If there is anyone out there that wants to read Hilary Mantel with me, please let me know? She’s possibly my favourite contemporary writer. I’m certain there is no one does what she does — and I’m not sure anyone is as smart or as interesting as she is either. This article on spiritual and secular anorexia was stunningly brilliant and moving.
Some of my favourite lines:
Simone Weil believed that ‘sexual energy constitutes the physiological foundation’ of mystical experience. Why must this be true? Because, Weil said, ‘we haven’t anything else with which to love.’
For Gemma, the heart is the place her pain is centred, the place where metaphors converge.We then go further, and make value judgments about certain experiences, and deny their value if they don’t fit a consensus; we medicate the mysterious, and in relieving suffering, take its meaning away. This won’t do; there is always more suffering, and a pain is never generic, but particular and personal.We denigrate the female saints as masochists; noting that anorexic girls have contempt for their own flesh, we hospitalise them and force-feed them, taking away their liberties as if they were criminals or infants, treating them as if they have lost the right to self-determination. But we don’t extend the same contempt to pub brawlers or career soldiers. Men own their bodies, but women’s bodies are owned by the wider society; this observation is far from original, but perhaps bears restatement.Anorexia itself seems like mad behaviour, but I don’t think it is madness. It is a way of shrinking back, of reserving, preserving the self, fighting free of sexual and emotional entanglements. It says, like Christ, ‘noli me tangere.’ Touch me not and take yourself off. For a year or two, it may be a valid strategy; to be greensick, to be out of the game; to die just a little; to nourish the inner being while starving the outer being; to buy time. Most anorexics do recover, after all: somehow, and despite the violence visited on them in the name of therapy, the physical and psychological invasion, they recover, fatten, compromise. Anorexia can be an accommodation, a strategy for survival.