Taleb: The concept of the body being a home

Nardine Taleb, Columnist

Rupi Kaur’s TED Talk last month, “I’m Taking My Body Back,” brought up an interesting discussion about what the body means. Within the TED Talk, Kaur performed a spoken word poem using “home” as a metaphor for the body. In this poem, the speaker is a victim of sexual assault and must find comfort again in her “home.” She describes her home as empty, with no gas, electricity or running water. But Kaur extends this metaphor beyond victims of sexual assault—she makes the case that all our bodies are homes. This point resonated with me.

Our idea of “home”—especially as college students—is a safe haven. We often think of home fondly; it’s somewhere we can be ourselves and take a break from the world. I think that taking this concept of our bodies being our homes can help us treat ourselves, and others, better.

In a similar manner, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are”, focuses on meditation, taking moments in your day to be present. “Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is,” he wrote. “Allow yourself to be exactly as you are.” Although some readers take this book as a short guide to best meditation, what struck me is the book’s concentration on the body, as if everything we need to be happy exists within us. Everything external to our physical bodies exists to feed our “home,” our happiness.

Kaur seems to believe this. In her TED Talk, she also discusses how she has traveled the world performing spoken word poetry, but never felt homesick. The idea that the body is a mobile home seems comforting—wherever you go, you are home. Wherever you go, you have all you need.

We recognize what our bodies mean to us when we lose our right to them. It’s why victims of sexual assault and harassment feel violated. My experiences are far less traumatic than experiences other people of all genders have had, but there have been times where I’ve felt uncomfortable. Occasionally, older men intentionally linger in my space. Some guys have come back to me several times even when I’ve made it clear that I have no interest, and they only leave if they find a male friend or my brother next to me. My friends and I have had conversations about this: Do I have to be “someone else’s” for them to leave me alone? Isn’t my body my home first?

Many people—even I—have argued that bodies should not be considered possessions, because it encourages other people to treat them like property, rather than as a human right. However, I see some benefit in seeing a body as a possession, as long as we’re thinking of our own bodies. If we think of our bodies as something external that we need to take care of, maybe we’ll be less likely to over-stress ourselves, maybe we’ll watch our weight and eat healthier, maybe we won’t exhaust our brains like we are so accustomed to doing.

I think in a world like ours, being content with ourselves is important. I believe we have to find a place of belonging in ourselves, situate our souls in the couch of our chests right there, at that corner before our right and left lungs split like two roads, and feel at home in our own bodies.

Nardine Taleb is a third-year student who believes there are whole worlds in people.