We have bodies. We are bodies. These two statements express a fundamental paradox in human existence. On the one hand, we are embodied souls. On the other hand, as one writer puts it, we are “ensouled bodies.” This tension weaves its way into all the elements of our everyday existence.
Just look at our language. To express two contradictory ideas that coexist, we speak of hands. On the one hand. On the other hand. We “see” someone’s point. We “touch” on a topic. At every moment, the world of matter and the world of ideas mutually support each other. The material and the spiritual not only intertwine – they are inextricable.
As much as Plato-influenced Western thought has tried to separate the two and elevate the immaterial, and as much as some strains of Christianity have devalued the body, Christ’s incarnation and our everyday lived experience reflect otherwise. As one of my spiritual fathers is fond of saying, “Matter matters.”
I titled this blog “Body and Being” because it elegantly encapsulates this paradox. I want here not necessarily to resolve it, but simply to sit with it and embrace it. To ask questions, tell stories, and be. Be body, be soul, be mind, be whatever other division is out there, and be them all simultaneously. Admittedly, the questions are knotty ones. As a Christian and a woman living in a society that both idolizes and desecrates the body, for me the path to truth is even more convoluted.
It will not be easy, nor comfortable at times, to gather up the jagged shards of our beings and let them touch. Even harder to piece them into some coherent and honest whole. But perhaps it will be enough just to hold them in our hands and gently feel the weight of each piece. Perhaps in time, as we hold our broken pieces, and recognize ourselves as part of one Body, we will find the unity, truth, and wholeness of being for which we long.
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