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Personal Reflection on Body Modification.

Body Modification and Its Meaning in My Life: A Personal Reflection on Body Modification.

Body modification has always played an important role in my life, as well as many others in the world. It is such a widespread practice, that there is no inhabited continent where it is not practiced. There are many degrees of body modification, and it is mainly in Western society where many are separated from the normality of society because of their modifications. There are many reasons why people get their modifications, reasons varying from simply cosmetic to rites of passage to personal spiritual meaning. My personal reasoning behind my modifications would fall within the categorization of rites of passage and spiritual beliefs. Each of my modifications either marks off a certain point in my life that I feel is important or helps me understand my body as a physical and spiritual whole.

Rites of passage are lacking within mainstream Western society, so many modifiers, including myself, try to bring about a personal form of a rite of passage. With the lack of institutionalized rituals, many individuals feel innately compelled to go through some form of a rite of passage. They may not even realize that they are performing a rite of passage, more often that not, they feel as if they need to do something to their body. The most common time to perform one of these rites is when an individual is coming to the age when society labels them an adult, similar to what many tribes do when an individual becomes an adult within the tribe, often at a different age than in Western society. Another reason some people choose to go through a ritualized form of modification is to be accepted into a group, an example being the branding of initiates of many African American fraternities and sororities, and the tattoos a group of people get when they have been through something together, such as war.

Three of my modifications are all part of a rite of passage for me. The first, when I stretched my ear lobes (which are currently at ¾"), was a process I was using to mark off my transition from childhood to adulthood. I did the majority of my stretching during my senior year of high school, to be symbolic of the many years in school and at home and the moving away from home into a different environment (college). My second modification, stretching my outer conch from an 18 gauge to 4 gauge, took place quite quickly just before and after my graduation. I stretched it a lot faster than it should have been, but that was also a way for me to test my body's limits. This modification holds the meaning of the completion of my primary and secondary education, and my movement deeper into the academic world. The third, my 10 gauge inner conch, was my representation of independence; I had this piercing done right around my eighteenth birthday. I was already independent and away from home (about 1500 miles from Federal Way, WA and 4500 miles from Columbus, GA) at the age of seventeen after graduation, but this was when I was legally an adult. This is only to mark off the purely social aspect of what an adult is, being eighteen, personally, I believe being an adult comes with the maturity level, which can be attained at an earlier age.

My modifications also carry spiritual meaning. Personally I don't believe in God or gods, I do however believe in a force that is out there. I believe that this force can be found in all things, and this is a strong force when it is in the human body. I feel that modifications, and the pain involved with the modification, can help release negative energy within the body and can show just how strong the body really can be. The body is very resilient, and its boundaries are almost endless. Pain is only relative, and boundaries are only put in place by what one experiences. If a person never experiences any pain other that simple abrasions and lacerations that occur in everyday life, then their personal boundary would not be as wide as a person who has been through the extremes of body modification. This pain can also open up the mind itself, leaving one more perceptive of what's around.

Body modification carries important symbolic meaning for many people. It is something that is practiced all around the world and for many different meanings. There are varying degrees of modification, and those who choose to venture beyond what is considered normal or average are often in a more personal, intellectual, or spiritual state of mind. They are often more in tune with their body and what goes on in their environment. My personal modifications are very important in my life, and I do not allow social norms to affect how I choose to live my life, and society should not have to dictate how a person chooses to live.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 05 Nov. 2005
in Culture

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