What is Folk Physicality?

July 28, 2014

Folk adj   originating among the common people, reflecting their collective experience, lifestyle, and traditional forms


We are not only our bodies, but we are not other than our bodies. We are more than flesh and bone, but we are flesh and bone. We are our bodies.

We have always been our bodies, and in the long run of human existence, we have learned a fair bit about ourselves. This knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, some of it codified into formal curriculum, some not. Think about it–how did you learn which cuts call for a band-aid and which do not? Who taught you how to stop the bleeding when you cut yourself? Who taught you to keep a wound clean until it heals? All these things are folk knowledge, common as air–ask anybody. Everybody knows.

Our knowledge of common wound care is a living tradition of folk knowledge. Does everybody do the same thing? Does everyone agree over whether a particular cut needs a band-aid? No. One person says yes, put a band-aid on it. The next says no, leave it alone. The third says use a band-aid during the day, but take it off at night.

Like wound care, some of this physical knowledge is kept alive because it keeps us alive. Some of it is more sophisticated, and more easily forgotten. Have you ever wondered why we tell someone to “just shake it off?” Because you can physically reset your body after a shock by shaking yourself. But how many of us know that “shake it off” is more than just a figure of speech?

In the technological West, much of the knowledge we used to have about our bodies is gone. We are surrounded by gadgets that do our physical work for us, and consequently we live lives that call for little physical skill.

Unfortunately for us, physical skill is a use-it-or-lose-it thing. The less you do, the less you can do. So our bodies forget.