Nine days ago I underwent surgery for an inguinal hernia. My recovery from the anesthesia took longer than I expected, and I’ve been exhausted the whole nine days. What surprised me is how much my physical trauma manifested itself in my psychological moods and thoughts. I kept thinking I would use the physical recovery time to read and perhaps write a little. But instead I felt two disturbing moods come over me. I felt no energy for work, and when I tried to get something done my concentration failed me. Usually, I feel so many ideas clamoring for expression that I feel no lack of creativity. So, I feel like I’ve got nothing accomplished in the last nine days. And in those moments the thought crept in that my creative days are over. Nothing will change, ever! Compounding my inability to work was a burden of guilt (I can think of no better word.) for not accomplishing anything really worthwhile. My book project languishes, and I don’t feel like writing an essay for Ifaqtheology. But as I am pulling out of my funk, I’ve started thinking about the ethical and theological implications of these experiences.
God created us body and soul, physical and mental. And sometimes we downplay the intimate unity of body and soul. From an ethical point of view the soul/mind is supposed to rule the body. The body sends demands to the soul/mind, and the mind is supposed to judge the merit of those requests, measure them against other demands and the moral law. The body does good work for us, but it needs the eyes of the mind to enlighten its myopic vision of the good. But in the last nine days, I’ve learned that sometimes the body is smarter than the mind. The mind can be driven by wishes and theories to ignore the facts. The body stays stubbornly in the realm of fact.
I find it very interesting that the body can communicate with the soul/mind in a way that the mind can translate into thought and proposed action. In my case, my body was not urging me toward immoral actions so that my mind/soul had to be on its guard to redirect its urgings. My body was telling me to rest and let it heal. It communicated that message in clumsy ways as the body always does. It simply communicated a feeling of sleepiness, tiredness, pain, disinterestedness, and lack of creative energy. My mind at first was confused at this. “No, we have work to do! Books to read! Essays to write!” I was treating my body’s messages as if they were telling me to do something immoral, to be lazy, to shirk my duties. It took my mind nine days to accept the truth that my body knew from the start. After a physical trauma, my work, my duty, is to give my body time and leisure to regain its strength. I just have to believe that it will happen and I will know the joy of productive work again. Sometimes the soul needs to listen to the body!