Bodily pains

by on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 Comments
The spine, the neck, the back, and the eyes.

Sometimes the body aches so much that exhaustion is not far away. Soon our sleep patterns become disturbed, and we become easily irritable. We feel at loss, a vague fear is permeating our consciousness – what is happening?

I do not know how it works for other people, but, personally, I am slow at identifying my bodily pains. For days, I have a sense of unease, of discontent, of perplexity. It is after a few days of misery that I suddenly identify a specific problem: my eyes are dry, my shoulders ache because I have carried luggage too heavy for me, there is a bad cold already taking hold of my nose and my throat. Actually, such discovery comes with a sense of relief. I now know what to do, and suddenly, I rediscover my body. I see it as a friend, as someone to be pitied and cared for, someone who tells me in a gentle, subdued way that it is too long a time I have not noticed his existence. Truly, the body speaks, and what it says is often so simple and so true: “you just cannot forget about me…”

I am sure that everyone experiences in different ways his/her relationships with one’s body. I think that, for everyone, reflectively experiencing bodily pains is a kind of spiritual experience. When I have identified what I am suffering from, memories come back to my mind and I remember how I have been over-exerting (or over-indulging) myself. I remember some little traumas that have piled up and finally eroded my resistance. I recognize in a new way the fragile and splendid miracle that is my physical body and how much I misuse it. I thank God for still being alive when it seems that I mishandle what I have been given.

I think that an obscure force of self-destruction dwells in all of us. For some reason (or for no reason maybe) we work against our very existence. Overwork, substance abuse, excessive pessimism, self-pity, all these are expressions of the way we are an accomplice in our own decay. When we take the time to recognize these little ailments and bodily pains, and take the time to alleviate the stress put on us - we are asserting that there is another force working in us. A force that says “yes” to the life that has been given to us, a force that wants to make use of it for praising and serving the Giver.

We are lucky that bodily pains are like small voices scattered throughout the body, small voices that remind us of the obscure forces of destruction that are devouring us, small voices that suggest timidly to us to stop for a while and reflect on the life-power that inhabits our body and on the way we may choose to make it fructify.

Blessed I am because of my sore back and my dry eyes…


Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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