Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
St Francis of Assissi had, to be sure, an odd relationship with his body. As a strict ascetic, he considered it of utmost importance not to give in to its cravings for pleasure and leisure. He dubbed his own body “brother ass” and felt that it should be treated as any other domestic beast of the time. Beaten when in need of discipline, and given only coarse food upon which to subsist. He was known to curb his temptations by hurling his body into snow, or even on one occasion a briar patch which he tossed himself about in until his flesh was ripped and bleeding. However, by the time of his death, the great man had reconsidered his ill treatment of his body – his earthly vehicle – and asked the Lord to pardon him for having treated Brother Ass so cruelly. He realized that he had been indulging a fascination; an attempt to conquer that which his Creator had given him. Finally, it seems, that he who loved life and all its manifestations, had finally learned to love, or at least honor, his own organism.
Although many may feel that Francis’ relationship to his body was downright bizarre, I think it is difficult to escape the conclusion that we, in our modern age, relate to our own bodies in even more dysfunctional ways, or at least are encouraged to. We obsess over its skin layer, its most superficial aspect. Say the word “body” to a teenage male, and no doubt the image that will result is a female with Playboy-approved proportions. Or perhaps his own body, “ripped” and sculpted. It is doubtful that he will think of the intricate, mechanical wonder he inhabits, the magnificence that goes far beyond the skin layer. I’m reminded of a scuba diver, who, seated next to a friend who looked out at the ocean at sunrise and remarked at how beautiful it was, replied, “yes, and that’s only theroof!”
We indulge our bodies in exactly the way that St. Francis frowned upon, as we load up on ice cream, tortilla chips, cola, coffee and red wine. We then scan it for signs of resultant flab, and hold it up for critique alongside the impossible ideals that mass media relentlessly parades before our eyes. In magazine articles and website pages we are asked to consider which Hollywood hunk or starlet has “the best body”, when presumably the correct answer should be the one that functions best – the one that digests, eliminates, breathes, repairs, etc. most efficiently.
No greater indication of our dysfunctional relationship to our bodies can there be than the fact that we have created a trillion dollar industry that has as its sole purpose the manufacture of machines and devices that destroy and disfigure it by the millions. Our so-callled “defense industry” would perhaps be looked upon less favorably by its supporters if it were referred to, more honestly, as “the body destroying industry”. Although it has numerous competitors, perhaps the most atrocious and obscene example of this in all our sad history was the Treblinka II Death Camp in Nazi Germany. This was the Industrial Revolution meets Dante’s Inferno. For the first and only time in history an actual factory was built, with train lines leading up to it, that served no purpose other than the destruction of human bodies as quickly and “efficiently” as possible. People were carted in by the train car-load, and few lived more than 24 hours after arriving.
And these bodies that we waste and destroy so casually are near miraculous machines that are far beyond the capabilities of our greatest scientific geniuses to create or even imitate. Each cell, when it is first birthed in us, is like any other cell in our bodies, yet each knows how to evolve through exactly the right iterations so that it becomes part of our hair, our eyes, our lungs, our genitals, etc. How do the cells do this? Nobody knows, but it is likely the answer will someday be found in the portion of our DNA that biologists have lovingly referred to as “junk”.
We punish bodies mercilessly, and yet throughout the history of our species they have never sinned in any way. They serve us faithfully to the fullest extent they are capable at any given moment, until they can no longer. When they long for sleep we deprive them of it. When they need healthy natural food to stay strong, we insist that they make do on starchy, sugary, salty substances they have little use for. We keep them chained to chairs when they long to move about in the open air, as they were evolved to do. If we treated our pets the same way we treat our bodies we would be considered negligent, at best. And we punish bodies for the transgressions of the mind. I am opposed to the death penalty because I believe it is always a miscarriage of justice, as the body merely did what it was told, no matter how heinous the crime. To the body, slicing a cucumber or slicing into a human finger is essentially the same act, insofar as it merely follows the instructions of a healthy, or deranged, mind. An eye for an eye is thus two outrages, not one.
I am only writing to say that human bodies are innocent. We have yet, as a species, to demonstrate our worthiness to inhabit them. We should never harm them in any way.
While scientists remain puzzled as to the cause of the dramatic decline in honeybee populations in North America and elsewhere, some are speculating the cause may very much be human related; however, not technological, but philosophical. It appears that “Randism”, a trend that has recently exploded on the American political landscape may similarly have caught on among our bee brethren. It seems that the reason for the decline of hive populations is that many bees are now practicing “the virtue of selfishness”, keeping the nectar they collect for themselves and not returning to the hives they emerged from. These bees consider the notion that they should return for the benefit of the whole colony “evil altruism” and look down upon the “Hive-ists” who would act for a goal larger than themselves. They argue that “there is no such thing as a species” and that it all comes down to individual bees and their pursuit of their own happiness. When it is pointed out to them that this could result in the extinction of honey bees and have cataclysmic results on worldwide crops, they scoff and say, “and this is my problem how?”
Meanwhile, more religious-minded bees are concerned about how to carry on in the aftermath of what they regard as “The Great Rapture” that has decimated their populations. “Left Bee-hive”, the bee adaptation of the “Left Behind” series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, paints a bleak picture of life on earth after the Chosen Bees have been taken up to their Maker.
So, will it be Rand that the bees turn to, or the Good Book? “Why should I care?”, a distraught bee who agreed to be interviewed for this article lamented. “It’s so hopeless that I just may go off somewhere and sting someone!”