Let’s Talk Body Parts

Our human bodies offer us a powerful metaphor of life as we know it.

Think of your knee. If it is working for you, it flexes the lower leg up off the ground, hurling your foot toward your backside, and then it extends that same foot out in front of you so that it can land on the ground before starting that process all over again.  A working knee makes walking, running, standing, sitting and squatting all possible. Many of us know how a non-working knee interferes with all of those movements!

But, my knees don’t do anything (that I know of) toward nourishing my body. My mouth takes in food, but my teeth chew it, and my throat swallows it. My esophagus carries it to my stomach which further digests it into usable nutrients which my small intestines begin to move out into my bloodstream. My arteries and veins move my blood around carrying nutrients to every cell in my body. You get the picture. So many DIFFERENT parts of me are required to make life for me happen. Choosing one part (like a knee) over another part (like the stomach) makes no sense at all. Movement is necessary, one way or another, for life, and so is nourishment and yet they are different things.

I am not the first to think of this body analogy. The Roman historian, Livy, repeats a story in which the various body parts go on strike against the stomach. They claimed the stomach enjoyed all the benefits of food without doing any of the work. They all refused to help bring food to the stomach. Before long, it became apparent to them all that the stomach played a vital role in feeding all of the body parts, and that their life and death was mutually assured by how they worked together. 

In the Christian scriptures in the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul takes up a similar analogy to a church that was in trouble with inner conflict. The eye cannot dismiss the hand, nor can the head get rid of the feet. Paul acknowledges that often the smaller and seemingly inferior parts of the body have the most to contribute (pancreas or thyroid come to mind!)
We can (and do) gather up all the differences that we see in each other and those around us, and even with all of them delineated in strong contrast, the fact is that we depend on one another. Our existence, our life, our well being, our past, present and future–are all fabric in the interdependent web.

~Bob Patrick

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