We are embodied beings.
We interact with the world through various organs. We use our hands and eyes and ears and voices and other faculties to experience and contribute to the world. And that includes our relationships. I look into my wife’s beautiful blue eyes and she looks into mine and this act facilitates intimacy. Our hands touch one another’s, not merely as an act symbolizing mutual possession, but also as a means of enjoying and cultivating it. Holding hands is part of the relationship. It mediates and enhances intimacy.
A critical climax of a marital union is only achievable by means of our physical bodies. In intercourse the organs of one person coordinate with the organs of another for a biological purpose for which an individual human body is insufficient. Unlike the intrapersonal organic cooperation that occurs during systemic nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory processes, human reproduction requires that two human beings with different organ sets become a united whole. Only by this kind of union is this new whole, this new function, possible.
To work on discovering and describing the empirical facts about sex is a beneficial project. But to then argue that there isn’t some profound purpose driving it or that the intimacy shared by those who unite in sexual intercourse isn’t real is a mistake. Our bodies mediate our interaction with the world. Our bodies mediate our intimacy with one another. Organic union is the highest act of intimacy.
Now when I drive my body to the building that my community assembles in on Sunday morning and place my body in proximity to theirs and open my mouth and begin singing, there is another kind of union that takes place and facilitates another kind of intimacy. My voice cooperates with the voices of other humans in order to achieve a musical purpose for which an individual human voice is insufficient: harmony. To this is added the music generated by the humans playing various instruments. This mixture constitutes a new sound that is not possible for me to produce on my own and therefore in corporate worship we do not merely symbolize our unity, we embody it. The act of musical union mediates and enhances our intimacy with one another.
But it goes further than this, because musical union in worship has an object. We come together, not merely to sing, but specifically to sing to our Creator. Our music has the property of being about something—or rather, of being directed to Somebody. Our union in corporate worship then not only facilitates our intimacy with one another, but also our relationship to God.
As I mature throughout my life I become more deeply emotionally moved during worship. It is not all that rare that I will tear up. I do not pretend that there are not physical facts about my relationship to God. Discovering and describing these facts might very well be a fruitful enterprise. However to argue on the basis of the existence of these physical facts to atheism is ridiculous. To say that because thus and such occur in my brain when I sing or when I pray, therefore the object of my song or my prayer is not real is just as big of a mistake as saying that because thus and such occur in my brain when I see or hold hands with or unite with my wife, she is therefore not real.
We are embodied beings, after all.
When I wake up–ever–I have no balance. The earliness of the hour and the abruptness of the awakening each serve to worsen the matter. These two factors often concur. Abruptness itself often also concurs with the need to complete an ineffably urgent task. Like running through the basement, up the stairs (off each of which my heels hang, and which ascend through a narrow hall that abruptly turns halfway to grade level), around another corner, up two additional stairs, through the kitchen, into one side of the dining room and out through an adjacent side, through the living room at a slant, into one side of a small tiled area and out through an adjacent side, into a child’s room to quickly locate a pacifier and return it from an unreachable distance of about three inches. Throughout the journey I usually ram my foot into all manner of objects that have not been picked up, left my by children or my wife (who has two habits that contribute to this unfortunate state of affairs, one involving the reckless abandonment of objects in the path along which sane pedestrians travel through the house, the other involving the deliberate placement of objects in the same), slam myself into one or more walls in a manner that elicits the image of a half-living fish being slammed down on a counter (but vertical), and/or simply find myself abruptly brought to my knees or my face on the stairs, tiles, laminate, or carpet for no material reason.
This morning after one such journey I found my foster daughter chirping pleasantly in her crib. I immediately turned around and left to make her a bottle when she came unglued about my clearly soulless behavior. And when I say she came unglued I mean that she emitted sounds I would imagine Mephistopheles to make while passing a fully grown billy goat like it’s a gallstone. I picked her up and took her with me to make the bottle, made it, stuck it in her mouth, and abandoned her again, this time with the food. I went back to bed.
Just as my eyelids were closing and my mind wandering off, she began chirping again. Exasperatingly adorably. I went up, grabbed her, and brought her down with me to visit her foster mamma. She was quite happy and adorable. And she snuggled. She eventually fell back to sleep next to me, and I eventually fell back to sleep as well. I slept until the ineffably glorious and Christmasly miraculous hour of 9:00 AM PST. So it all balances out.
