Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rectangular Living: On Being Curvaceous

We live in rectangles. We live in our rectangular houses, we enter and exist these houses through doors, and we look in or out of our houses through windows. When we leave the house we walk our towns and our cities which are increasingly rectangular, from the village square to the shopping malls. Our movie theaters are the same shape and we watch our films on rectangular screens. It could be argued that our cars are not rectangular but more like "round-tangles," but this is really a small argument on the limits of creating actual right angles, and again the automobiles have windows and mirrors which shape and curtail our view.

If you are reading this article, then chances are, you are reading it via a rectangle. A web page displayed on a desktop monitor, or a laptop, possibly via a PDA, cell phone, or Kindle, or (horror of horrors), via the printed page. More and more of our lives are altered by viewing the world through windows, rather than direct experience with an odd shaped universe. In 1946, we received our first view of the earth from space and then in the Sixties we received our first views of the earth from the moon, which showed the earth to be round (ok, roundish). Of course, we knew that long before but here were the images to prove it. Those rectangular images, however, were in rectangular newspapers and on rectangular televisions. Our planet and our moon have right no angles, but our experiences of them do.

A while ago, I decided to replace the habit of rectangular living with the habit of being curvaceous. If one looks at the human body it is filled with nothing but bulbous lumps of flesh which when viewed from some distance may attract or repulse but which are all remarkably similar in the end. If you have read anything on the nature of fractals, then ones view of the universe may be more jaggy than curvaceous, but this is really a matter of scale and the anti-aliasing effects (think smoothing), of the human visual system. Either way, jaggy or smooth, the universe is not cut up into rectangles and limited by edges of view.

Here are a few tips on being curvaceous:

  • Take a walk in the morning before reading the paper, surfing the net, or watching television. Notice the structure of trees, the structure of leaves, the structure of insects, birds, squirrels, and dogs. Look up and notice the shape of clouds. Are they wispy or puffy? Any right Angles?
  •  Hold a piece of fruit in your hand. Or hold a vegetable . Feel the smoothness of the skin, the curve of it's form.
  • Look out through the window into the yard. What do you notice, what do you see? Now walk out the door in the same direction and experience that space directly. What do you see now? What do you smell? What do you feel? This is a more direct experience of the way your yard really is. If you don't have a yard then do the same with your neighborhood. The point is to smell the world. Feel the world.
  • Get the permission of a person in your life, trace the lines of their body with your hands. Gently squeeze their flesh and feel how their body reshapes itself in response to interaction with your body.
  • Go swimming in the ocean or a large lake, is the surface of the water flat when the waves are over your head?
  • Find a large tree and close your eyes while feeling the bark. Gently wrap your arms around the tree and let your face rest against the bark. Smell the tree.

Being curvaceous is not about having a more shapely sexy body, it is about awareness. It is about experiencing the non-rectangular world and building the habit of being aware of how things are.

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