Meeting Our Biological Selves

There are two kinds of experience that deliver immediate, intimate understanding of the rude facts of our biological selves: sex and the gastrointestinal virus. Warning: this post is not going to be about sex.

I have been carrying a stomach virus for four days. Today is the first day I feel reasonably good. When asked how I am doing, I sometimes say that I feel “almost human”. This is wrong. The feeling human part happens when you are alone in the bathroom at 3am and your body responds to needs completely independent of thought or ideation. The feeling human part happens when you are shivering underneath three blankets, feeling your joints shudder and shake with fever. The feeling human part happens when your guts speak in urgent susurrations, a wordless language that says everything it needs.

Not to be gross or vile. There is a kind of epiphany possible here. Especially if you are using the time that you are awake to reacquaint yourself with Ralph Waldo Emerson and the fine turns of thought possible from the mind well-refined. We elevate our minds. We prefer to think of ourselves as energetic beings of thought, insight and inspiration. We believe our minds carry us closer to the truth about God and divine purpose and original intent. And yet, in the same moment, our minds are tethered to our gross, rude, vulgar selves, the biological parts that are dirty, reflexive and tortured with appetites.

Most spiritual writing I have read posits these two realities in opposition. We are told that our spiritual selves are trapped in the animal prison of our flesh. And then, the Work becomes separating our spiritual selves from our biological selves. We spend our lives struggling against what we are in expectation that one day we will be made into something else.

Better perhaps to work with the dichotomy as it exists. There is much beauty in the knowledge that we are both. Not that the body is a flawed vessel that carries the perfect spirit, but that the body’s rude limits inform the spirit and teach struggle so that growth is possible.

If God created us, how perfect his design. To place pure idea, insight and reason into a sensing, experiential and irrational form. We are better for being in our biological bodies. Our biological selves prove that we belong to this life, to this world and to the universe itself.

Here is meditation to work with: Wretch. Be thankful. Wretch again. Understand. Amen.

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