In a class this week about femininity and how we are composed of many layers (the object lesson was my matriska doll named Natalie) we talked about how our layers sort of blur into each other, and it’s hard or impossible to separate them.
I suspect that we have at least 100 layers, which explains why we’re so complex. But to be efficient, and to avoid 100 unwieldy terms, we usually use “spirit, soul, and body” to talk about the layers that we’re made of. What we do physically affects us spiritually and emotionally. Our emotions play out physically, viscerally, tangibly. The physical shell of the person is the first thing we notice, but it isn’t who they really are, and yet the way they carry themselves, the things they laugh at, the way they cast their glances around–all of this reveals the intangible parts of them.
So the Samaritan woman came to the well in the middle of the day, not in the morning or evening when the other women did, because of the shame she lived with. Lilly wanted to keep living with August because she needed a mom. Sarah moved across the US, as far away as possible, to remove herself from her cancer treatment and broken engagement. It’s easy to connect the dots with people in a book.
It’s a little more mysterious or insidious to see the pattern in ourselves or the people who we only see as bodies and not having 100 layers, but it’s still true. The loud laughter is an unspoken fear that he doesn’t matter. The trendy clothes reveal internal priorities. The insistence for control or comfort shows itself in the second helping of Oreo ice cream–or refusal of any of it.
Natalie (she is rattly) demonstrates that each layer is important and valuable. But maybe the most valuable part is the inside that’s most hidden and takes the most time to discover. When I take the doll apart in class, there’s always a collective gasp when they see the smallest doll appear because she is so cute and sweet and unexpected. Sort of like what happens when we see what’s inside the person who we only saw before as a body.
This is a most fascinating life, teaching. I am opening to my brain to the realization that teachers must work harder than their students in the constant process of receiving, processing, and transmitting information, and then re-thinking and re-assessing what was transmitted.
The downside to that is that I end up over-thinking things and living inside my head. Which is why it’s really necessary to spend some time plunking stones into a creek with a child, or laughing at a lame pun. Or kayaking on a slow river with friends, racing for the darkest tan. All of which I did this week, and–at every level of myself– am better for it.