Toni Morrison on the Body as an Instrument of Joy, Sanity, and Self-Love

I was reminded, too, of a kindred passage penned 2 years earlier by another titan of idea and sensation in language: Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931– August 5, 2019), composing in her 1987 masterpiece Beloved (public library)– the novel that soon made her the first black woman to get the Nobel Prize, which she got with a speech of shocking insight into the human heart.

Believing recently about what it indicates to have the ideal heart, which intimates the concern of what it implies to tend to ones own heart appropriately, I was advised of a passage from what may be the loveliest, truest, most quietly transcendent thing ever blogged about the art of growing older: “The main point is this,” Grace Paley composed in 1989, “when you get up in the early morning you should take your heart in your two hands. You must do this every early morning.”

Toni Morrison. Coat photograph for her launching novel, 1970. From within the storys wider meditation on the inmost significance of freedom and the body as the locus of liberation, Morrison unspools this splendid sentiment from the lips of her protagonist:

In this here location, we flesh; flesh that weeps, chuckles; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.

A century after Walt Whitman declaimed in Leaves of Grass that “the body is the meaning and consists of, the main concern and includes and is the soul,” composing his reverent catalogue of body-parts– “head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears … mouth, tongue, lips, teeth … strong shoulders … bowels tidy and sweet … brain in its folds inside the skull-frame … heart-valves …”– Morrison composes:

Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face … Love your mouth … This is flesh … Flesh that requires to be liked. Feet that require to rest and to dance; backs that need assistance; shoulders that need arms, strong arms … Love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. The dark, dark liver– enjoy it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts … enjoy your heart.

Beloved remains the rare sort of work of art that provides the English language back to itself and your conscience back to itself. Complement this particular piece with, then review Morrison on literature as disobedience and redemption, knowledge in the age of details, the artists task in trying times, and the little-known, beautiful kidss book about compassion she composed with her child.

Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face … Love your mouth … This is flesh … Flesh that needs to be enjoyed. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need assistance; shoulders that require arms, strong arms … Love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they d simply as quickly slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver– like it, like it, and the beat and beating heart, like that too. More than feet or eyes. More than lungs that have yet to draw totally free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving personal parts … love your heart. For this is the prize.