I contemplated calling this The Body of Truth, but on reflection I concluded that The Body of Evidence is more appropriate as sometimes appearances can be deceptive.
There is considerable debate regarding the relevance of our material bodies, and much of this is quite contradictory. Many a time you will hear phrases such as "beauty is only skin deep" or "don’t be so superficial," and there is often good reason for these clichés. But there is the other side of the contention that follows another train of thought, embodied in statements such as "at 19 you have the face you were born with, by 50 you have the face you deserve."
Let’s take an extreme example: if you were asked to identify a long-term alcoholic from a person who has led a dedicated healthy lifestyle, most people would have no problem identifying who is the alcoholic. The addiction would have most likely taken its toll on the body.
The Body Shows
We could do this with many conditions. Interestingly most of these easily identifiable circumstances involve addictions, or what could be referred to as excessive attachments. Even if we try to hide the body of evidence, for instance with cosmetic surgery, eventually this can become another addiction and obsession that will become all too evident in time.
One’s actions and life story become etched on the body and face for everyone to see. If you have had a sad or happy life it will usually be quite evident for everyone to see. If you eat too much or too little, in time, no amount of clothes can hide the evidence.
The Most Important Vehicle
The body is an amazing biological form with huge potential for movement, flow, and energy, and yet so many people barely express a fraction of its potential and let it develop negative traits such as sickness and obesity. Many people will spend huge amounts on other vehicles they use to transverse this Earth such as cars and planes and take great care of them, regularly cleaning and maintaining them, optimising their performance, but will take little care of the only vehicle we were born with, the human body. The big difference is that you feel physically when the body goes wrong; it hurts and you cannot buy a new one.
Of course, in the physicality stakes some people are dealt better cards than others with disease and genetic deformities bringing challenges to some people that will be reflected on the body, but the character and determination to overcome these challenges and setbacks also becomes etched on the visage. Look at the steel and determination of Stephen Hawking as he courageously battles motor neuron disease.
Other people are also not necessarily responsible for the visage they present to the world; perhaps they are the victim of an accident or travesties such as disease, violence, or war, which is not necessarily a true reflection of the character of the body in question; but it can perhaps provide evidence for society that the body is part off.
For instance, if you could go back in time you would see many people with pock-like scars from diseases such as the plague or small pox, which are often as result of poor hygiene and sanitation. After World War One you would see many men without limbs and with burns, a reflection of the new industrial wars; this continues today in war zones throughout the world.
A Bird’s Eye View
So there is our personal body, which is inherently connected to society; it is part of what can be seen as another body of which we are a part. This society is connected to other societies, human and other species, which make up the world, which can be seen as our body as well. If you look at the Earth from space it looks like one body; it is only with a high-powered telescope that we could appreciate separate components, much like with a high-powered microscope we can appreciate separate components such as cells within the human body.
So when you see a body ravaged by war in actuality it is your body as well. The external world is a reflection of your inner world, and everything that you witness is you. We may not like to see ourselves reflected in the child dying of poverty, the limbless victim of a land mine, or the rainforest cleared for hamburgers, but that is you and me; we are part of the problem, but we can also be part of the solution.
Of course, many people have enough of a challenge dealing with their own problems, cleansing their own addictions; there is much truth in the Buddhist adage that first you have to heal yourself before you can heal others, but sometimes the journey of helping others can help ourselves.
Yoga means union of the body, mind, and soul. Shouldn’t taking care of the body be a priority?