Surely we all have had experiences that give meaning to the philosophy I want to explore today: the human body is a temple.
There are many facets to this principle. Let’s dive in!
You might find it revealing to know that I was a proud member of the altar server corps at the Catholic church in my neighborhood when I was a boy.
My friends and I honed the skills needed to support the priests in putting on a mass for the community. We lit candles, we rang bells, we turned pages in the holy books. We were disciplined; we were organized: at least two of us were there for every mass. We showed up on time, and we did what it took to facilitate the sacrament of the hour, whether it be a baptism, a wedding, a funeral or an ordinary mass.
It wasn’t always a walk in the park, however. In a somber atmosphere with a sacred ritual being performed, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that laughter would be inappropriate. 12 year olds have a tendency to laugh, I seem to remember. And being in a setting where you weren’t supposed to laugh was a little bit funny in and of itself. Throw in a little sleep deprivation from a sleep-over the night before and all bets were off. Something as innocent as a loud sneeze from somewhere in the congregation would suddenly necessitate a heroic effort to withstand the tsunami-like urge to release a belly laugh.
It was during those years we as a young group began, in earnest, a joint exploration of the fine art of self-control. We learned to bite our lip, look away, hold our breath, or even leave the altar for a couple minutes (which happened more than I’d like to admit) — do whatever it took to keep the mood intact. We were a committed bunch, and I think we help it together fairly often. I have to suspect that the fine parishioners look back at those years as the golden years of that church’s history — I know I do — in no small part due to the courageous efforts of a special group of altar boys and girls that destiny brought together for a few fateful years. (Does anyone know how to write screenplay?)
Maybe you know a temple or a church from your youth. Maybe you have visited some of the famous cathedrals in Europe or around the world. Maybe your local neighborhood has a temple that you visit regularly as part of your religious life. Chances are you have and that you know the feeling of reverence we feel when we enter a temple or church.
I feel fortunate to be oriented into the sacred spaces of my neighborhood church at a young age. The gallery of the church with its uniform rows of strong, smooth oak pews gave an instant calm and quiet to any visitor.
The centrally located altar, a few steps above everything else, with the majestic pulpit off to the side, offered a special focus for everyone’s attention.
In the back of the the altar was the church tabernacle — majestically adorned, locked, and housing the Eucharist: the holiest of the holy places.
This general design of a church is repeated everywhere with individual artistic variation, and they all have an inner part where certain mysteries are honored.
The Cellular Temple
This temple design penetrates the cellular level. If the cell is a temple the nucleus would be the altar and the DNA is the tabernacle. One of the realizations of the pandemic for me was that DNA and RNA could be made quite easily in the lab.
Yes, to make a sequence of mRNA was not difficult, we learned. That’s no big deal.
Right, the use of lipid nanoparticles to act as an effective delivery system was the special step with the mRNA vaccines. Nucleic acid development is relatively old news.
“Advancements have led to the development of groundbreaking technologies for the design, assembly, and manipulation of DNA encoded genes, materials, circuits, and metabolic pathways, which are allowing for an ever greater manipulation of biological systems and even entire organisms.”
— 2017 Pubmed article
As cellular secrets open up, it’s like the tabernacle is open. The more we learn the more questions we have. Does DNA act as an antenna? Does DNA spin? Does it sound?
I’d just like to put my opinion on record here that just because we know more and more about something and know how to manipulate it, it doesn’t mean it gets stripped of its sacredness. And it doesn’t mean that “ever greater manipulation” represents progress.
We have to ever wonder at what point does manipulation represent going against the natural order of things and approach being detrimental. Cloning back in the 90s didn’t seem to sit well with the collective. What’s happening with that program? They still tell us that there is no evidence that human cloning has happened. Can science stop itself?
Keeping it sacred
I’ve been in the scientists’ labs. It’s not uncommon that there is no awe, there is no wonder as a default mode. The default is cold data collection and execution of tasks. The cell and the body are like machinery to be hacked.
We need to nurture a culture of sacredness concerning the human body. We need “the Body as a Temple” approach. We don’t have to be perfect with it. We can be a little immature at times because after all we have a lot of growing to do, but we have to be striving for the respect and awe that the body demands.
Body as temple.
There are certain behaviors befitting of a special place. There are rules to follow to stay in sync. Deliberation and intentionality are important.
Treat your body well. Love it. Accept it for all it is. Feed it real food. Water it, rest it, move it regularly. Realize your body is very wise, even in illness. Symptoms are telling us something, teaching us things. If you do that you are part of the “body is a temple” movement and are creating a healthy world in which to live.
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