(Photo credits: AP / Michael Dwyer)
For those who have a healthy, working body, it’s easy to take it for granted. It’s only when our body isn’t working so well that we realize how profound an impact our body has on our life . . . and on our soul.
Young Ihor Lakatosh, from Lviv Ukraine, was on the wrong side of this reality. When he was about three years old, he suffered burns on 30% of his body. Due to inadequate treatment, in the aftermath he lost his ability to walk, and had to live with one arm fused to his body. As a result of these and other physical issues, he was severely malnourished, and his caretakers thought he was mentally impaired.
Now, however, Ihor’s story has taken a happier turn. You can read the full AP News piece here.
Through a series of connections initiated by the director of the orphanage where Ihor lives, he was able to travel to Boston thanks to the work of a nonprofit organization called Doctors Collaborating to Help Children. In Boston, he has received a series of operations and recuperative therapy thanks to another nonprofit: Shriners Hospitals for Children, whose Boston hospital specializes in treating children with severe burns.
Here they are in Ihor’s own words (through an interpreter):
I can do everything now. I can go to school . . . I can go outside and play. I can eat by myself. I can go home and do my homework. I can go to bed by myself. I can do everything by myself. I can live a life now.
There was nothing wrong with Ihor’s mind. And his spirit remained strong through it all. What he needed was a working body.
Those who work to repair physical injuries and impairments are doing more than healing the body. They are helping the soul.
The body is an instrument of the soul
There’s an idea afoot in some quarters that the body is unspiritual—that truly spiritual people should get as far away from the body as possible.
In one sense, there’s some truth to it. Technically, the body is a material organism, not a spiritual one. And if we get too focused on our body and its pleasures, it can indeed distract us from more humanitarian and spiritual goals.
However, if we look at it from a different perspective, our body is what our spirit uses to accomplish its goals.
As long as we are alive on this earth, it is only through the body—its words and its actions—that we can communicate with one another, help one another, care for one another, teach one another, love one another. If we think of the body as an instrument of the soul, there is no opposition between the soul and the body. Instead, the body is a tool that the soul uses to do its good work.
Even after we die, we will still have a body in the afterlife. It is not a material body. It is a spiritual body (see 1 Corinthians 15:44). But it is just as solid and real to us in the spiritual world as our physical body is to us here in the material world.
You see, just as our body needs a soul in order to live and breathe, our soul also needs a body to live in and express itself through.
Without a working body, the soul struggles
Those who struggle with physical injuries, handicaps, and diseases not only know, but experience what a toll it takes on the spirit.
- To want to dance and run, but to have no legs to do it with
- To want to sing, but not to have working lungs
- To want to hug those we love, but to have arms that do not respond
Our soul, our spirit, wants and needs to express itself. And as long as we are living here in the material world, its instrument of expression is the physical body.
When the soul cannot express itself in ways that it wants to, those parts of the soul languish. We can keep our soul alive through imagination, and by enjoying others using their bodies in ways we wish we could. But it’s just not quite the same.
In the afterlife, there is consolation. When we die, we leave behind this physical body with its injuries, handicaps, and diseases. In the spiritual world, we will enjoy a fully functional body. We will be able to enjoy all the activities we could only dream of here.
But as long as we’re here on earth, we still must struggle with whatever physical body we have, and whatever damage has been done to it.
Those who heal the body are helping the soul
That’s why physicians and others who devote their lives to repairing and healing people’s bodies are doing more than just providing for the physical health of the people in their care.
By healing the body, they are helping the soul.
They are giving the soul an instrument that it can use to express itself more fully. And this means that the soul, too, can grow and develop more fully.
For Ihor Lakatosh, his burn-related injuries not only prevented him from running and playing. They also prevented him from going to school and learning in the way that his able-bodied peers took for granted.
Ihor had been placed in an orphanage for children with cerebral palsy. There, his active mind was languishing. Now, with his most severe injuries repaired and his body on the mend, he is on his way to a much fuller life than he otherwise would have had.
And that is a life in which his enthusiastic, affectionate spirit will be able to express itself much more fully than it otherwise could. With a working body at its disposal, his soul will now have a much wider field in which to learn, grow, and love.
I wish people would stop fighting each other and work on things that matter. It is great that the Shriners helped this boy, but it would be a lot better if people put a lot less money into weapons and a lot more into making sure that the care is there when it is needed.
Amen to that!
the other thing is this, most kids with cerebral palsy are also normal mentally. If he was not given mental stimulation, probably those other kids are not either. And if they did not care for his teeth, again, those other kids with cp likely need the care also.
Another good point. This world has far to go in providing good care for so many of its people.
This may sound like an odd question, but does each cell in the body have a soul, or is a soul naturally the soul of a unified organism?
I like to think instead that souls correspond to consciousness. That is, one soul per consciousness.
Yes, there is one soul per consciousness. The soul does have parts, large and small, like the parts, organs, and cells of the physical body. But just like the physical body, the soul is a unified organism. If you took one part or cell away from it, that part or cell would not be a consciousness or a human being.
So it’s like Shinto or “animism” in that there’s spirit in everything – or everything corresponds to the spiritual world – but a “living soul” is 1:1 with a consciousness then?
Yes, there is spirit in everything. But not all spirit is conscious. God’s consciousness is behind all spirit, but not all spirit is capable of consciousness. Spirit must be organized into a complex form to support consciousness just as matter must be organized into a complex form to support life and consciousness.
Physical forms that are alive have a specific spirit within them that is the source of their life. Physical forms that are conscious have a conscious spirit within them, which is the source and locus of their consciousness. Inanimate physical forms do have spirit within them, but it is more generalized, and not conscious spirit.
I don’t know enough about Shinto beliefs to compare them with Swedenborgian views on this subject.