Basinga Article Sept 2012 - The Human Animal

Have you ever, I wonder, needed a wee in a place where there wasn’t a lavatory immediately to hand? Perhaps at a concert, just as the music has begun, after finding your seat, your bladder begins giving its first intimations of plenitude, which grow gradually to a crescendo as the music continues? Or perhaps in some foreign museum, where you find yourself scuttling, with an increasingly urgent duck-like waddle, past the priceless artefacts you had come to see, heedless of their fascinating details, in search of relief?

If you have, then you know how insistent the demands of our bodies can be. For the majority of our lives we wander happily about, forgetful of the intricate and fragile miracle that we inhabit. Yet we only need to become ill, or hungry, or to need the loo, to be reminded that we are physical creatures, who depend on keeping our bodies healthy, fed, watered and maintained.

It is commonly supposed by many people that our bodies are something separate from our ‘selves’, as if our mind, or soul, or spirit is who we really are, and our body is simply a meaty and unreliable form of transport for which we operate the controls. But a bit of careful thought suggests that this is not so.

Consider what an effect hunger, or physical attraction, or pain has on our moods and our thoughts. Think how many psychological illnesses have their root in some physical cause. Then remember how just a thought or an idea can make you blush, or cry, or sweat. Our bodies, like it or not, are an integral part of who we are.

This is why Christians find hope in a God who, in Jesus, ‘took flesh’ and lived among us. This is why Churches have churchyards, because we continue to cherish and protect the human body even after death, and look for the day when we will arise into a new life with Christ: body, mind, and soul.

This also is why we celebrate Harvest Festival*. Because our bodies remind us constantly of how incapable we are of looking after them ourselves. We need to feed them with food that, usually, we didn’t ourselves grow or hunt. Even if we do grow our own food, we need sun and rain and air. We are vulnerable to too much or too little of each. It is no coincidence that in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 65% of people live by subsistence farming, the churches are packed.

Harvest is a time to remember with gratitude that we are physical creatures, sustained in life by a loving Creator, to give thanks for the abundance of good things that we have, and to pray for those who do not, committing ourselves to a just sharing of the world’s resources.

God bless you all this Harvest.

Fr Alec.


*(Sept. 15th , 10am, St Mary’s, All Age Harvest Festival, be there or be square…)