Sunday, February 5, 2006

Life Lessons in a Time of War, 11

The call to prayer rang out just a few moments after kickoff (I live in a Muslim neighborhood, and the boys let you know when it's time to hit the deck, say hello to Mecca, and pray for the painful deaths of Danish cartoonists). So I figured that while everyone is watching the beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts bang heads on the gridiron for a few hours, I could slip in another in my Life Lessons in a Time of War series, and go completely unnoticed. This one is about living outside the box.

Look within and around your body for just a moment: do you see or feel any boxes, any cubicles of reality? I would challenge anyone to find a single such structure in all of nature.

What you are more likely to see and sense when you look at your body are tubes. Outside, you can see the shapes of limbs, fingers, toes, and even (perhaps with the aid of a microscope), hair. To look or sense within yourself is to feel this even more plainly: the breathing tubes within the nose and going down to the lungs; the veins and arteries surrounding the heart and extending to every organ and area of the body; the esophagus, bowels, and even the reproductive organs—the penis in the male and the fallopian tubes in the female. We are born through a tube, the birth canal; and our final breaths of life are exhaled through another tube, the trachea. The box and its sharp angles of power have no place in this circle of life and death.

But Ego lives by, for, and in the Box. It blasts its way through obstructions—it will kill or else die trying. It sees no other way, because it is blinded by the gleaming stones set into its eyes. You cannot see with rubies, and not even with gold or jade.

Thus it is the unadorned body—that second class citizen of the self—that is our true and only treasure on earth. Yet we typically treat it like a slave—a servant whose very presence and necessity are cause for annoyance—a vague embarrassment or a punishing sense of guilt.

But the body, as Science is beginning to perceive, has a wisdom of its own. It has recently been demonstrated, for example, how the heart carries on a conversation in the language of neurochemistry with the brain, sending and receiving signals, evoking and responding to pain and the oceanic variety of emotional experience. This is also true of the organs of digestion, and the other family members within the living body. To anyone who has looked, even sporadically, within himself, this should come as no great surprise.

What alone is perhaps astonishing is that we should despoil, entrap, and poison our bodies with the projections of belief and repression, jamming its living substance into the boxes of ideological imprisonment. Is there anything so constrictive to the heart, so destructive of natural growth, as the shape of belief—the box and its forced, angular geometry?

The tube is the shape of life; the box is the shape of survival. Which will you choose? Don't just think outside the box—live outside it.

No comments: