Friday, October 2, 2015

Who We Are

By me this time, not Anthony Esolen.

By this time, everybody has read about Lila Perry, the transexual teenager who wants to use the girls' restroom. For most of us this disconnect between body and soul boggles the mind. And then, I have heard discussions on public radio about Body Integrity Identity Disorder wherein people do not feel like parts of their bodies belong to them, and are having limbs amputated. These are extreme examples of this dis-integration of body and soul, but they are only the far end of spectrum on which we all find ourselves in one way or another.

We don't know a great deal about Adam and Eve's life before the Fall, but one thing we do know is that they were not gnostic, neither were they materialists. They didn't have to convince themselves to get out of bed in the morning; they didn't overeat until they were miserable; they would have been completely stymied by Paul's declaration in Romans that, "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate." Their bodies and souls were united in perfect harmony, so much so that I wonder if they even thought of them as being two different things.

We, post-Fall, are in some ways like Aristophanes's, divided androgynous beings.
After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they began to die from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart . . .
There is something within us that always yearns for that original integrity, and yet, there something else within us that keeps us always at war with ourselves. It seems to me that the entire battle of our lives is to get it all back together, so to speak--to be truly human. I always laugh a bit whenever someone says that we act a certain way because we are only human. No! We act that way because our humanity is damaged.

Sometimes, there is a tendency to opt out of the battle by jettisoning one part or the other. At one end of this spectrum are those who are ultra-spiritual, holding the body of no value at all and anxious to be shed of it. At the other are the materialists. But the rest of us are somewhere in between. We seldom find the correct balance between then two, and I think it's important to realize that this is true because it gives us more compassion for those who are to the right and left of us on the spectrum.

Of course, we can never fix ourselves. We can only fix our eyes firmly on the Lord while he performs the painful reuniting surgery that is the stuff of our lives. It never ceases to be difficult, and even the saints, who achieve such a remarkable degree of harmony between body and soul, are never free of the pain separation, while they long for that day when they finally become who they were created to be.


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