Also, this morning she said “Mamma”, although managing to do so required her assumption of a countenance not unlike Doc Brown’s in BTTF:
I don’t remember who gave me my first MUSCLE man. I just remember having a collection of them that I cherished: flesh-colored, dark orange, neon green, deep purple, and red. Mostly flesh. They are about an inch tall. There is a series with mohawks and a series with horns and capes. Some robots. Some half man and half beast. Others half man and half hand-tool. Some are half man and half medieval weapon. Some winged. Other are simply muscular, or grotesque and really cool-looking. They came in plastic four-packs or in small rubber garbage cans, which could hold eight. I have many, many fond memories with my MUSCLE men. They remind me a lot of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Bakersfield. I remember the large rounded cement steps at their back door and the Blue Room. I had an hour-long timeout in the Blue Room once, but I had a bright green robot MUSCLE man with me. I loved to categorize them, put them on teams, dramatize story-lines. In one episode they encountered Jenny’s My Little Ponies, animated by Jenny herself, and I couldn’t recount the narrative to you here because I only remember it having to do with a literal buffet and a literal court, which led to the incarceration of the majority of my MUSCLE men. They were tricked into it by way of the buffet.
I kept them. And on one day not long ago I gave them all to Soren. He was pretty excited. He keeps them in a traditional Star Wars metal lunchbox.
The other day we were looking at them together and pointing out features that were cool or unbelievable.
Me: Look! This one has needle-nose pliers for his head and arms, instead of a head and arms!
Soren: Look! This one is just an arch with a little head!
Me: Look! This one has six arms!
Soren: He must have six kids!
(Me, holding my foster daughter B.)
Soren: I want you to hold me.
Me: Ok, come here.
Soren: I want you to hold me with two hands.
Me: I have two hands so that I can hold two kids.
Soren: When the baby in mamma’s tummy is born, you will need THREE hands!
When I was registering for classes at Biola, despite all the financial aid I was awarded (including loans) and the help my parents were giving me, I was about $1,000 short. This may or may not seem like a lot to you, but to me it meant that I could not go to college. I didn’t have a credit card; I didn’t have a job. It might as well have been $1,000,000. I was stuck in line with no way to pay.
The wife of my youth pastor and friend happened to work at Biola, and she happened upon me in line and asked how I was doing. I was almost in tears. Without skipping a beat she showed me how to redo my paperwork so that I got more money from Financial Aid based on the fact that I would be living on campus—something I had overlooked. It covered my expenses to the penny.
The next year I was well over $1,000 short. A friend’s dad found out about it through the grapevine and cut me a check for the exact amount.
The semester after that I couldn’t afford to buy all my books. The ones I needed showed up in a bag at the door to my dorm room.
The stories go on. I was awarded an unexpected scholarship one semester that made the difference in my ability to stay or go. I got a job one semester that gave me an advance that kept me in school, and other things happened too.
This isn’t an apologetic or evangelical post. This is a post of Thanksgiving. I believe in God and I believe He intervenes and I believe He provided for me to go to college and find my wife, and best friend and business partner there. I believe He taught me life lessons at Biola and, eventually, gave me a heart for the mind.
And I am thankful to Him for it.
Monday night after Soren’s bath I asked him whether he wanted his dinosaur jammies or the striped jammies. We try to give him the chance to make decisions so that he can practice decision-making. As he progresses he gets to make decisions of more and more consequence. He picked the dinosaur jammies and insisted on putting the pants half of them on by himself. It took him 10 minutes, but he did get them on (backwards). When we put the top on he asked for the zipper and I had to explain to him that it had buttons instead of a zipper. As soon the zipperless reality of the dinosaur jammies finally dawned on him, he went ghost white and started to shout “Striped jammies! Striped Jammies!”. I asked him, just to make sure, whether he wanted the striped jammies after all and he enthusiastically affirmed as much. We took them out and got his dinosaur jammy pants off and started putting the striped footie pajamas on and he made sure I didn’t start zipping them up for him. After we got his arms in too he kindly pushed my helping hands out of the way and stood up and zipped to his heart’s content.