In the Meantime,
Absence may make the heart grow fonder but it makes the brain grow weaker. I am in Michigan for a while, mostly to await a new grandchild, but the miles and the timezones and the lack of visual reminders mean it is harder to work. I forgot to write this piece altogether until Lore prompted me.
The idea that mind and body are connected is very old. Mens sana in corpore sano, says a Latin proverb – a sound mind in a sound body. Long ago, as I was writing my doctoral thesis I learned this lesson for the first time. Anything I wrote after supper was likely to be tossed the next day. My best work came in the mornings. No amount of will or determination could overcome this pattern and so I adapted to it. We all do it. And yet biologists have only begun to notice the intimate connections between mind and body. It turns out that our intestines are virtually a second brain, called the enteric nervous system, that affects the brain as much as the brain affects it.
There is no doubt that being physically apart for months has had an effect on us. People often speak of a group as a body – the body politic, the body of Christ – and Paul seizes on this idea at length. Like him or not he has a point. Being apart for so long is like going without enough food. We are hungry for each other. Physicians who treat individual malnourishment, though, say that eating a lot right away causes more problems. It is best to ease back toward normal consumption. We have all been sick in a sense, as a community, and like a personal illness we need to recover not just resume.
That’s why I have counseled a slow approach as we prepare to resume in-person worship. Our body has been deprived for a long time. Rushing back together would be like running the day after you left the hospital after a knee replacement. We have to relearn being together as one learns to walk with a new knee before running.
Hard as this will be, the payoff will be greater because we will have a keener appreciation for the wisdom of the body, as it tells us where the soft places are and the stuck places. It is an opportunity to know the body of VUU more deeply, to let “the soft animal of your body. love what it loves,” as Mary Oliver famously said. What a tremendous gift lies there, if we have the patience to stop, look, and listen for it. – FW –