Caught Inside Our Bodies


One of the viewpoints about ourselves which is commonly held, but often not examined, is that we are caught inside our bodies looking out. The identity is perceived to be strings of thought, memory, emotion, desire, ideas, beliefs along with a vague sense that something holds all these things together – an unseen consistency.

The body, from this viewpoint, is the circumference, the outer outline of a person who lives within. It is a capsule, a container, a box which holds a mix of things we identify as self.

Often the one who dwells within the body looking out senses danger all around. There is a powerful urge to survive. The identity within the body schemes, plots and plans for its own good. The outside is unsafe, a constant nagging threat to what is within.

And yet it seems as if there is something “out there” that we want, something from the threat itself that we need. This self grapples with the conflict between its apparent need for something outside itself and the fear that that something seems to breed. It is overwhelmed at times by the chaos, the unfairness, the lack, the uncertainty it sees everywhere. And it is obsessed at the same time by a sense of need for something, somewhere that will satisfy.

Such a divison can give rise to a high degree of conflict. And it is certainly true, from a certain angle, that we do live in a universe which has little or no respect for the individual. People come and go. Everyone is finally forgotten. Even the great and famous are reduced to dust. Time passes. The body ages and dies. Some have accidents, sickness, tragedies of various sorts and yet life goes on.

We know so little about what comes next. Every successive hour is a mystery. Yet in looking at the Universe, the Solar System, our Earth, there seems to be a kind of poetic order to things. The stars keep a predictable course, the tides come in and out at regular intervals, the moon passes through its phases.

Human Beings are born and die in the same ways they have for so long. From the biggest to the smallest there are patterns of order that we can perceive and describe. The contrast between the uncertainty of our individual lives and the obvious order at both minute and immense levels is stark and startling indeed.

We are up against something that cannot be comprehended. It does not seem as if we are that important in the scheme of things. And yet we often experience an intense urge to live. It sometimes even seems as if our lives are guided in some enigmatic way by an intelligent force that we do not understand.

Copyright 1993: Estate of Stephen Robbins Schwartz

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