Every living thing has two bodies. To be an animal is to be in the possession of a physical body, a body which can eat, drink and sleep; it is also to be integrated within a local ecosystem which overlaps with ecosystems which are larger and further away. To be a living thing is to exist in two bodies. You breathe something in, and what you breathe out is something else. Your first body is the place you live in, made out of your own personal skin. Your second body is not so solid as the other one, but much larger. This second body is your own literal and physical biological existence - it is a version of you. It is not a concept, it is your own body. The language we have at the moment is weak: we might speak vaguely of global connections; of the emission and circulation of gases; of impacts. And yet, at some microscopic or intangible scale, bodies are breaking into one another. The concept of a global impact is not working for us, and in the meantime, your body has already eaten the distance. Your first body could be sitting alone in a church in the centre of Marseille, but your second body is floating above a pharmaceutical plant on the outskirts of the city, it is inside a freight container in the docks, and it is also thousands of miles away, on a flood plain in Bangladesh, in another man's lungs. every animal body implicated in the whole world. Even the patient who is anaesthetized on an operating table, barely breathing, is illuminated by surgeon's lamps which are powered with electricity trailed from a plant which is pumping out of its chimneys a white smoke that spreads itself out against the sky. It is understandably difficult to remember that you have anything to do with this second body - your first body is the body you inhabit in your daily life. However, you are alive in both. You have two bodies. In this timely and elegant essay, Daisy Hildyard attempts to capture the second body by looking at it as a part of animal life. She meets Richard, a butcher in Yorkshire, and sees pigs turned into boiled ham; and Gina, an environmental criminologist, who tells her about leopards and silver foxes kept as pets in luxury apartments. She speaks to Luis, a biologist, about the origins of life; and talks to Nadezhda about fungi in an effort to understand how we define animal life. In her own interactions with other animals, she examines how humans and animals engage with one another, or fail to. Eventually, her second body comes to visit her first body when the river flooded her home last year. THE SECOND BODY is a brilliantly lucid account of the dissolving boundaries between all life on earth.
|Published - 6 Nov 2017