“Carrying body and soul and embracing the one, can you avoid separation?”
(From A New Way of Thinking, A New Way of Being Experiencing the Tao Te Ching)
This seems to be a rhetorical question for which the answer is in the negative, however, as the reader may have gathered from the long silence since last I wrote, there is a strong voice inside me declaring that body and soul cannot be separated except by death. Did Lao Tzu use rhetorical devices or was that a relatively recent invention of the western mindset?
My four children were born in rapid succession over a period of six years, the last two being “Irish Twins” as they were only eleven months apart. I had become quite accustomed to carrying at least one child on my left hip and, after the fourth came along, one on each hip.
On the balmy spring Sunday in question, I was mingling with friends after church. My eldest daughter and son were toddling happily in the sunshine of the courtyard, gleefully chewing on homemade cookies. My youngest son was sleeping soundly in the stroller that I maneuvered through the customary groups of chatting parishioners, but where was Michael, our middle son? Their father was chasing the increasingly exuberant aforementioned twosome. My friends had their hands full with children of their own, or bibles, or purses, or coffee cups and cookies.
Finally absolutely distraught, I found my friend and Michael’s godmother, Cathleen, and on the verge of tears admitted, “I can’t find Michael!” Much to my amazement, she looked at her husband and laughed! At my dumbfounded expression at their continued amusement which was teetering on hysterics she managed to pull herself together enough to point to my side. I looked down and to the left. As I’m sure you’ve guessed I had been carrying Michael the entire time I had been looking for him! (Such is the life of the middle child… I know it all too well.)
I include this humiliating moment in my mothering history to suggest that while it may be easy to be oblivious to either body or soul, we always carry both of them with us. And, let’s face it; the physical world gets the majority of my attention. My soul, like my sweet Michael who was safely in my arms (whether I knew it or not) and looked up at me when I discovered him with such innocence and trust, longs for me to acknowledge all the promise of a warm embrace. Perhaps the universe is laughingly pointing to my left hip wondering why I didn’t know I had the answers to the deepest questions of life with me the whole time.