Beliefs and Body Art

Writer Steven Barnes posted something on his Facebook page the other day about how someone who (1) acts with a generous heart on behalf of another, is then (2) criticized by that other person because the “generous” action is perceived as insensitive, condescending, clueless, or whatnot, can (3) become irritated by the recipient’s ingratitude and stomp off in a “to hell with them, then” huff.

It touched on something I’ve been mulling over lately: perception and offensiveness. How offensiveness is defined and how people react or respond when they encounter something they perceive as offensive.

I recently found a long-treasured and long-buried copy of RE/Search Modern Primitives, a book about body modification, its origins, and the people who practice it in modern settings. It’s a visually graphic book; not for anyone squeamish about the human body being scarred, tattooed, stretched, or squeezed.

 I love it because extremes fascinate me, and because it reminds me that “normal” is a moving target and probably a stupid concept better replaced with “typical” or “usual.” I love it because it shows me how small my imagination is in some areas; I feel a sense of awe similar to when I look up at the stars and try to wrap my head around how huge the universe is. I love the book because it makes me flinch uncomfortably, and I think when we feel uncomfortable, it’s an invitation to grow.
 

As I sat there reading the interview with Fakir Musafar (who died this past August at the age of 87), looking at the black and white photos of his work, I realized that some people would not simply feel disgust and quickly move along, but would want to burn the book. They would want to obliterate this type of desire and expression. That made me shudder, as did the thought that followed: There were people who would want to burn me for being curious about modern primitives.

That made me more uncomfortable than the book, and not in a good way.

I guess it’s an invitation to grow.

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