a dangerous delusion—is the spirit of our age. Ironically, it leaves us with no spirit at all, just our bodies and their appetites, unbridled and insatiable. No wonder we approach the fridge—and each other—with a predatory eye. We're just trying to survive.

I believe that the only cure is to embrace nonmaterial reality as an integral part of the universe and ourselves. The conviction that we cannot be reduced to bodies is foundational to my worldview. It has also enabled me to justify avoiding any sort of consistent physical exercise for much of my life.

My husband is a kinesthetic person; if he goes too long without activity he gets restless. I, on the other hand, can be perfectly and indefinitely happy with a book and a comfortable couch. Although I often have felt a vague sense of guilt (and, lately, gravity), I have found a way to spiritualize my inclinations. ...

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In the Magazine

August 2009

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