What Moves You?

I have been informally taking note of what things make my body react and what things don’t. It is often an eclectic collection of things that a particular body reacts to. Some, like startling noises, are obvious, along with their expected reactions. Still, the range of reactions we have to these surprising stimuli is as varied as the range of reactions we have to a standup comedian. Some things make some people jump. Some don’t. Other things are hardly obvious, like songs that make some people cry and others snore.

What moves you? The question can be asked literally or metaphorically, referring to standing in a dark basement or an art gallery. In a way they are the same - a stimulus results in an anatomical response - sometimes just in the limbic system and other times all the way to the motor system.

I’ve always had a strong kinesthetic response to the Spiderman movies. My mirror neurons fire like mad and my sense of gravity swells as I follow Spidey through each swing of his web. The same goes for well choreographed martial arts films. I can watch Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon over and over again and get chills. Or there was that Olafur Eliasson piece at MOMA last year, the one with the swinging fan. I stood there for a half hour, hanging on every peak and trough of its pendulum dance.

Come to think of it, the gravitational trajectory of bodies seems to really do it for me. I went to my first Celtics game a few weeks ago and found my body jerking in reaction to at least one specific movement: Whenever a player jumped back-while curling their body forward- to take a shot, my chest and spine would violently jerk.

Proximity also plays a part in our response to movement. Why is closer more thrilling?
It is bigger. Because of perspective, movements occupy larger sections of your field of view.
Then there is our combined instinctual response to being close to another living creature. This response differs depending on the creature - sexual arousal, fear, excitement, etc - but usually entails some heightening of perception. In this sharpened state, we notice more details.

I am constantly amazed at how finely tuned we are to stimuli, how one banging beat makes me dance my balls off and the next does not. How one dance performance can take hold of me like a puppet and the next can put me to sleep (irrespective of their relative dynamic levels). How one bottle of fermented grapes can make me scowl and the next can make me close my eyes and breath deeply. Even more astounding is a body’s range of physical responses to such ostensibly subtle differences.

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