Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Humans are Like Lichens

It occurs to me that it is not at all inappropriate to liken humans to lichen.

(See what I did there?)

Lichens are composite organisms living in a symbiotic relationship. Fungus and either bacteria or algae.

Like so much in life, the whole is different than the sum of its parts.

It occurred to me that humans are like this. We are made up of two parts: a body and a mind.

The body is made of muscle, bone, tendons, ligaments, vital organs, and brain.

The mind is the part of you that carries the youness that make you you.

The body needs the mind for animation, like the captain of a ship.

The mind needs a body to live out its purpose.

Much as lichens are different than the composite of their parts, and much as different parts will get you different varieties of lichens, so too a person would be vastly different than they are if their mind resided in a different body. For the body is the vehicle through which the mind engages the world. Just as the mind drives the body, so our bodily experience of the world shapes our minds.

For the longest time, I believed that I was not my body. I separated my me-ness completely from my body. As I lost weight and regained weight, there was never a sense that I was different. Just that my vehicle had changed.

Yet during that time, I came to appreciate my body and how it existed in the world. I came to experience my me-ness within the particular body I have. I began to identify myself as not just a mind which happened to reside in this body; rather I began to think of myself as a whole person who was body and mind and different than the sum of those parts.

Losing weight again has left me feeling confused at times, as I feel like my body is a stranger, as though it does not belong to me, and I do not know myself because I do not know this body.

I cannot separate the two, however. So, I look to the whole and I acknowledge the ways my new body engages the world and all of the wonderful things I can experience differently now because I experience them in a different body.

And perhaps I will become more adaptable as a person because I must adapt to my new and different body. Maybe this will be a wonderful growth opportunity.

Or maybe not. Who knows.

Maybe I just like being likened to lichen.

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