Saturday, May 24, 2014

Give Thanks for the Animal Body

Art by Puny Human.
One of the first things that Charlie taught me was this: What you don’t appreciate you lose. If you don’t appreciate your wife, you’re gonna lose her. Take your kids for granted and they won’t visit you in the nursing home. Your health. Your strength. Your talents. Whatever it is that you have in this life, give thanks for it, show gratitude to the one who created it . . . or you’ll turn around one restless and unhappy day to find it gone.

So, let’s give thanks for our bodies. If we don’t appreciate them, we’ll lose them, as individuals and as a species.

Dominator cultures like ours don’t value the human body. We’re taught to disdain the flesh and be impatient for its demise. But don’t blame this attitude solely on the Christians — it isn’t only Christians who long to be released from the body and enter into a disembodied life. New Agers imagine themselves as space aliens or beings of light. Biologists argue that the body is selfish and violent by nature, all the way down to its genes. Even the atheist preachers of physics offer visions of a future in which the soul will be housed in computer operating systems or stellar dust, or in some refined and perfected body “evolved” from this one and better, they tell us, by far. Scientists, New Agers and Christians alike believe that the animal part of us is shameful and weak, the source of our troubles and strife. 

Throughout history, dominator cultures have embraced this anti-body attitude. Why? So that our bodies can be more easily used to serve the lords and rulers of the world. The institutions of religion and science are their marketing media, encouraging us to hand over our bodies more willingly to serve their needs. We let them crush the flesh of our children to the feed the monsters of war and steal the better part of our days to line their pockets with gold and feed their lust for power. We allow our bodies to be burned up in useless travail as a sacrifice to Mammon, the dominator god of Cruelty and Greed. 

No wonder we’re taught to disdain our own bodies! The dominators don’t want us to hold on to these extraordinary life forms. They want us to surrender them. An anti-body attitude benefits those who count on our willingness to dispose of them lightly; then they are free to use and abuse us for their own gain. They can lead us as a species over the cliff to extinction and we’ll eagerly follow. Climate change? Destruction of ecosystems? Water shortages? Toxic food? No big deal. We didn’t like these bodies anyway.

But the Creator didn’t make our beautiful and endlessly varied animal bodies just so we could grind them into dust. The human body is not a waste of bio-chemical matter or a way-station to something better.

Look again at life on earth! You have the honor and privilege of one sparkling human existence, an experience that is, perhaps, unique in all the universe. Give thanks that the Creator made you human and allowed you to be born of flesh into the miraculous, material reality of the thousand-thousand forms that we call life on Earth. Give thanks for flesh and bone and for the blood that pulses through the intricate network of veins, and for the chemical messengers that gallop across your synapses and cells, for mucus and saliva, muscle and hair. Give thanks for your human body.

Sing praise!

Sing praise for your body and for its intellect and emotions. Give thanks for the character and personality you get to paint on the body’s living canvas. Joyfully sing praise for the pleasure and the suffering, the delirious experience of consciousness, worthy and rare as a koki’o in all the known universe. Here on Earth, let the fragile flower of consciousness bloom in you. 

Oh, give thanks to the Creator, father of all of the children of Earth. Let us fall to our knees in gratitude for the fresh spring air on our cheeks, for our ability to draw a breath and see beauty and hear birdsong. Let's give thanks for sickness and health, for darkness and light, sleeping and waking, tasting chewing digesting defecating planting seeds . . . 

Surely we are wonderfully and fearfully made!

If humanity desires to live on as an animal species — if we would keep this glorious form to a ripe old age — we must learn to love and honor our animal bodies, because what we don’t appreciate, we will surely lose.

                                                   . . . for the grandchildren, that they, too may live in the flesh!

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