Life in a Bottle

9 03 2010

We live our lives from within a bottle.  That bottle is the human body, which contains us.  We look out through the windows of our eyes.  The world looks back at us and sees only the eyes.  We look through them, and the world looks at them.

 Modern thought is highly analytical.  The scientist observes human behavior and explains it entirely on physical terms.  The testosterone and androgen levels cause a chain of chemical events that turn a boy into a man.  The chemical messengers cause a change in the firing pattern of neurons in the brain, which causes the man to think affectionately toward members of the opposite sex.  The purpose is unmistakable.  It exists to promote human reproduction.  The strong desire produces a feeling of intensity, triggering the fight-flight mechanism.  This causes an adrenaline response, which, in turn, limits most of the non-essential body functions.  One resultant effect is clammy hands.  He takes her hand, as a gesture that communicates his intentions.  She then evaluates his proposal and assesses his merit based on what she deems to be her range of options.  Her cerebellum works actively to determine whether he can provide an adequate genetic contribution to their progeny, as well as his ability to provide financially for their collective well-being, thus ensuring the successful rearing of young.  If she deems him to be a suitable mate, then a similar adrenergic response might be invoked in her own body as a result of the importance of the situation.  Next, they might engage upon a contractual agreement, ensuring that the male will fulfill his duties to help in the maintenance of their household, rather than depart abruptly and prematurely.  We call this contract “marriage.”  It also arranges for exclusivity, so that the male might not accidentally waste his time rearing another male’s offspring, and in so doing jeopardize his own reproductive success.  All of this is necessary for the continuation of the species.

 But this is the description of an organic robot and has nothing whatsoever to do with falling in love.  From the outside, we see mechanisms of a purely practical purpose.  They in no way resemble the experience that lies beneath those functions.  When I fell in love with my wife, I never once considered, nor cared, what physiological processes were involved in this state of existence.  At the time, I was even a biology student in college.  At the time, I was even studying physiology.  One notable effect to having my nose in biology texts for hours on end was that I began to see people as walking, breathing sacks of guts.  Every person was an assembly of their various parts.  I didn’t look into people’s eyes, so much as I looked at their eyes.  This person might have a lovely iris.  That person might have more or less adipose under the basilar membrane of the skin.  When a person is considered in terms of her physiology, she ceases to be regarded for her humanity.  We stare at the surface of the glass, observing its reflectivity, its color or its label, not seeing the person on the inside, looking out.  Within that physical bottle is a spiritual being, looking out.

 In this sense, then, pornography and modern analytical thought have much in common.  Both take into great account the physical shell and disparage the spiritual human.  They look at the outside only.  The abortionist doesn’t claim to murder a person, but, instead, is merely removing a lump of “tissue.”  The most sacred things in life can be desecrated through cold objectivity.  Over-analysis reduces humanity to a sack of guts, or a bag of chemicals.

 But I am here.  I am in this body, looking out.  As I gaze into my wife’s eyes, I dive into her soul.  I connect with that person, whom I love.  I don’t see a couple of well-shaped corneas covering two hazel irises.  I see a person.  I don’t respond to a natural chain of physiological events.  I love.  I adore.  Whatever the mechanism, I am consumed with the experience.  Somehow, I think that this is what our Creator intended. 

 When we watch television, we get into the show.  We don’t sit there and marvel at the complex array of photons being emitted through a cathode ray tube or a liquid crystal display.

 When we drive a car, we need not consider the timing of the firing within each cylinder, or the chemical processes of combustion.  All of the complex functions of the engine, the transmission, the steering and the brakes have been simplified and condensed to a few simple controls.  The entire machine has been made intuitive for us.  If we want to turn left, then we turn the steering wheel left.  If we want to speed up, then we step on the gas.  We don’t need to adjust for air intake.  We need not direct the oil to be pumped to the top of the engine block, so that it can run down over the camshaft.  The gas pedal has been brought to us; we don’t have to climb over the engine to control one of its components. 

 Such is the human body.  Most of what happens to keep us working is, thankfully, beyond our conscious perception.  We don’t have to manually digest our food.  We don’t need to think about our heartbeat in order to make it happen.  We don’t have to consciously assemble enzymes within our cells.  This machine, which is far more complex than an automobile, has been simplified and brought to a focal point of control, so that we might be able to operate it as intuitively as though we were not driving a machine at all.  We hardly even notice that we are operating a machine, but we are.

 Modern thought has struggled to take this away from us.  It has focused so intently on the machine, that it denies the very existence of the driver.  It reduces the experience to an illusion created by a mechanism.  Unfortunately for the modernist, he cannot observe this mechanism without living through such a mechanism, himself.  In order to stare at a bottle and see no further than the glass, he must first look out through the glass of his own bottle.  This is a double standard, an unequal treatment of others and himself.  The mechanism of a human body cannot be studied without living through one.

 The spiritual side of humanity is what’s being ignored.  If the man looks at a woman and connects with her humanity, then he will not be addicted to pornography.  If the abortionist considers the humanity of the fetus, then she might reconsider this murder.  If the priest connects with his God, then he might not obsess with the legalism and rituals of a dead religion. 

 When we love our neighbors as ourselves, when husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, we see the humanity within the corporeal bottle, like we see ourselves.  We all love ourselves.  We all nurture our own humanity, yet we often objectify each other.  We do not do this because we have been deceived by appearances.  We do this because it is convenient to sin.  It is the vice known as selfishness.  We ignore the humanity of others in order to use them for our own gain.

 To see the life inside that bottle, to look beyond its glass, we only need to change our focus.

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